Packers Overcome Slow Start, Beat Bears

Brett Favre's mastery of the Bears was looking shaky early on Sunday, as Chicago roared out to a 14-0 lead. Things quickly changed, however, as Mike McKenzie (pictured) turned his - and the Packers - fortunes around. Todd Korth brings us all the details, straight from Lambeau Field...

The Chicago Bears usually bring out the best in the Green Bay Packers, but it wasn't that way early on in the 166th meeting between the two teams.

The Bears, suddenly in the hunt for a playoff spot after winning four of their previous six games, jumped to a 14-0 first quarter lead in front of 70,458 stunned Packers fans in Lambeau Field. Then reality set in for both teams as the game turned in Green Bay's favor thanks to five Bears turnovers, which led to 21 Packers points. As a result, Green Bay got back on the winning track with a 34-21 victory Sunday.

Cornerback Mike McKenzie, burned early in the game for a touchdown, intercepted two of Kordell Stewart's passes and returned one 90 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to break the game open.

The Packers' seventh straight win over the Bears enabled Green Bay (7-6) to remain within a game of the NFC North Division-leading Minnesota Vikings, who whipped the Seattle Seahawks, with three games left in the regular season. The Bears (5-8) are not mathematically eliminated from the playoff race but awfully close.

"When you're down 14-nothing with your backs against the wall, you're really against the wall," Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman said. "You keep your troops together. I thought they did a great job of staying focused, not panicking, staying together."

As has been the case all season, when the Packers win the turnover battle against their opponent, they win the game. Brett Favre threw his 19th interception of the season, which linebacker Lance Briggs returned 45 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter as the Bears took a 14-0 lead, but that was Green Bay's only blunder. The Packers, sluggish early on, ripped off 34 unanswered points to beat the Bears for the 19th time in the last 22 games.

"We try not to turn the ball over, but that's easier said than done," said Sherman. "Today wasn't a flashy game offensively, but it was fairly mistake free except for the one interception for a touchdown."

Green Bay's defense shut down the Bears in the final three quarters. Chicago finished with 275 total yards, but just 44 on the ground. The Packers intercepted Stewart three times overall and recovered a pair of fumbles. Meanwhile the Packers moved the ball enough in the second quarter and early in the third to allow Ryan Longwell to make field goals from 24, 38, 35 and 45 yards.

"We're very, very grateful our defense played so well," said guard Mike Wahle. "Our D-line was unbelievable today. They were just all over the ball. I think they really won that game for us. We were able to put some points up on the board, but a lot of those were a direct result of the defense."

Favre completed 22 of 33 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. He improved to 20-4 against Chicago.

"I don't feel any added advantage," said Favre of playing the Bears. "For whatever reason, we play well against them."

The Bears used two big plays within the span of 1 minute, 20 seconds in the first quarter to jump out to a 14-0 lead. Stewart threw a 61-yard bomb to wide receiver Marty Booker, who ran past McKenzie to get open and score. Three plays into the Packers' ensuing drive, Favre tried to throw the ball out of bounds after getting pressured by defensive end Phillip Daniels, but he didn't get enough velocity on his pass and Briggs came out of nowhere to pick it off and run into the end zone with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.

"Both of them were weird plays," said Packers defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. "To have everybody stay focused and on task is a tough thing to do."

The Packers responded by driving 54 yards and got the first of Longwell's four field goals. The Packers got the ball back on the ensuing kickoff when Torrance Marshall recovered Jerry Azumah's fumble. Green Bay capitalized with Longwell's 38-yard field goal to slice Chicago's lead to 14-6.

Cletidus Hunt got his fourth sack of the season, forcing the Bears to punt the ball away on the next series. The Packers, who worked hard for all of their 97 yards rushing, went to the air. Favre connected with wide receiver Robert Ferguson for passes of 20 and 12 yards before throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Javon Walker to make it 14-13.

Favre, who played in his 188th consecutive game, breaking Forrest Gregg's record, has thrown a touchdown pass against the Bears in 24 straight games, tying Dan Marino's NFL record. Marino set the mark between 1985-98 against the New York Jets. Gregg set the record between 1956, 1958-70.

Sherman took the blame for calling a timeout with five seconds left in the first half rather than letting the clock run out. Stewart heaved a Hail Mary pass on fourth-and-19 from the 50, but it was was intercepted at the goal line by Darren Sharper, who zigzagged his way back to the 50 before getting tackled.

McKenzie got his first interception of the game on the Bears' first series of the second half, setting up Longwell's 35-yard field goal and Green Bay's first lead of the game, 16-14, with 6:42 left in the third quarter.

McKenzie broke the game open with 9:13 remaining in the game by stepping in front of wide receiver Dez White and taking Stewart's pass all the way back. It was his second career touchdown return and his second career two-interception performance.

"He's a top-flight corner, he should take that chance," said Donatell. "I want him to take that chance. We're down there, they're getting close. ... I like the risk/return to score a touchdown."

The Packers made it 27-14 on Favre's two-point conversion pass to tight end Bubba Franks.

Grady Jackson's sack of Stewart for a nine-yard loss to the Bears' 1 yard line with 3:15 remaining in the game set up Ahman Green's 15th touchdown of the season, a career high.

Green finished with 80 yards rushing on 30 attempts. He raised his total for the season to 1,463 yards and needs 12 yards to break Jim Taylor's single-season rushing mark of 1,474 yards set in 1962.

The Bears only score of the second half came on Jerry Azumah's 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 2:13 left in the game.

"We felt pretty confident that as long as we didn't give them anything, that we had a good shot to win the game, so we came back, played our game, went all out and won," McKenzie said.


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