Miscues cost Pack game vs. Atlanta

GREEN BAY - The Packers clawed their way back from a disastrous start, but buried themselves with mistakes every time they got close in a 23-20 loss to Atlanta Sunday at Lambeau Field.<p> "We deserved to lose," Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman said.

"I thought we were ready, but obviously we weren't by the way we played."

The loss snapped a nine-game home winning streak, dating back to an Oct. 15, 2000 win over the 49ers. The last time the Packers lost at Lambeau Field was a 27-24 decision to the Bears Oct. 1, 2000.

Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder caught TD passes from Brett Favre. The touchdowns were overshadowed by a trio of Favre interceptions, including Ashley Ambrose's game-sealing pick on the Packers' final play were only part of the story.

Penalties hurt the Packers in the second half. The most costly was also the most controversial. After safety Tod McBride hurdled the line for an offsides penalty, Akins drew an unecessary roughness penalty. Instead of third and 12 deep in their own territory, the Falcons had a first down with breathing room.

Akins exchanged heated words with coach Mike Sherman on the sidelines and had to be restrained. Rob Davis and Bill Schroeder took turns reading Akins the "riot act" on the sidelines after the incident, and Akins was pulled from his special teams duties. Moments after Akins' penalty, the Falcons converted the opportunity that penalty gave them into seven points and an insurmountable 23-13 lead.

To make matters worse, veteran safety LeRoy Butler suffered a broken shoulder blade.

Chris Chandler and Bob Christian poured it on for Atlanta, as Christian tallied more than 100 all-purpose yards. Meanwhile, Ahman Green and the Packer receiving corps were relatively quiet.

Surviving two interceptions by the Falcons in the first half, Green Bay turned their own picks into points.

A Nate Wayne tip and Bernardo Harris interception stopped an Atlanta drive early in the fourth quarter. Minutes earlier, Wayne picked off Chandler deep in Atlanta territory. Green Bay capitalized as Ryan Longwell connected on a 45-yard field goal to pull within 16-13. Longwell proved he's back on track by hitting his fourth straight, this one his longest of the season.. The score capped a 62-yard drive ignited by Nate Wayne's interception deep in Atlanta territory.

Atlanta struck first with field goals off Packer turnovers. Chris Chandler didn't appear bothered by his rib injury as the Falcons' offensive line held up and allowed him to move downfield with ease. Atlanta capitalized on an interception and fumble by Brett Favre with Jay Feely field goals of 26 and 39 yards.

Brian Finneran caught a TD pass from Chandler with just a few minutes remaining and it look like the Packers were done. Every time the Falcons had an opportunity to bury the Pack, however, Green Bay fought back.

Antonio Freeman caught a 39-yard touchdown pass late in the game to give the Packers new life, pulling them to within 23-20.

The Packers then forced the Falcons to go three-and-out. With the ball and about two minutes to go, Favre moved the team down the field with two 18-yard passes to Schroder before the fateful interception.

The Packers first got into the end zone on a 4-yard Favre-to-Schroeder touchdown pass. The score, which saw Favre under heavy pressure escape a sack to flip the ball to Schroeder, was called "cheap" by Falcons coach Dan Reeves in a half-time interview. The Packers may argue with that: the score capped a 7-play, 76-yard drive keyed by another long pass to Bradford, this A 51-yard Favre-to-Bradford pass on third-and-long set up a 39-yard Longwell field goal to open Packer scoring. Safety Ray Buchanan, a thorn in the Packers' side all day, made a TD-saving tackle of Bradford to help hold the Packers to 3.

Atlanta took a 13-3 lead when Bob Christian caught a 21-yard TD pass from Chandler early in the second quarter. Chandler consumed yardage in chunks on this drive; passes of 12, 13, 10 and 27 yards moved the Falcons downfield.


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