On top of the world at .500

Left for dead just three weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers are suddenly like Frankenstein. They're alive! They're alive!

The Green Bay Packers speed into their much-needed bye week with a 4-4 record, an amazing turnaround for a team that looked comatose after a horrendous 1-4 start to the season that included three straight home losses.

Three weeks ago, Ahman Green couldn't hold onto the football. During Sunday's 28-14 win at Washington, Green continued his three-week flurry with a pair of touchdowns.

Three weeks ago, the entire Packers offense centered on Brett Favre throwing to Javon Walker. Sunday, Favre continued his recent binge with a dominating first half, with Walker, Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson all contributing.

Three weeks ago, the Packers couldn't stop the opposition's running game. Sunday, Washington was held to 81 yards rushing, continuing a three-week stretch of superb run defense.

Three weeks ago, it was an air raid against the Packers' beleaguered secondary. Sunday, veteran quarterback Mark Brunell was able to connect on only 56.8 percent of his passes against a defense without star safety Darren Sharper and including ailing cornerback Al Harris.

Never has a .500 record felt so good.

"I think we've got a fresh start," Ferguson said. "Disregard that first part of the season."

The most encouraging part of Sunday's victory was the fact they won. There are few environments more hostile than playing in front of 90,000 fans at FedEx Field. Washington had a bye week to prepare. The Packers' trademark running game was stuck in neutral for most of the game, with Green's first 20 carries netting just 34 yards. Favre's injured right hand was jarred, throwing him off target for most of the second half. Despite a dominating start, the Packers were holding on for dear life at the end.

Instead of completing their collapse, the Packers made the plays at the end. Given a reprieve when an illegal-motion penalty wiped out the Redskins' go-ahead touchdown, Harris made a game-saving interception on the next play.

So, with the Packers entering their bye next week, they are 4-4 and suddenly breathing down the necks of the first-place Vikings. Minnesota was destroyed at home by the New York Giants on Sunday to fall to 5-2. While the Packers lick their wounds this weekend, the Vikings travel to Indianapolis for a "Monday Night Football" game.

A loss would send the Vikings to 5-3, meaning the 4-4 Packers could catch the Vikings on Nov. 14.

"It's hard to believe we're sitting here talking about 4-4 is a great place to be," Favre said. "But considering we were 1-4 not long ago, we'll take it, especially at the bye.

"We have a lot of football left. But, I tell you what, it could be a helluva lot worse right now. I can assure you of that."


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