Stone Cold Lock: Packers beat Niners

GREEN BAY – The streak continues on the frozen tundra.<p> Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre threw for two touchdowns and running back Ahman Green rushed for 86 yards and scored as the Packers beat the San Francisco 49ers 25-15 in an NFC wildcard game at Lambeau Field.<p> The Packers will now face the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis at 3 p.m. Sunday in the NFC divisional playoffs. Green Bay has now won 13 straight playoff games on their homefield, 11 in a row at Lambeau.<p>

"I've said from day one to these guys that I want to be part of Packer history," said Packers head coach Mike Sherman. "I think today the guys made themselves part of Packer history in the sense they won a playoff game on that field and have contributed to a now 11-0 record out there."

The Niners turned the ball over twice in the last five minutes of the game to end their season. Packers cornerback Tyrone Williams intercepted a pass from Niners quarterback Jeff Garcia with 4:54 left, and Niners kick returner Paul Smith fumbled away a kickoff with 1:48 left in the game.

The see-saw battle saw the Packers score first after Allen Rossum, playing in his first game in seven weeks,returned a punt 35 yards to the Niners 40. Favre hit Bill Schroeder for 10yards, and Green had a 10-yard run to get to the San Francisco 14. Two plays later, Favre found Freeman on a slant in on the right side for a 5-yard touchdown. Ryan Longwell's extra point was blocked, and the Packers led 6-0 with 3:51 left in the first quarter.

The Packers defense had an electrifying first series as massive defensive tackle Gilbert Brown split the center and right guard and sacked Jeff Garcia. It was Brown's first sack since 1997. Then Cletidus Hunt stuffed Garrison Hearst for a loss of five yards. Hearst gained 10 on third down, but the Niners had to punt.

"We just had to turn it up some more against this team," said Hunt, who finished with a career-high five tackles.

In the second, Niners cornerback Ahmed Plummer intercepted Favre near the end of the first quarter when Favre lofted a pass to tight end Tyrone Davis into double coverage at the Packers 44. Garcia drove the Niners to the Packers 6, but was sacked by Darren Sharper on third down. On the next play, Hunt blocked Jose Cortez's 34-yard field goal attempt, and Green Bay retained its 6-0 lead.

"I blew up and got good penetration on the guard and kind of slipped in and put my hands up," Hunt said.

The Packers failed togain a first down at their 44 and had to punt with 7:06 left in the half. The Niners took over at their 14, and Garcia completed 7 of 8 passes for 61 yards to get to the Green Bay 13. From there, Hearst gained eight, Garcia fired incomplete twice, but picked up a first down at the Packers 2 on a 3-yard run. Hearst scored two plays later to give San Francisco a 7-6 halftime lead.

But the Packers took the second-half kickoff and took the lead after a 12-play,72-yard drive. Favre completed five straight passes to get to the Niners 8. But the drive stalled and Longwell kicked a 26-yard field goal with 8:52 left to give Green Bay a 9-7 lead.

The Packers extended their with a lightning-quick, 4-play drive. Favre connected with Corey Bradford down the left sideline with a 51-yard bomb to get to the Niners 19. On the next play, Favre hit tight end Bubba Franks, who leaped in the right side of the end zone for the touchdown.

"I made a read off the safety," said Franks, who is going to the Pro Bowl. "He cheated over to the free side and left the middle wide open. I'm glad Brett saw me. he made a great throw."

A two-point conversion pass fell incomplete and the Packers led with 3:26 left in the quarter.

After scoring twice in the third quarter, the Packers punted on their third possession. San Francisco turned Josh Bidwell's 44-yard punt into points with a 6-play drive from their 39. Garcia completed passes of 12 yards to J.J. Stokes, and 20 yards to Hearst, and then a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tai Streets. Streets also caught a two-point conversion pass to tie the game 15-15 with 12 minutes left.

But Green Bay came right back. Favre completed 5 of 7 passes to the Niners 27. Wide receiver Donald Driver made a key catch, leaping high to pull down a Favre pass on third-and-8 from the Packers 26. The drive stalled at the 27, but Longwell nailed a 45-yard field goal to put the Packers ahead 18-15 with 7:02 left in the contest.

"That one felt good," said Longwell, who has struggled at times this season. "I felt a ton of confidence out there. Everything was going straight today so it was a good kick."

The Niners came back and drove to the Green Bay 41. On first down, Garcia fired to Owens on the right sideline, but Mike McKenzie tipped the ball in the air, and Tyrone Williams intercepted the pass at the Packers 7.

"I was able to get a good play on the ball," McKenzie said. "I just wanted to get it in the air."

Favre then completed three straight passes – including a 37-yard bullet to Freeman on third-and-7 from the Packers 38. On third-and-6 from the Niners 21, Driver caught a 12-yard pass to the Niners 9. On the next play, Green barreled around the left tackle for nine yards and a touchdown to give the Packers a 25-15 lead with 1:55 left.

On the ensuing kickoff, Niners returner Smith fumbled and Bradford recovered at the Niners 26 with 1:38 left to finish off San Francisco.

"We won and we needed to win," said Favre, now 31-0 in home games where the temperature is 34 degrees or colder. "We knew it going to be tough game. But we have to play better than this to beat St. Louis."

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