Oh, my Gado! Packers win

Rookie running back, defense's take-aways lead Packers to upset

Samkon Gado scored three touchdowns and Green Bay's defense forced Michael Vick and the Falcons to fumble the ball away three times to help the Packers pull off an improbable 33-25 victory Sunday in the Georgia Dome.

The Packers, which only committed one turnover and kept penalties to a minimum, won for only the second time in nine games this season and for the first time in five tries on the road. Atlanta (6-3) lost for only the third time in 12 games at home under coach Jim Mora.

"I'm proud of this group," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "I'm proud of how they hung together for the first half of this season. They could have splintered into different factions in the locker room, but it didn't happen. They kept pulling together tighter and tighter and tighter. Adversity either brings you together or it separates you, and it has brought them together. I wasn't suprised by how they played today."

Gado, making his first career start and playing in only his third game, ran for two touchdowns and took a shovel pass from Brett Favre for another touchdown. Gado rushed 25 times for 103 yards, the first Packers back to rush for 100 or more yards since Najeh Davenport ran for 178 on Nov. 29, 2004 against St. Louis.

The Packers beat the Falcons in all phases - offense, defense and special teams. Favre was 26 of 39 for 253 yards, including 10 completions to Donald Driver for 114 yards. The Packers had 351 yards of offense to Atlanta's 325, though 74 yards came on a scoring drive in the final minutes when the Packers had the victory sealed.

Green Bay's defense held Atlanta's top-ranked rushing offense in check. Warrick Dunn had 76 yards on 17 carries and the bruising T.J. Duckett carried four times for 31 yards.

Aside from giving up a long punt return to former Packer Allen Rossum, Green Bay's special teams coverage units were solid against the Falcons.

"I thought we did a phenomenal job of creating negative field position for them, and that really was a difference as well as the turnovers," Sherman said.

Two categories that Sherman wants to improve in the second half of the season is where the Packers took advantage of the Falcons - turnovers and penalties. Atlanta fumbled six times and lost three. The Falcons also were penalized eight times for 58 yards. Green Bay, prone to mistakes throughout the first half of the season, turned the ball over once on an interception and was only penalized four times for 58 yards.

"When you do those things, you have a good chance to win the ballgame," Sherman said. "We didn't do things to beat ourselves today. In the past, there have been times where we have. I'm as proud of these guys today as I have any group that I've coached."

Ryan Longwell, who struggled in the first half of the season, made field goal attempts from 46, 23, 53 and 51 yards for the Packers.

Longwell's 51-yarder with 4 minutes, 1 second left in the game gave the Packers a 26-17 lead.

The Packers, ranked near the bottom of the National Football League with 10 take-aways for the season, got their third of the game on the ensuing series. Rookie wide receiver Roddy White caught a pass from Vick, but cornerback Ahmad Carroll, playing in his hometown, punched the ball away and it was picked up middle linebacker Nick Barnett who ran 20 yards to the Falcons' 2. Gado burst into the end zone on the next play to make it 33-17.

Vick led the Falcons on a 74-play drive, highlighted by his 19-yard touchdown pass to White and two-point conversion pass to Brian Finneran with 1:43 left. But Nick Collins recovered Atlanta's onside kick and the Packers, nine-point underdogs, earned their biggest victory of the season. The Packers haven't had a win this big on the road since upending the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots 28-10 on the road in 2002.

"We've been through the fire together. We've been seasoned," Sherman said. "We've been hardened. And now we've got to catch on fire and start the second half of this season. I thought they were on fire today. They had tremendous confidence. They made the plays they needed to make. I'm proud of them." Longwell made a 46-yard field goal attempt 40 seconds before halftime to give the Packers a 17-14 lead.

Atlanta spotted Green Bay a 14-0 first-quarter lead, but the Falcons bounced back in the second quarter to score back-to-back touchdowns and tie the game.

Vick's 21-yard pass to Dunn with 12:18 left in the first quarter enabled the Falcons to score their first touchdown of the game. The Falcons then took advantage of a tipped Favre pass that fell into the hands of linebacker Demorrio Williams at the Falcons' 38.

The Falcons took advantage of a 43-yard pass interference penalty on Carroll, giving them a first down at Green Bay's 16. Dunn bolted to the 2 before Vick, on a delayed bootleg play, raced to the pylon for his fourth rushing touchdown of the season.

Longwell stretched Green Bay's lead to 23-14 in the third quarter by making field goal attempts from 23 and 53 yards. Longwell was about to attempt a 51-yard field goal, but holder B.J. Sander bobbled the snap and aborted the field goal attempt by scambling to find an open receiver. Sander completed a four-yard pass to tight end Bubba Franks, but Franks was stopped two yards short of the first down at Atlanta's 29.

Rossum's season-best 31-yard punt return gave the Falcons the ball at the Packers 27. But Green Bay's defense forced Vick to fumble a snap on third-and-9, and center Todd McClure recovered. Todd Peterson's 37-yard field goal closed Atlanta to 23-17 with 10:08 remaining in the game.

The Packers took the ensuing drive and moved 43 yards, thanks to two key third-down pass completions by Favre, and moved to Atlanta's 33. Longwell followed by drilling a 51-yard attempt through the uprights for his fourth field goal of the game.

Two plays after taking a 7-0 lead, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila forced Dunn to fumble the ball into the hands of safety Mark Roman. The Packers capitalized behind Gado, who burst up the middle for an 18-yard gain before catching a shovel pass from Favre and scoring his third touchdown of the season by plowing into the end zone.

Atlanta entered the game third in the league in fewest points allowed (19) following turnovers, but Green Bay scored seven to take a 14-0 lead.

The Packers scored on an opening drive for the first time since Week 2 when Gado spurted up the middle for a nine-yard touchdown run early in the first quarter. Favre completed 4 of 5 passes in the drive for 59 yards, including a 20-yarder to fullback William Henderson and completions of 15 and 16 yards to Driver.

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