Rams hold off Packers, 23-20

The Green Bay Packers came close to winning their first home game of the season, but Brett Favre's fumble with less than a minute remaining allowed the St. Louis Rams to hold on for a 23-20 victory at Lambeau Field.

Brett Favre took his wristband off and whipped it toward the sideline in disgust. On a day when the Green Bay Packers had every opportunity to make plays that would have enabled them to knock off the St. Louis Rams, the Packers allowed another winnable game to slip away.

On the Rams' 11 yard line with 44 seconds remaining, the Packers were in position to either tie St. Louis, or possibly win the game. As Favre dropped back to pass, under pressure by nose tackle Jimmy Kennedy, he lost his grip on the ball and the Packers quickly saw their chances of winning their first home game of the season slip away. Guard Daryn Colledge attempted to pounce on the loose ball, but it bounced away and cornerback Jerametrius Butler secured it as the Rams held on to a 23-20 victory before 70,804 disappointed fans at Lambeau Field. The lost fumble was the second of the day for the Packers (1-4). Early in the first quarter, the Rams turned a Packers fumble into a touchdown. The Rams (4-1) didn't commit any turnovers, though, cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson, and linebacker A.J. Hawk dropped passes thrown by red-hot quarterback Marc Bulger that should have been intercepted.

Instead of Favre leading the Packers to his 36th fourth quarter comeback, the Packers enter the bye week wondering what could have been. Green Bay blew a 13-point lead at home to New Orleans in Week 2 that turned into a 34-27 loss. On Monday, the Packers led the Philadelphia Eagles 9-7 at halftime before committing two second-half turnovers and collapsing.

"It's a very disappointing loss," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We were in position to win the football game. We were playing to win there at the end, and they made a big play. Turnovers continue to plague us, and we need to get that fixed."

Bulger extended his number of pass attempts without having thrown an interception to a team-record 214, surpassing Hall of Famer Roman Gabriel (206), but was fortunate against the Packers. Hawk dropped a pass while defending against tight end Joe Klopfenstein in the second quarter around the Rams' 30 yard line. Harris dropped a pass while defending Tory Holt on Green Bay's 5 yard line late in the third quarter. Woodson dropped a pass at midfield late in the game.

"I just dropped it, I should have caught it," Hawk said of his missed opportunity. "That's it. That's all it is.

"I was lined up over the tight end. We had an idea of what routes we were going to run with him. I was inside, I turned around, the ball was there and I dropped it."

On a warm but windy day, Bulger and Favre each threw for 220 yards, though, Bulger was much more accurate. The Rams' QB completed 18 of 28 passes while Favre was 22 of 39. Favre admitted that he was off on some of his throws to open receivers.

"In comparing this game to previous games, I feel I could have thrown the ball better," Favre said.

Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins made field goals from 31, 26 and 20 yards between the third quarter and fourth quarters as the Rams took a 23-13 lead. St. Louis began two of its first three scoring drives in the third quarter from Green Bay's 45 and 49 yard lines, respectively, but a combination of an effective pass rush and good coverage by forced St. Louis to kick field goals.

"That was a good job by the defense in the red zone, being able to stop them for three," middle linebacker Nick Barnett said. "Especially when they got down there real close and they ran the ball and we stop them and made plays. We have to continue to make plays. We had the opportunity to get a couple picks, we didn't capitalize on them. We have to continue to work hard and capitalize on things like that."

Green Bay's offense struggled to move the ball for most of the second half, but Favre got on track early in the fourth quarter when he completed four straight passes before he hit rookie wide receiver Greg Jennings for a 46-yard touchdown that closed the Packers to 23-20. Jennings got open in man-to-man coverage against cornerback Tye Hill to make the catch and then out-run Hill and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe to the end zone.

Jennings led the Packers with five catches for 105 yards, picking up the slack for the tender Donald Driver, who played despite a sore hip and ribs that he sustained in Monday night's game at Philadelphia. Driver still managed to finish with three catches for 24 yards. Jennings improved his season total to a team-high He has 20 catches for 364 yards and three touchdowns.

The Packers got the ball on their own 21 with 2:46 left in the game and moved well against St. Louis' deep Cover 2 defense. Favre completed two third-down passes to tight end David Martin to the Rams' 44, and wide receiver Koren Robinson to the 28. Favre hit Jennings with a 9-yard pass to the 11 for a first down, then spiked the ball with 44 seconds left. On the next play, Favre dropped back to pass, but the Rams used a ‘twist' between Kennedy and defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, allowing Kennedy to pressure Favre.

"For the most part, I thought protection was pretty good today," said offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. "Not picking up the twist … you can only hang onto the ball so long when you've got Leonard Little on the edge. (Favre) had nowhere to step up because of inside pressure on that."

McCarthy didn't see it that way.

"I didn't view it as pressure," McCarthy said. "He had a pocket to step up into. We were going for the win. We had a play designed that we were attacking the end zone with an underneath completion built in. ‘Guns-a-blazin' … whatever you want to call it, but I was just trying to win the football game."

The Packers' offensive line played perhaps its best all-around game of the season. Favre was only sacked once and often had ample protection, and the team rushed for 121 yards. Ironically, Favre lost for the first time in 40 regular season games in Lambeau without throwing an interception.

Packers kicker Dave Rayner, who made two of three field goal attempts in the first half, drilled a 32-yard attempt through uprights at time expired to close the Packers to 14-13.

Playing without an injured Ahman Green, who missed his second straight game with a sore hamstring, the Packers rushed the ball for 85 first-half yards on 18 carries (4.7 avg. per rush), paving the way for Noah Herron, who replaced the fumble-prone Vernand Morency on Green Bay's second series. Herron had 73 rushing on 13 carries (5.6 yards per carry) and a touchdown in the first two quarters. He entered the game with only 5 yards on 4 carries for the season, but finished the game with 106 yards on 20 attempts, his best game as a pro.

"It was nice, but I'd exchange a victory for it," Herron said. "It's always a good career mark, but at the same time, you want to win. Individual stats don't even matter when you get a loss."

Green Bay used its most run-heavy drive of the season to overcome an early turnover and tie the game 7-7 on Herron's 1-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left in the first quarter. The Packers' first rushing touchdown of the season capped an 80-yard, 15 play march that ate up 8 minutes, 11 seconds of the first quarter. The Packers used 10 rushing plays in the drive, mainly behind Herron who stepped in for Morency. Herron rushed seven times for 36 yards in the drive. The Packers were helped by three St. Louis penalties, including holding on cornerback Travis Fisher on third and goal from the 3.

Morency's third fumble of the season on Green Bay's first drive set up the Rams' first touchdown of the game. Morency coughed up the ball on the Packers' 37. Bulger ran for 12 yards to the Packers' 23, then hit wide receiver Kevin Curtis for 17 yards before finding Torry Holt in the end zone for a touchdown.

Favre's 38-yard pass to Jennings combined with a personal foul on cornerback Tye Hill (grabbing Jennings' helmet on the tackle) gave the Packers the ball on the Rams' 10 on the first play of the second quarter. But the Packers' had to settle for Rayner's 27-yard field goal and 10-7 lead when Favre threw incomplete to tight end David Martin in the end zone and was sacked on the 9 by Little.

Rayner's attempt from 45 yards midway through the second quarter was wide left. It was Rayner's third miss this season and all have been left of the uprights.


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