What a Start! Packers beat Falcons 37-34 in OT

Green Bay packed a year's worth of ups and downs into the first 70 minutes of the 2002 season. The grueling ride ended on a peak when Ryan Longwell's 34-yard field goal with 5:15 remaining in OT gave the Pack a 37-34 victory before 63,127 at Lambeau Field.<p>

"A game like this where you can battle back in the situation we were in, it was hot out there and guys were getting fatigued, tired, cramped and hurt," Coach Mike Sherman said. "They were able to hang in there and battle back. I'm proud of the football team."

Even though the Packers (1-0) out-gained Atlanta on the ground, in the air and on the clock, it was the Falcons who made things look easy while the Packers had to fight for every inch on the way to that game-winner. Not even that relatively short-distance FG was easy. Whether it was the heat, nerves or execution, usually reliable long snapper Rob Davis sent a high snap to holder Doug Pederson, who had to fight to get it down. It was the second bad snap of the day for Davis, whose first-half error caused a Longwell miss from 42 yards.

Believe it or not, the winning field goal wasn't the afternoon's most intense moment, however. The game hung in the balance minutes earlier, when William Henderson struggled toward the goal line on fourth-and-inches. Green Bay trailed 31-27 with 1:10 remaining.

Henderson appeared to be stopped short but then put the ball over the line with a second, third and fourth effort. As Henderson was getting stacked up, tailback Ahman Green gave the pile of bodies a shove. Henderson, with his feet churning furiously and his knees nowhere near the grass, lunged the ball across, placing it squarely on the goal line.

"I was not going to be denied,'' Henderson said. "I don't get too many opportunities down there.''

Green, rushed for 155 yards on 27 carries, but it was this assist that he'll remember.

"When I saw he was having some trouble getting in, I ran up and gave him a push,'' Green said. "I was tired. But I just put my body in there and pushed.''

Both teams, sure their side had prevailed, celebrated then the ref raised his arms with the TD signal. For the third time in the game, the play was reviewed. After a laborious wait, the official did not find enough evidence to overturn the call and the TD stood.

The call could have gone to Green. It could have gone to Rondell Mealey, who made a name for himself Sunday. It could have gone to Favre on a quarterback sneak, giving Ice Bowl veteran/Atlanta coach Dan Reeves recurring nightmares. But the coach said it was 'Hendu' all the way.

"We didn't need a whole lot. William is a horse, a bull I should say,'' Sherman said. "He made a great effort.''

"He made a great second effort,'' interjected Brett Favre.

Just as the Packers and their comeback QB weren't finished when they went down 11 before the half, Vick and the Falcons still had time and weapons. Vick quickly moved the Falcons downfield and Jay Feely's 52-yard field goal with five seconds left sent the game into overtime.

It wasn't just Vick giving Green Bay fits. The weather was an enemy to both teams, as the 83-degree sunshine at noon marked the warmest opener ever in Green Bay, rose steadily into the 90s and translated into temperatures well into the 100s on the field.

Green needed two bags of IV fluids and several players from both teams cramped up.

"I knew if it went any longer, I'd be watching from the infirmary,'' Favre said.

He completed 25-of-36 passes for 284 yards.

Favre's new receivers came up big.

Donald Driver had seven catches for 78 yards, Terry Glenn had two catches for 60 yards, and Javon Walker became and instant go-to guy, as he caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.

"Everyone of those guys contributed in some way,'' Favre said. Favre not only tipped his hat to his receivers, he also credited the opposition. Vick, the top pick in last year's draft, completed 15-of-23 passes for 209 yards and rushed nine times for 72 yards. He completed all 10 of his first-half passes as the Falcons built a 21-13 halftime lead.

"I thought he played great,'' Favre said. "He ran around a lot more than I did.''

Vick led the Falcons on six scoring drives, three of which ended in rushing touchdowns, two by Warrick Dunn. He also threw a 2-yard touchdown to Algie Crumpler, but Brian Finneran dropped a wide-open 60-yard TD pass, and Reggie Kelly dropped a 3-yard pass in the end zone.

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