Packers feast on wounded Rams, 33-14

Brett Favre broke Dan Marino's all-time record for career passing yards and the Green Bay Packers clinched a first-round bye in the upcoming NFL playoffs by turning back the Rams Sunday afternoon in St. Louis.

Favre passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns, raising his career passing yardage total to 61,405, topping Marino's previous mark of 61,361. Favre's 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings in the third quarter drew the future Hall of Fame quarterback within a yard of Marino's mark, as the Packers broke away from the Rams for a 27-14 lead. Favre then broke the record with a seven-yard pass to wide receiver Donald Driver on Green Bay's next series as the Packers were too much for the injury-riddled Rams (3-11).

With the victory, the Packers (12-2) earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1997, and will host a game in the divisional round on Jan. 12 or Jan. 13 at Lambeau Field. The Packers also kept pace with the Dallas Cowboys, who lost to Philadelphia, for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. With victories next Sunday at Chicago and at home on Dec. 30 against Detroit, the Packers can set a team record for most wins in season, and possibly have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with another Dallas loss.

"Today gives us our first round bye and we will be smart as we move forward with the help of our football team," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "We have been smart all along, starting with our training camp and the great schedule you guys all love but we will continue to move forward. Chicago is still an important game but it definitely gives us a chance to get some people back."

Favre completed 19 of 30 passes, but also threw two interceptions to raise his total to 13. Geen Bay's defense took advantage of a Rams offensive line that played without tackle Orlando Pace by sacking quarterback Marc Bulger four times, and Packers safety Atari Bigby had two interceptions off passes that deflected off Rams receivers. Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson gained more than 100 of his 143 yards rushing in the first half, but the Packers were able to slow him in the second half and keep the Rams, 1-6 at home this season, scoreless. St. Louis has 11 players on injured reserve and were without four starters due to injuries on Sunday.

"The score would indicate that we blew it open, but I got the feeling that it was relatively close throughout the game," Favre said. "I give them a lot of credit. I thought they played well across the board. Yeah, they made some mistakes, but we did, too. Their defense is a high-risk, high-reward type of defense – opportunistic. They have a ton of injuries, but I thought they played well. They gave us some looks that we actually hadn't studied for. We knew it was not going to be a big chuck of yardage type of day. We knew we'd kind of have to buy our time. I felt like we did that. Once again, we made a few mistakes on offense, but overall we did enough to win."

Packers running back Ryan Grant finished with 55 yards on 18 carries. Grant matched his lowest output as a starter during the second half of this season. Nick Barnett led the way on defense and improved his chances of being named to his first Pro Bowl with 13 tackles and two sacks.

Favre took advantage of a confused Rams secondary to hook up with Jennings for a 44-yard touchdown, giving Green Bay a 27-14 lead with 5 minutes, 58 seconds left in the third quarter. As the Rams used a blitz to get to Favre, the quarterback noticed two of the Rams' cornerbacks talking at the line of scrimmage, obviously undecided on who was going to cover Jennings on a deep route. Fortunately for the Packers, neither of the two cornerbacks covered Jennings, who caught a pop-up type pass from Favre around the 20 and walked into the end zone. It was Jennings' team- and career-high 12th touchdown of the season.

"They were in empty (coverage) and the guy who was supposed to be guarding me jumped the underneath route for whatever reason," Jennings said. "It was one of those situations where Brett (Favre) just threw it up and I caught it."

Mason Crosby, who missed two of three field goal attempts last Sunday in Green Bay's 38-7 win over Oakland, made all four of his attempts in the kicker-friendly confines of the Edward Jones Dome, including a 25-yarder in the early in the fourth quarter and a 46-yarder later on as the Packers went up, 33-14.

After Favre hooked up with Driver for a 7-yard completion, Grant then burst free for a 25-yard gain to the Rams' 20, setting up Crosby's 25-yard field goal.

"It was actually a run play," said Favre of his record-breaking pass to Driver. "We do it all year long, throwing it to our guys on run plays, and I wanted to give him a shot." The game was stopped for a few minutes, and public address announcer Jim Holder acknowledged the record to a roaring ovation of the sold-out stadium. Driver hugged Favre, who shook hands with referee Ron Winter. Marino passed for 61,361 yards in 17 seasons.

"I say it every time this happens: I'm honored, but I would much rather win," Favre said of the record. "The fact that I've played in every game (since my first start) to me is probably my biggest feat. None of these individual records would have happened if it wasn't for the fact that I'd played in every game. To pass a guy like Dan Marino, regardless of what record it is…I've said this all along and I will continue to say this: I've never considered myself in the same league as Dan Marino, maybe the greatest passer ever. The way he did it is probably the way you would coach another guy to do it. The way I've done it, I don't know if you would coach guys to do it that way. To be mentioned in the same breath as him is quite an honor."

Favre's 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Donald Lee early in the second quarter gave the Packers a 14-7 lead. Favre's 36-yard screen pass to wide receiver Donald Driver moved the Packers to the 4, before Favre found Lee in the back of the end zone. But the Rams bounced right back behind Jackson, who made a nice cutback move to his right at the line of scrimmage before dashing 46 yards for a touchdown with 10:09 left in the second quarter to tie the game at 14-14.

Jackson entered the game with 719 yards and a 3.9-yard average per carry, but bulled his way for 88 yards on his first 10 carries of the game.

Will Blackmon's 16-yard punt return gave Green Bay the ball in St. Louis' territory for the second time in the game at the 45, but the Packers could get no closer than the Rams' 24 and had to settle for Mason Crosby's 44-yard field goal that gave Green Bay a 17-14 lead.

Crosby's 50-yard field goal, his third of 50 or more yards this season, gave Green Bay a 20-14 lead with 10:21 left in the third quarter.

Bigby notched his third interception of the season by hauling in a pass that deflected off the hands of wide receiver Drew Bennett late in the second quarter. Bigby returned the ball to the Packers' 41. Favre's completed passes of 13 and 11 yards to Jennings to St. Louis' 35, but the drive ended when safety Oshiomogho Atogwe picked off Favre's pass at the Rams' 6 with 12 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

The Packers took advantage of Koren Robinson's 43-yard kickoff return to open the game, then marched 52 yards in nine plays and took a 7-0 lead on Ryan Grant's 1-yard touchdown run behind left guard Jason Spitz and left tackle Chad Clifton. Favre completed all three of his passes for 25 yards in the drive, and Grant rushed six times for 17 yards and scored his sixth touchdown of the season.

The Rams capitalized on Grant's fumble midway through the opening quarter and tied the game at 7-7 on Bulger's 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Torry Holt. Bulger's 10-yard pass to Holt and Antonio Pittman's 13-yard got the Rams to the Packers' 20. Bulger hit wide receiver Dane Looker with an eight-yard pass on third-and-7 to Green Bay's 9, and Jackson bulled his way to the 5 before Holt caught his team-high seventh touchdown of the season.

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