Packers run past Seahawks, 42-20

The Green Bay Packers have advanced to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since the 1997 season by overcoming two early turnovers and whipping the Seattle Seahawks in a NFC Divisional playoff game, 42-20, Saturday at snowy Lambeau Field.

The Packers (14-3) will play the winner of the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game next Sunday at either Lambeau Field, or Texas Stadium in Dallas, if the Cowboys beat the Giants on Sunday afternoon in Dallas. The Packers beat the Giants 35-13 in Week 2 of this season, but at this point, the young and ultra-confident Packers are playing their best football of the season.

"The sky's the limit, you know what I mean?" said Packers cornerback Al Harris. "If we continue to work hard and continue to do what we need to do, we'll see."

The Packers' offense, ranked second in the league in 2007, was unstoppable for most of the game in front of 72,168 fans, the largest crowd ever to see a game at Lambeau Field. The Packers scored on six straight possessions between the first and fourth quarters after turning the ball over twice on their first two series. Seattle finished 11-7, a week after it beat the Washington Redskins 35-14 in Seattle.

The Packers rolled up 408 yards of offense in the snow, including 235 on the ground and a postseason record 201 yards rushing by Ryan Grant. Green Bay's defense held the Seahawks to 28 yards rushing and 200 total yards, including a turnover early in the second quarter that led to the go-ahead score.

Brett Favre orchestrated an offense that dominated a formidable Seahawks defense that features four Pro Bowlers, including defensive end Patrick Kerney who was held without a tackle. Favre had a sparkling passer rating of 137.6, his best-ever rating in the postseason. Grant's record performance topped Ahman Green's previous mark of 156 yards set against Philadelphia on Jan. 11, 2004.

Favre was impressive, spreading the ball around to seven different receivers for 173 yards passing (18 of 23) and three touchdowns. He also was at his improvisational best, making something out of nothing on a touchdown drive late in the second quarter in leading the Packers to the NFC title game for the fourth time in his Hall of Fame career.

"We'd love to play at home," said Favre of the NFC Championship Game. "I think that goes for every person in this building, but we've got to win the next game whether it's here, whether it's at Dallas. We haven't had a whole lot of success in Dallas. I'm well aware of that, but I'm just pleased that we won this game and gave ourselves an opportunity."

The Packers lost 37-27 to the Cowboys on Nov. 29, Green Bay's ninth straight loss at Texas Stadium.

Favre had 133 yards passing in the first half, and Grant rebounded from fumbling the ball away twice on his first three touches to rush for 91 first-half yards and two touchdowns, including a 3-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds left in the second quarter as the Packers took a 28-17 lead.

"Number one, I thought Brett (Favre) was extremely sharp," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "He did a great job of keeping us in favorable plays, particularly in the sub groups. (He) threw the ball very well. When we got behind 14-0 I was concerned that the weather was going to turn bad because there were some things in the passing game that we wanted to get to and we were able to accomplish that. The line of scrimmage, I felt like we controlled that on both sides throughout the contest and Ryan Grant had a big day after a tough start. I can't say enough about the performances. That's the performance you're looking for and our guys definitely stepped up."

Trailing 14-0, the Packers scored 28 of the next 31 points, including 21 unanswered points, to take a 28-17 halftime lead over the Seahawks. The 28 points scored by the Packers matched a team postseason record set against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1983 for most points in the first half.

The Packers went ahead 21-14 on Favre's 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings with 13:22 left in the second quarter, as the Packers capitalized on Seattle's only turnover of the first half. Jennings scored his second touchdown of the half on a double crossing route in which he broke to the right corner of the end zone ahead of cornerback Jordan Babineaux to make the catch. Green Bay began the drive on Seattle's 18 when safety Atari Bigby jarred the ball loose from tight end Marcus Pollard, and defensive end Aaron Kampman recovered.

"They threw the ball and I saw it, before I could blink, I was on him," said Bigby of his forced fumble on Pollard.

Seattle made the most out of Brandon Jackson's roughing the kicker penalty on punter Ryan Plackemeier on the ensuing series, and the Seahawks moved to Green Bay's 10 before settling for a Josh Brown's 29-yard field goal to make it 21-17.

But Green Bay was unstoppable against a defense that tied Green Bay for sixth in points allowed this season. The Packers scored on their fourth straight possession by marching 70 yards before Grant scored on a three-yard run for a 28-17 lead. Favre highlighted the drive by improvising with an underhanded, 11-yard toss to tight end Donald Lee on third down to Seattle's 3 to set up the touchdown.

"That looked bad," Favre said. "Thank God I got it off and got it completed because it was one of those that I'm sure watching it, it looked slow and unathletic ... I'm not quite as nimble as I once was, so when I spun out, I tripped over someone - may have been my own feet, which happened ... I finally got enough balance to where I could look up and lo and behold, there's Donald Lee running wide open and I just gave him the old usual underhand toss, which we practice that play all the time. But I think I went down after that and boy, I'll tell you when those plays work, there's no one more excited in the building than me."

Though they were down early on, the young Packers remained composed and quickly got back into the game.

As snow began to accumulate on the field, Favre threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jennings as the Packers cut Seattle's lead to 14-7 midway through the first quarter. Favre completed all five passes for 60 yards in the drive and extended his NFL postseason record with at least one TD pass in the last 17 games. Favre's 31-yard pass to James Jones to the Seahawks' 20 sparked the drive. Jones caught the short pass crossing over the middle and got a key block from Ruvell Martin.

Green Bay tied the game at 14-14 on Grant's 1-yard touchdown run, capping a 9-play, 64-yard drive. He had runs of 26 and 15 yards to the 1 before plowing into the end zone.

"We were up 14 and we were thinking that it couldn't be any better, but then Green Bay settled in and responded beautifully, and then we just could not stop them," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "We couldn't stop them today very well."

The Seahawks stunned the Packers early in the first quarter by forcing Grant to fumble the ball away on each of Green Bay's first two possessions, and Seattle converted the Packers turnovers into two touchdowns for a 14-0 lead just 4:01 into the game.

Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill forced the ball away from Grant on Green Bay's first play from scrimmage, after Grant caught a swing pass from Favre in the right flat. Linebacker Lofa Tatupu picked up the loose ball and ran 17 yards to the 1 before Shaun Alexander punched the ball in on the next play for a 7-0 Seahawks lead.

Two plays into Green Bay's ensuing series, Grant fumbled again, and cornerback Jordan Babineaux recovered on the Packers' 49 yard line.

Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck completed a 16-yard pass to wide receiver Ben Obomanu to Green Bay's 11, then fired again over the middle to wide receiver Bobby Engram in the back of the end zone for Engram's first touchdown of the postseason, and seventh overall.

Hasselbeck, drafted by Green Bay in 1998 and traded to Seattle in 2001, was 19 of 33 for 194 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked twice and had problems throwing the ball in the elements.

"Absolutely," Hasselbeck said. "It was tough to see people. That was crazy weather out there, but they were playing in the same conditions and they handled it pretty well."

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