Golden opportunity gone

It wasn't a good day for the Green Bay Packers.<p> The Packers saw their homefield hopes shattered as the New York Jets handed GB a 42-17 loss at the Meadowlands. As that fateful game kicked off, New England beat Miami in OT, firing up the Jets. Later, the Packers' fate was in the hands of the Bears and, well, that's never good.<P> The result of the loss and the lack of help -- Green Bay slips to No. 3 and hosts Atlanta Saturday at Lambeau Field.

The loss relegates the 12-4 Packers to the No. 3 spot. They will host wild card Atlanta 7 p.m. Saturday at Lambeau Field.

Green Bay's demise awards the No. 1 spot to Philly. Tampa's expected win over the hapless Bears awards the other bye to the Bucs.

"We can't make excuses,'' said Brett Favre, who went to the bench with 14 minutes remaining after Sam Garnes returned an interception 65 yards. "We knew what was at stake.''

Chad Pennington thre four touchdown passes for the Jets in the rout, which catapulted the Jets from chumps to champs in the AFC East.

Favre was 16-for-33 for 172 yards, one TD and one interception.

Sunday's game was low on suspense, providing a sharp contrast to the excitement and promise of Saturday's turn over events. As it turns out, the New York Giants' 10-7 overtime victory over Philadelphia on the same field was a wasted opportunity for the Packers.

Pennington had touchdown passes of 18 and 12 yards to Wayne Chrebet, who has gone from goat after a late fumble in a loss to Chicago to the hero. He has a career-high nine TDs this season.

Pennington also had a 1-yarder to Richie Anderson and a 13-yarder to Santana Moss. Martin ran for a 5-yard score, as well.

The Packers finished the first half with a touchdown drive that was vintage Favre, but the Jets grabbed back the momentum with a 60-yard, six play drive after the second-half kickoff, ending with Martin's touchdown run.

LaMont Jordan added a late 3-yard touchdown run.

Martin finished with 83 yards Sunday and 1,094 for the year, his eighth straight over 1,000.

Pennington, the AFC's most efficient passer, had a 134.7 rating for the game as the Jets beat Green Bay for the sixth straight time.

"He did not try to overdo things. He did not try to compete with Brett Favre,'' said coach Herman Edwards, now 2-for-2 in getting the Jets into the postseason. "All he needed to do was be Chad Pennington, and that is good enough.''

Green Bay's secondary struggled without injured Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper.

The Packers got on the board with a 23-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell before the Jets made it 14-3 on Chrebet's first score.

Green Bay closed to 14-10 at halftime on a 76-yard drive that took 95 seconds. Hanging tough in a collapsing pocket, Favre hit Terry Glenn for 21 yards, then rookie Javon Walker for 23 on fourth-and-10. Favre's bullet pass to the corner of the end zone hit Glenn perfectly with 5 seconds left in the half.

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