The Packers take to the post-season field at Lambeau for the first time since carrying off the George S. Halas Trophy following last year's NFC title win. A year later, the three-peat NFC Central champs hosted division rival Tampa Bay for the right to advance to the conference championship.
Green Bay's experience was simply too much for the wildcard Bucs, who were making their first post-season appearance since 1982. Green Bay offered Tampa no better than a few field goal opportunities in the first half, and the playoff-novice Bucs couldn't capitalize any of them. On the first, the Packers' Bob Kuberski surged up the middle to block Michael Husted's 43-yard attempt. Keith McKenzie diagnosed Tampa Bay's fake attempt and stuffed the ball carrier well short of the first down. On a third, Tampa's long snapper sailed the ball over Husted's head.
Meanwhile, a record-breaking performance by Dorsey Levens powered the Pack. He finished the day with a team playoff record 112 yards rushing, including 88 in the second half. He scored the game's final TD on a two-yard run.
Green Bay got on the board first on a 67 yard drive which culminated in a three-yard TD pass from Brett Favre to tight end Mark Chmura. The Packers built their lead with 21- and 32-yard field goals from rookie kicker Ryan Longwell. The second trey was set up by Tyrone Williams interception. The Buccaneers' only points came after they picked off Favre deep in Tampa territory, then marched 94 yards for a score capped by fullback Mike Alstott's six-yard TD run.
In an early installment of the ongoing Brett Favre-Warren Sapp show, the pair jawed at eachother all afternoon, with Sapp sacking Favre three times and forcing two fumbles. Favre came away with the last laugh on a run for a two-point conversion to cap scoring.
JAN. 13, 2002: Green Bay 25, San Francisco 15 – NFC Wildcard playoff
A two-year playoff layoff had left the memory of a painful loss to the 49ers in San Francisco an open wound for too long.
It was time for Favre refresh the Forty Niners of how things usually turn out when these two teams get together, especially at Lambeau Field where San Francisco hasn't won since 1990.
After a tightly contested first half, Favre lobbied the coaches at half time to let him open it up. They must have agreed. The QB engineered two long scoring drives, throwing for 226 of his 269 yards after the break. The Packers scored on four of their first five possessions in the second half, obliterating their 7-6 halftime deficit (which, incidentally, marked the first time the Packers trailed at the half in the postseason at Lambeau since the Ice Bowl).
Steve Mariucci's charges had battled back to tie game at 15 with about 12 minutes left. Mike McKenzie put a cold stop to the Niners' comeback hopes with an interception of an underthrown pass intended for Terrell Owens. Green Bay then took over and drove 93 yards toward Ahman Green's 9-yard TD run.
Other Packer highlights included Favre's 38-yard connection to Antonio Freeman on third-and-long from the Packer 37.
Green Bay's defense held the NFL's No. 2 offense to just 71 yards. Gilbert Brown recorded his first sack since 1997 and Cletidus Hunt blocked a second-quarter field goal attempt. Both defensive stars had just returned from injury in time for the playoff game.
The win advanced the Packers into the divisional round at St. Louis, where they lost 45-17. Green Bay made good on vows made following that painful loss, to return this season and fight back into the playoffs. They can't avenge the loss to the Rams, who are playoff spectators this year, but they can begin where they left off, with a first-round game at Lambeau Field this Saturday. Let the games begin!