Packers plow over Bears 17-7

Green Bay emerged from the hype and hope of Packer-Bear week holding the Central Division reins after a purposeful 17-7 win over Chicago Sunday at Lambeau Field. The teams are knotted at 9-3 atop the division, but the season sweep of the Bears puts Green Bay in control of the tiebreaker. "Playing at home, for first place, that's why this game meant so much," said safety Darren Sharper said. "Now we control our own destiny. That's what we wanted."

The Bears' dreams of running away with the Central were trampled by the feet of running back Ahman Green, who gained a 125 yards and scored a touchdown, and the arm of Brett Favre, who threw for another. And a tenacious Packer defense made sure there were no comebacks, no last-second touchdowns, no overtime shennanigans.

"‘This was a game that meant everything right now," said Green, the first running back to gain 100 yards against the Bears since Minnesota's Robert Smith did it last season. "This was a border war, a game for the division lead. We wanted this one for us and the fans."

At Lambeau, fans gathered in 33-degree cold to watch the Packers take the opening kickoff, drive 64 yards and score a touchdown.

"We knew it wasn't going to be that easy the whole game, but we had a real nice drive," said Favre, who connected with wide receiver Antonio Freeman with a 3-yard scoring pass with 10:31 left in the quarter. Before that, Favre hit Freeman for 33 yards deep down the middle on the second play of the game.

The opening-drive score was the first allowed by the Bears all season. By breaking up that streak, the Packers served notice that they would be the ones writing the record books this time. Green went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season with 125 yards. Favre completed 15 of 27 passes for 207 yards as he became the first player in NFL history to post 10 consecutive 3,000-yard seasons.

"I set high standards for myself and my team," Favre said. "When I look at what we've overcome with injuries, and how we've bounced back from tough losses, I'd say we're pretty good. We'll find out in the future."

The Packers held onto their 7-0 margin in the second quarter when kicker Ryan Longwell attempted a 41-yard field goal. The ball hit the right upright and fell to the field.

"It just kept going right and going right," said Longwell, who missed a 52-yarder last Monday against Jacksonville, and had a 29-yarder blocked in that game. "If we try it from one yard closer, it goes right through."

The Bears threatened near the end of the first half when linebacker Brian Urlacher intercepted a Favre pass and returned it 41 yards to the Packers 17. But the Packers defense stiffened. Chicago quarterback Jim Miller misfired twice to rookie David Terrell in the end zone, and kicker Paul Edinger's 23-yard field goal attempt hooked left. The Packers took a 7-0 lead into the locker room.

Chicago got right back into the game in the third quarter. Autry Denson returned the second half kickoff 35 yards to the Bears 45. Two plays later, Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie was called for pass interference against Marty Booker. The 24-yard penalty was the longest gain of the day for the Bears.

On the next play, rookie running back Anthony Thomas scored on a 19-yard run off left tackle to tie the game 7-7.

With 7:42 left in the third, the Packers took over at their 9. Favre hit tight end Bubba Franks down the middle for 20 yards on the first play. Two plays later, Corey Bradford made a acrobatic catch at the Packers 48. The Bears challenged the call, but lost. Green ran for 29 yards and fullback William Henderson caught a pass for nine to the Bears 15. Green scored on a nifty, 12-yard scamper around the left end to finish a 91-yard drive.

"Every play in that drive was critical that moved the chains," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "The way we responded after they scored by going on that drive was very pivotal for us."

Safety Darren Sharper intercepted a Miller pass two plays later, and Longwell nailed a 29-yard field goal with 12:40 left to effectively put the game out of reach.

The Bears' inoffensive offense gained just 189 total yards. Thomas was held to 54 yards on 15 carries. Miller incited another round of criticism for failing to go downfield and finished with 139 passing yards. "I think this puts us in the driver's seat for the NFC Central," Green said. "But we have to continue what we're doing.: Playing well, running well, passing the ball well and finishing games out unti the bitter end."


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