Packers whip Giants, host SF next week!

The Packers definitely had the line on the New York Giants in a 34-25 win at the Meadowlands Sunday – the offensive line, that is. Green Bay's o-line controlled NY's Michael Strahan, who finally got his NFL record sack with 2:00 to go as Brett Favre ended a banner day by ducking into a gift sack.<p>

Green Bay, 12-4, finished one game behind Chicago which beat Jacksonville 33-13 to lock up the Central. The Packers are the top-seeded wild card and host San Francisco 11:30 a.m. Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Bears become the NFC's second seed and get a first-round bye.

"We made it interesting down the stretch," Packer Head Coach/GM Mike Sherman said. "We started out the game strong and I thought it was critical to come out and establish ourselves, especially offensively, and I think we did that."

Favre enjoyed protection as solid as he's seen all year. Mark Tauscher led the charge as Larry Beightol's charges threw a variety of blocking schemes at Strahan.

"I thought they did a nice job keeping him at bay," Sherman said. "I'm very proud of the offensive line."

Just before the 2 minute warning, Strahan quickly got around Bubba Franks and into the Packers' backfield. Favre had a shot at eluding Strahan, as he did easily on the other instance when Stahan came close, but instead ducked down and let Strahan push him down for the NFL-record-breaking 22.5 sack. Favre was the first to congratulate Strahan, and the Packer QB in turn received a warm reception from Strahan's teammates..

When the dust cleared, however, the offensive line held solid and Strahan had exactly the same number of sacks as Green Bay's Billy Lyon.

The 9-point final margin doesn't accurately tell the story. Green Bay posted 14 points within a 3-minute span before the first quarter was half over. Bill Schroeder, who had a great day with 102 yards on 5 catches, nabbed a picturesque 26-yard TD catch from Favre out of the shotgun just four minutes into the contest.

Ahman Green scored with 8:33 to go in the quarter when he broke a 25-yard run. That kick-started Green's 101-yard afternoon, his 7th time over the century mark this season which tie's Jim Taylor's club record. The second TD drive needed just 3 plays to cover 44 yards in about a minute. It was set up by Darren Sharper's sixth interception, followed by Favre's 15-yard strike to Schroeder.

This game could have taken a very different path for Favre and the passing game, considering Strahan is capable for making life miserable for opposing QBs. Instead, the offensive line's tenacity and Favre's athleticism and leadership won out. Favre finished 15-of-30 for 315 yards, with two TDs and no interceptions.

The other difference-maker for the Packers came from what has been their biggest problem spot all year. Dorsey Levens proved that he is the answer to the Packers' kick return woes. Levens piled up the yardage and shortened the field with 138 yards on four returns (34.5 average, 53 long).

I can't say enough about Dorsey Levens and his impact on this game," Sherman said. "He gave us great field position with his returns."

The Giants came back to dominate the rest of the first half. Ike Hilliard scored on an 8-yard pass from Kerry Collins. That was one of the lone bright spots for Collins, who was picked off twice and struggled for most the afternoon. He was 36-of-59 for 386 yards, but those numbers were piled up in garbage time.

The teams traded field goals, and the Packers escaped their second quarter lull with a 17-10 lead. Then Levens established the tone for the second half with a 53-yard kickoff return, and the Packers never looked back.

Levens was sprung by Barry Stokes' block around the 20, then took it from there. He was caught by kicker Owen Pochman, who had an angle on him around the Giants' 30. The Packers took advantage of Levens' work. They gained no fewer than 6 yards on each play of the ensuing drive.Corey Bradford made a 12-yard grab to put Green Bay into the red zone and Green ran for 18 yards on three carries. Green capped the drive with a one-yard TD run with 12:12 left in the quarter.

Green Bay's lead ballooned to 34-10 when Favre and Bradford connected on a 54-yard touchdown. Bradford caught the perfectly-placed pass in stride and quickly distanced himself from two defenders. That TD was set up by another Collins turnover. Lyon sacked Collins, forcing a fumble which was collected by Vonnie Holliday at the Packer 36. Holliday rumbled for 11 yards on the return.

The Giants pulled to within 9 on three fourth-quarter scores. Ron Dayne capped scoring with a 1-yard run with 2:50 remaining. Dayne also added the 2-point conversion to cap a big day. He established a new career-long with a 62-yarder and finished with 81 yards on 10. Notes: LB Na'il Diggs suffered a sprained ankle in the second half. He did not return, but is expected to be available for the playoffs.

Green came within inches of his third TD. He appeared to score on a short run, but was marked just inches short. ON the next play, Favre fumbled the snap and the Giants recovered. They marched 99 yards for the game's final score.

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