The Green Bay Packers tied a team record by recording nine sacks in one game as they defeated the San Francisco 49ers for the fifth straight time, beating them 36-22 at Lambeau Field. Reggie White led the way with three sacks for the Pack who scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to put the game away. The Packers overcame three interceptions by Brett Favre to win the game.
Packers head coach Mike Holmgren was certainly up for the game against the team he coached with before being hired by the Packers. “There’s something about this week that makes Coach Holmgren go nuts,” safety LeRoy Butler said after the game. “He warns us before the week starts, but there’s a look and a way about him and it’s not a good thing to get him upset.”
The Packers jumped off to a fast start and scored on the first play from scrimmage. Favre looked right and then threw to Antonio Freeman deep down the left side. Freeman beat Marquez Pope and the safety arrived a second too late. Freeman scored on an 80-yard touchdown pass.
“He [Pope] likes to give you an area to work with,” Freeman said. “Everything I saw on film; he’ll try to bail out of his jam technique and his hips open up. Once his hips opened up, I pushed him one way and then slide back [to] the other. Brett [Favre] looked off the free safety and we had a big play.”
The lead became 9-0 when the 49ers snapped a punt out of the end zone for a safety later in the first quarter.
Safety Pat Terrell intercepted Steve Young which set the Packers up at the San Francisco 31. Three plays later, Favre found Robert Brooks down the right sideline for a 30-yard touchdown pass. The Packers led 16-0.
But the 49ers were a great team and they rallied. Young threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Rice to get San Francisco on the board. After a Packers field goal, Young ran for a one-yard score and the lead was cut to 19-13 which was the score at the half.
The third quarter was all 49ers. Garrison Hearst ran for a 30-yard score to tie the game at 19-19 after the two-point conversion try failed. A 20-yard field goal by Wade Richey gave the 49ers a 22-19 lead after three quarters.
After a Ryan Longwell field goal tied the game early in the fourth quarter, the Packers defense started to regularly pressure Young. The Pack recorded five sacks in the first six minutes of the final quarter.
“We just got a surge of energy at the end,” White said.
“They say, ‘Feel the Power!’ and we did today,” linebacker Brian Williams added.
“If you can’t put pressure on Steve Young, you’re in for a long day. He’s that good,” Holmgren said. “So, the fact that we were able to put pressure on him and bang him around a little bit had a lot to do with the outcome of the game, there’s no question about that. And it came from all over, a bunch of different people.”
White finished the game with three sacks, Butler added two more while Keith McKenzie, Vonnie Holliday, Vaughn Booker, and Brian Williams added one each to tie the Packers franchise record. The last time the Pack had nine sacks in a game was 1965 against the Cowboys. Sacks were not an official stat until 1982.
The Packers took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter on a 62-yard pass from Favre to Freeman. Freeman finished the game with seven catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns. That was the most receiving yards Freeman would have in one game in his career.
“Antonio’s a playmaker and he proved it tonight,” Favre said. “In a game like this, who knows what’s going to happen. You need your big-play guys to step up and that’s what Antonio did.”
“I like when people doubt me,” Freeman added. “I like all those things that come with being the go-to receiver. That’s what I live on. I just go out and play. When my number is called, I have to deliver.”
After the Freeman touchdown, the Packers got two sacks on the ensuing drive, one by Holliday and one by McKenzie who stripped Young of the ball. Santana Dotson recovered the fumble, and the Packers took over on the San Francisco 11.
On the next play, running back Travis Jervey, who was playing for the injured Dorsey Levens, scored from 11 yards out and the Packers led 36-22. Jervey finished the game with 95 yards rushing on 17 carries.
“This was a statement game for us. We all rallied together,” said Freeman after the game. “It didn’t matter what anybody on the outside said. It’s what matters from within that locker room, and we still have a lot of confidence in each other.”
“It was an emotional game – back and forth – and bad things happened to our team,” Favre continued. “But we responded the way you would hope your team would respond. I’m sure Mike [Holmgren] can’t be happier, not only with the way we came back but against a team that – especially if we were down in the fourth quarter – not many gave us a chance.”
The defense was thrilled with their performance. “I try to make a point to look in the offensive linemen’s eyes. I want to see him, I want him to see me,” Holliday said. “I definitely try to stare them in the face and let them know ‘I’m coming after you. Let’s go.’”
“It was great,” McKenzie said. “We knew we had to get after [Young], because once he gets running, he can make a lot of things happen. Once we got him chasing around, I think we got into his head a little bit. I think everyone on the defensive line had a sack.”
Favre finished the game with 279 passing yards, giving him 24,719 for his career and passing Bart Starr by one yard to become the team’s all-time leading passer.
The win improved the Packers to 6-2 on the season and left the crowd at Lambeau Field excited. The Packers came up with big plays on both sides of the ball and defeated one of their top rivals in the NFC for the fifth straight time.
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