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Packers capitalize on turnovers to stop Bears

12/1/2002

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Spectacular touchdown-saving plays by two
backups named Walker allowed the Green Bay Packers to win their
first division title in five years.

Question on the Bears: What's happened with Anthony Thomas this season?
He hasn't been 100 percent physically -- he's taken a lot of pounding this season. The Bears' offense has been stagnant, so the pressure has been on him to get teams out of the eight-man front. He's not an elusive, super-fast back, so he's taken lots of hits. It's so much easier to run the ball when the passing game is keeping defenses honest.

Question on the Packers: Have injuries plagued Green Bay the past three weeks or has the competition made them struggle?
The Packers were doing a great job compensating for their injuries earlier, but now they're coming back to bite them. Against some of the lesser teams the Pack played earlier, they had success despite their injuries. But now some of their weaknesses are being exposed. As a result, Green Bay has looked like an average team the past few weeks.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

The Packers won the NFC North by beating the Chicago Bears 30-20
Sunday, despite losing running back Ahman Green to a knee injury
after he had produced 123 yards of offense.

Rookie Tony Fisher, an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, ran
for 91 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries as the Packers (9-3),
who were coming off two straight losses, became the first team to
clinch a playoff spot and remained the only team without a loss at
home.

They couldn't have done it without rookie receiver Javon Walker,
who chased down a cornerback headed for the end zone to prevent the
Packers' halftime deficit from reaching 15 points.

Then nose tackle Rod Walker forced a fumble from the Bears'
center on first-and-goal at the Packers' 1 in the third quarter.

"The Walkers rep-re-sent-ed today!'' defensive end Vonnie
Holliday said.

On a cold, windy day at Lambeau Field, Brett Favre threw two
second-half touchdown passes and improved to 33-0 at home when the
temperature is 34 or below. He beat the Bears for the 18th time in
22 tries.

The Packers trailed 14-6 at halftime after Javon Walker ran
about 100 yards and chased down Roosevelt Williams as he was about
to dance into the end zone at the end of the first half.

"It would have been devastating to have them score like that
right before the half,'' Packers coach Mike Sherman said.

Green Bay still appeared on its way to another defeat when Rod Walker, filling in for injured Gilbert Brown, snatched the ball
from center Olin Kreutz just as he was snapping it to quarterback
Jim Miller.

"Those were two huge plays,'' Bears coach Dick Jauron lamented.

Rod Walker timed the snap perfectly, grabbed the ball and pulled
it back to his chest, covering up all in one fluid motion.

"I had a friend who did it all the time in high school, so I
thought I might as well try it,'' Walker said. "I just went
directly for the ball.''

Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell saw something similar in
peewee football; some teammates said they saw it in high school,
but nobody could remember it happening in college. And never in the
pros.

"I haven't seen anything like that, period,'' defensive tackle
Cletidus Hunt said. "Ever, ever, ever. Miller didn't even know
what happened.''

Neither did most of the Packers, who figured Miller had simply
fumbled the snap.

Rod Walker said Kreutz told him he'd jumped the gun.

"He was a little upset that I jumped the snap count a little
bit on him, but I told him it's part of the game,'' Walker said.

Miller accepted the blame: "That's just basic football there,
the center-quarterback exchange. ... Those things happen.''

However infrequently.

The amazing play came after Marty Booker's apparent touchdown
catch was called an incompletion, and the Bears lost a challenge.

The Packers then drove 90 yards -- with Fisher accounting for
half of them -- and went ahead for the first time on Ryan Longwell's
27-yard field goal that made it 16-14.

Favre added an 8-yard touchdown toss to Bubba Franks, and Fisher
scored from 2 yards out with 1:10 left to make it 30-14. Henry Burris threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Robinson with 8
seconds left.

The Bears (3-9) also lost their starting running back, Anthony Thomas, who broke his right index finger in the first half. He was
replaced by Leon Johnson.

Green hurt his left knee when he was tackled by Mike Brown at
the end of a 29-yard run early in the third quarter. He came back
for one carry. Sherman said Green has a bruised kneecap and will be
re-evaluated on Monday.

"It's all right, just sore,'' Green said.

The Bears took a 14-6 halftime lead on tight end Dustin Lyman's
first two career touchdowns.

"We didn't win the game, so it's bittersweet,'' Lyman said.

Playing on grass for the first time all season, the Bears went
ahead 7-0 when Paul Edinger lined up for a 30-yard field goal in
the first quarter and holder Brad Maynard pitched the ball to Lyman
instead.

He later caught an 8-yard TD pass from Miller.

Game notes
Favre has thrown a TD pass in every game he's played
against Chicago. The only QB with a better such stat is Dan Marino,
who threw TD passes in 24 straight games against the Jets. ... The
crowd of 64,196 was a stadium record. ... Booker went over 1,000
yards receiving. ... LT Chad Clifton watched the game from his home
in Green Bay after his release from the hospital on Saturday.
Clifton injured his pelvis on a vicious blindside hit by Warren
Sapp last week.