Champs' Season Is in Peril

From Associated Press

Green Bay had Tampa Bay's once-vaunted defense on the verge of collapse, so Coach Mike Sherman was determined to finish them off.

Facing fourth and one from the Buccaneer 16-yard line in a tie game, the Packers sent Najeh Davenport barreling up the middle for five yards instead of going for a go-ahead field goal. Three plays later, Ahman Green scored from the one to finish a 98-yard drive that gave the Packers a 20-13 victory Sunday.

"It was such a beautiful drive, I just hated to let it go to a kicker. I thought we had to finish it off," Sherman said.

"I think everyone, including some of our players, expected us to kick a field goal," quarterback Brett Favre added. "But we just wanted to make a statement at that point, and I think we did."

Playing with a broken right thumb and shrugging off five years of futility at Raymond James Stadium, Favre fueled the nearly 10-minute winning drive with a 23-yard completion to Robert Ferguson on third and nine from the Green Bay three.

The victory moved the Packers (5-5) within one game of NFC North leader Minnesota, while the Buccaneers (4-6) fell four games behind Carolina in the NFC South with their third consecutive loss. The Super Bowl champions concede they may be facing a near-impossible task of getting back to the playoffs.

"We expect every man to finish this season with authority.... Certainly we have our work cut out for us," Coach Jon Gruden said.

"I haven't been in this position in a long time," receiver Keyshawn Johnson said. "It's demoralizing."

Green finished with his seventh 100-yard game of the season, gaining 109 in 21 carries despite sitting out part of the nearly 10-minute winning drive while getting his left ankle taped. Davenport filled in admirably in his absence, gaining 39 of his 70 yards.

Favre completed 13 of 28 passes for only 92 yards, but threw a touchdown pass for the 18th consecutive game, a five-yard shovel pass to Tony Fisher for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Favre was intercepted once but was not sacked -- ending Tampa Bay's league-record streak of 69 games with at least one sack.

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