Strahan gets sack, can't stop Pack

Posted: Monday, January 07, 2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Green Bay Packers got just what they wanted Sunday -- the right to open the playoffs next week against San Francisco at frigid Lambeau Field.

The Packers' 34-25 victory over the New York Giants, whose Michael Strahan broke the single-season sacks record, assured Green Bay a first-round home game against the 49ers.

''This is a big advantage for us, but we don't think they are going to come in and bow down,'' safety Darren Sharper said. ''They have the same record as us, so they are just as good a team as us. But the fact we are playing at home might put some things in their minds.''

The one thing that 49ers have to know is that the Packers (12-4) have never lost a playoff game at Lambeau Field, where they were 7-1 in the regular season.

The Packers also are playing well, having won their last three and six of seven.

The only thing they gave away against the Giants was Strahan's record.

Brett Favre changed a play at the line of scrimmage with less than three minutes to play and was sacked on a naked rollout, giving Strahan 22 1/2 sacks for the season.

''Guys were upset that he was able to get the sack,'' Packers receiver Antonio Freeman said. ''I was telling them if there is anyone in the NFL that deserves it, it's him.''

Before he fell down on the sack, Favre threw two touchdown passes and Ahman Green scored on runs of 25 yards and 1 yard.

The loss ended a season in which New York (7-9) missed the playoffs one year after playing in the Super Bowl. The only bright spot was Strahan breaking Mark Gastineau's record of 22 sacks with 2:42 to play.

''It was a phenomenal season. I couldn't ask for any more,'' Strahan said. ''Team-wise we could have asked for a lot better.''

The only thing that prevented the Packers from having a perfect day was the Bears. Chicago (13-3) won the NFC Central by defeating Jacksonville 33-13.

Had the Bears lost, the Packers would have won the division and gotten an extra week off with their win. Instead, they'll play the Niners.

''Home field is big,'' Packers center Mike Flanagan said. ''We would have had to get on a plane and go three hours there. Now they have to come to our place, to cold weather and our fans. This is what we wanted.''

The Packers didn't waste any time securing home-field advantage for next weekend. They needed just seven plays to score touchdowns on their first two possessions.

Favre, who was 15-of-30 for 315 yards, hit Bill Schroeder on a 26-yard touchdown on the Packers' fourth play. Sharper's interception got the ball right back, and Green, who had 23 rushes for 101 yards, scored on a 25-yard run.

An 8-yard touchdown pass from Kerry Collins to Ike Hilliard and a 27-yard field goal by Morten Andersen following a 61-yard run by Ron Dayne got New York to 14-10 early in the second quarter.

The Giants lost their momentum later in the quarter when a 50-yard field goal by Andersen was nullified by a procedure penalty. Owen Pochman, who has a stronger leg than Andersen, came on and missed from 55 yards, and the Giants were never threatened again.

A missed tackle by cornerback Dave Thomas on a 31-yard pass play from Favre to Corey Bradford set up a 44-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell with 1:04 left in the half.

Green Bay blew the game open with 17 third-quarter points.

A 53-yard return by Dorsey Levens on the second-half kickoff set up Green's 1-yard touchdown run.

A questionable 25-yard pass interference penalty against Thomas led to Longwell's 43-yard field goal, making it 27-10.

Collins' NFL-record tying 21st fumble set up Favre's 54-yard scoring pass to Bradford. Thomas again was the victim.

Tiki Barber's 10-yard touchdown run and Dayne's 1-yard run and 2-point conversion run in the fourth quarter only made it close at the end.

Collins finished 36-of-59 for 386 yards.

NOTES: Giants receiver Amani Toomer had five catches for 79 yards before sustaining a concussion in the third quarter. He finished with a team-high 72 catches for 1,054 yards. It's the third straight year he has had 70 catches and at least 1,000 yards. Giants DT Keith Hamilton and S Shaun Williams left the game with knee injuries. ... Dayne's 61-yard run was a career long, eclipsing a 55-yarder earlier this season. ... Longwell has had five straight seasons of 100 points. ... Schroeder and Bradford each had 100 yards receiving. Schroeder had five catches for 102 yards, and Bradford had three for 111. Giants Pro Bowl G Ron Stone didn't play because of a wrist injury.

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