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Packers beat heat, Falcons

©Associated Press
September 9, 2002

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Both teams thought the game was over long before Ryan Longwell's 34-yard field goal with 5:15 left in overtime gave Green Bay a 37-34 victory over Atlanta.

Exhausted from the steamiest opener in Lambeau Field history, the Packers and Falcons began celebrating after fullback William Henderson's fourth-and-inches plunge toward the goal line with 1:10 left in regulation.

The Falcons were sure they'd stuffed him and beaten the Packers at Lambeau for the second straight season. The Packers were just as certain he had scored, avenging that most recent home loss.

Officials signaled a touchdown and a review confirmed the call, giving Green Bay a 34-31 lead.

But Michael Vick quickly moved the Falcons downfield and Jay Feely's 52-yard field goal with five seconds left sent the game into overtime.

On Henderson's plunge, this much was certain: He didn't make it on his initial burst.

But just as he was getting stacked up, tailback Ahman Green gave the pile of bodies a shove. Henderson, with his feet churning furiously and his knees nowhere near the grass, lunged the ball across, placing it squarely on the goal line.

"I was not going to be denied," Henderson said. "I don't get too many opportunities down there."

When it took so long for the officials to raise their arms, Falcons coach Dan Reeves was certain he'd leave Lambeau with a 31-27 win.

"That's the longest whistle I've seen in the goal line. To call a TD that late ... " Reeves said, his voice trailing off. "They said he was still moving his feet. I thought it was called late and our guys were actually celebrating the fact that we'd stopped him. I thought we played extremely hard and when you come up short, it hurts."

Longwell's winner allowed the Packers to avenge the loss that cost them a division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

The teams were more concerned about the heat than history, though. The temperature at kickoff was a record-tying 83 degrees and was above 90 when the game ended.

Green needed two bags of IV fluids and several players from both teams cramped up.

"Basically both teams' starters played five quarters today," Packers guard Marco Rivera said.

Favre was 25-of-36 for 284 yards, barely outshining Vick, the top pick in last year's draft, who was 15-of-23 for 209 yards and rushed nine times for 72 yards. He completed all 10 of his first-half passes as the Falcons built a 21-13 halftime lead.

"I thought he played great," Favre said. "He ran around a lot more than I did."

Vick led the Falcons on six scoring drives, three of which ended in rushing touchdowns, two by former Buc Warrick Dunn.

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