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NFL

Green Bay keeps pace with best

©Associated Press
December 16, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brett Favre fought through biting wind and whipping rain one last time to shake Steve Mariucci's hand in the middle of Candlestick Park.

"That one could have gone either way," Favre told his former quarterback coach in Green Bay.

Actually, when Favre faces the 49ers, the Packers almost always earn the breaks.

Things went their way again Sunday in a rain-soaked 20-14 victory that kept the Packers on pace with the NFC's top teams.

Favre passed for 201 yards in a steady downpour. And with memories of Terrell Owens' 1999 winning catch in the playoffs reverberating, the Green Bay defense stopped the Niners' last drive at its 11 with 22 seconds left.

"I had confidence in our defense, but man, I was also pretty confident they could score," said Favre, who is 10-1 against San Francisco.

Ahman Green ran for 90 yards and a touchdown and Donald Driver caught a touchdown as the Packers shrugged off the miserable conditions to score 17 in the second half.

Green Bay won its third straight, limited the Niners to 263 total yards and earned homefield advantage in any possible playoff meeting between the division winners.

But it wasn't over until Green Bay's defense stopped Jeff Garcia's hopes of emulating Steve Young, who hit Owens for a 25-yard score with 3 seconds left in the Niners' 30-27 playoff victory over Green Bay four seasons ago.

"We didn't need to come out here and win this game to prove that we're a playoff team," Garcia said. "It's not like we got blown out of the water or anything. It came down to a few plays."

After Ryan Longwell's 28-yard field goal with 4:41 left, Garcia drove the 49ers from their 26 to the 11 before throwing three incompletions, including a low throw under pressure to Eric Johnson on fourth down.

Owens caught eight passes for 75 yards and a touchdown, which he punctuated with a celebration in which he picked up two pompoms from the 49ers' cheerleaders and danced along.

"I think in my next life, I'm going to be cheerleader," Owens said. "After I cross the end zone, I'm in my own little zone, my own little world."

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