Exhausted from the steamiest opening day 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.
|Brett Favre celebrates William Henderson's late TD, but there was work left to do.(AP)|
Eventually, 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."
Green, who rushed for 155 yards on 27 carries, was scared Henderson wasn't going to get into the end zone.
"When I saw he was having some trouble getting in, I ran up and gave him a push," Green said. "I was tired. But I just put my body in there and pushed."
When it took so long for the officials to raise their arms, Falcons coach Dan Reeves was certain he'd be leaving Lambeau with a 31-27 victory.
"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 face that we'd stopped him. I thought we played extremely hard and when you come up short, it hurts."
Henderson said he didn't come up short at all.
"I put that ball across that line," he said.
Packers coach Mike Sherman said it was a no-brainer to give the ball to his 250-pound battering ram.
"We didn't need a whole lot. William is a horse, a bull I should say," Sherman said. "He made a great effort."
"He made a great second effort," interjected Brett Favre.
"Third, fourth," Henderson said. "I wasn't going to be denied."
Longwell's game-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 was over.
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.
Or about as much as most of them played the entire preseason.
"I knew if it went any longer, I'd be watching from the infirmary," Favre said.
He completed 25 of 36 passes for 284 yards, barely outshining Vick, the top pick in last year's draft, who completed 15 of 23 passes 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 Warrick Dunn. He also threw a 2-yard touchdown to Alge Crumpler, but Brian Finneran dropped a wide-open 60-yard TD pass, and Reggie Kelly dropped a 3-yard pass in the end zone.
Favre's new receivers came up big.
Donald Driver had seven catches for 78 yards, Terry Glenn had two catches for 60 yards, and Javon Walker caught four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown.
"Everyone of those guys contributed in some way," Favre said.
- Glenn returned after a mild concussion in the first quarter.
- The Packers cut TE Tyrone Davis before Saturday's deadline that would have made them responsible for his entire $650,000 salary. They would like to re-sign him this week and owe him just $152,942 or 4/17ths of his 2002 salary.
- DE Vonnie Holliday extended his deadline for reaching a contract extension with the Packers beyond opening kickoff.
- Favre tied Terry Bradshaw's NFL record by improving to 67-12 in home starts.
- The only other Packers' opener that was as hot was in 1976.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2002, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved