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Defending champs are on the brink

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Green Bay had Tampa Bay's once-vaunted
defense on the verge of collapse, so coach Mike Sherman was
determined to finish them off.

Question on the Packers: Are the Packers capable of stringing wins together and making a run?
The Packers are definitely able to string together the wins necessary for them to make a run at the playoffs and the division title. Despite his broken thumb, Favre had a great game. This was his first win in Raymond James Stadium and it was truly a clutch victory. If they can continue to play this well on defense, the Packers will be dangerous down the stretch.

Question on the Bucs: Is it almost that time to put a fork in the champs?
The Bucs are definitely done. This game is the type that a team knows they have to win. For them not to get it says volumes about where they are as a team. This is shaping up as one of those years where neither of the previous season's Super Bowl participants will make the playoffs.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Facing fourth-and-1 from the Buccaneers 16 in a tie game, the
Packers sent Najeh Davenport barreling up the middle for 5 yards
instead of going for a go-ahead field goal. Three plays later,
Ahman Green scored from the 1 to finish a 98-yard march 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-9 from the Green Bay 3.

The victory moved the Packers (5-5) within one game of reeling
Minnesota atop the NFC North, while the Bucs (4-6) fell four games
behind Carolina in the NFC South with their third straight 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 on 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 just 92 yards, but threw a
TD pass for the 18th straight game, a 5-yard shovel pass to Tony
Fisher for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The three-time NFL MVP
was intercepted once, but was not sacked -- ending Tampa Bay's
league-record streak of 69 consecutive games with at least one
sack.

The victory was Favre's 120th as a starter, moving him ahead of
Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas into sole possession of fourth on the
career list behind John Elway (148), Dan Marino (147) and Fran
Tarkenton (125).

It was his first, though, in Tampa since 1997, the year before
the Bucs moved into Raymond James Stadium, where Favre was 0-5
before Sunday.

"I hate to lose anywhere," Favre said. "Losing to Tampa Bay
here the last five or six years is tough to take, but they're a
great defense."

Brad Johnson rallied the Bucs from a 13-6 halftime deficit using
a 51-yard run by Thomas Jones to set up a 3-yard TD pass to Keenan
McCardell early in the third quarter. It was McCardell's seventh
scoring reception -- and eighth TD overall -- but Tampa Bay is 0-6 in
the games in which the receiver has scored.

Martin Gramatica kicked field goals of 24 and 37 yards for the
Bucs, one of them set up by Jones' 61-yard run in the second
quarter. The reserve running back finished with 134 yards on nine
carries.

The Bucs' defense yielded game-winning drives in the final two
minutes of losses to NFC South rivals New Orleans and Carolina the
previous two weeks. They buckled earlier this time, allowing the
Packers to control the ball for 17 plays and burn 9:42 off the
clock.

A sputtering offense has contributed to Tampa Bay's woes, too,
failing to score touchdowns in the first half of the last three
games. Penalties were a problem again Sunday, including a comical
sequence in which three straight flags were thrown on plays
starting from inside the Bucs 4.

Johnson completed 17 of 28 passes for 149 yards. He was
intercepted twice and sacked three times.

Game notes
The Packers beat the reigning Super Bowl champion for the
third straight season. ... The Packers are 20-2 when Green runs for
100 yards. ... Favre needs two TD passes to tie Marino's record of
10 consecutive seasons with at least 20. ... Gramatica's first
field goal put him ahead of Michael Husted as Tampa Bay's career
scoring leader. He finished the day with 508 points. ... Jones'
61-yarder was the longest run of the former Arizona running back's
career. ... Tampa Bay WR Joe Jurevicius (knee sprain) played for
the first time since the second game of the season. He had one
catch for 5 yards.

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