Packers win in OT

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 5, 2004

GREEN BAY, Wis. - It wasn't vintage Brett Favre throwing touchdowns all over the lot. Nor was it Ahman Green running rampant through Seattle's defense.

The hero of Green Bay's thrilling 33-27 overtime playoff victory against the Seahawks on Sunday was none other than Al Harris, the cornerback known as much for the long dreadlocks that flow from his helmet as for his coverage skills.

He jumped in front of Seattle receiver Alex Bannister, grabbed Matt Hasselbeck's throw and headed down the sideline - right past former Packers coach Mike Holmgren. Harris, who had a case of the drops lately, wasn't losing this ball. And he wasn't going to be caught, either.

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''I was just thinking, 'Don't drop the ball,''' Harris said after his 52-yard touchdown, the first defensive score to win a playoff overtime game. ''Two weeks in a row, I've dropped picks, so I was thinking, 'Make sure you secure the catch.' And it was a foot race from there on.

''I anticipated it, and I know the quarterback ain't going to catch me.''

Once his teammates caught up to him, Harris went down in an avalanche of green. He didn't even get to do a Lambeau Leap.

Hasselbeck and Holmgren certainly were hurting. They recognized how close they came to going to Philadelphia next Sunday for the second round. Instead, the Packers (11-6) face the Eagles and the Seahawks (10-7) are done.

''I'm dying inside,'' said Holmgren, who led the Packers to their last Super Bowl victory seven years ago. ''It hurts bad to lose this game. The loss is hard. The locker room is in bad shape right now, because these guys really left it out there on the field.''

Particularly Hasselbeck, who once backed up Favre in Green Bay. He played as well as the Packers' master quarterback - except for that one critical mistake.

Hasselbeck did all he could to get Seattle in position to win, throwing for 305 yards. The Seahawks tied it with 51 seconds remaining on Shaun Alexander's third 1-yard touchdown run. Then Packers kicker Ryan Longwell, who made two earlier field goals, was short on a 47-yard attempt as regulation time expired.

Seattle won the coin toss, and Hasselbeck told the official, ''We want the ball, and we're going to score.''

They didn't. Harris did.

''I was just praying that he did throw the ball,'' Harris said, ''because I was going to gamble on that play.''

Favre, as usual, thrived in the cold: 20 degrees, with a wind chill of 7. He threw for 319 yards, his most in the playoffs since Jan. 16, 1994.

He set a record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 14th straight playoff game and rallied the Packers to a 27-20 lead. His 23-yard laser in the second quarter found Bubba Franks at the goal line as defender Damien Robinson fell. Favre, who threw for 319 yards, was tied with former Dolphins star Dan Marino for the record.

''From my standpoint, I know I'm called upon to be a leader in a lot of ways,'' Favre said. ''I have been to the playoffs and have had some success. But as I say with this team, that in itself doesn't carry you. It helps.''

It also helped that Green ran for two 1-yard TDs in the fourth quarter, and that the defense never let Alexander get on track - except from very close to the end zone.

Seattle was aided by two video replay calls. Early in overtime, Bannister was ruled to have fumbled, but a review overturned the call, to cascading boos.

In the second period, Hasselbeck tried to stop his passing motion and lost the ball at the Green Bay 17. Nick Barnett retrieved it and ran for a touchdown, but Holmgren challenged the call and won.

But in the end, Holmgren had one of the more painful losses of his career.