Look at the box score, where Green Bay outgained Buffalo 427 yards to 184 and dominated time of possession, and you might get the idea that the score above is wrong and the Packers actually won the game.
Then again, the box score won’t tell you that on first-and-goal at the 1, with the Pack driving for the tying score after a 43-yard J.P. Losman-to-Lee Evans bomb had put the Bills ahead 17-10 midway through the fourth quarter, Nate Clements tipped Brett Favre’s pass into the eager hands of Ko Simpson. The rookie safety sprinted to the Green Bay 27 before running back Ahman Green managed to make the touchdown-saving tackle, but the Packers defense had no answer for Anthony Thomas. Losman handed off to him on three consecutive plays, the last one for 14 yards and a touchdown with just 3:08 remaining, and Favre’s 0-for-Orchard Park streak continued.
Losman finished a pedestrian 8-for-15 for 102 yards, but despite being sacked five times behind a reworked Bills line, managed to avoid turning the ball over. Anthony Thomas, filling in after Willis McGahee left the game early on with a rib injury, added 95 yards on the ground.
Simpson’s big play was Favre’s second interception of the day, and the first one was equally costly, with London Fletcher stepping in front of a pass meant for Donald Driver and returning it 17 yards for the Bills’ first touchdown. Buffalo dodged another major scare at the end of the first half, when another Packers turnover this one on a shotgun snap that bounced off Favre’s facemask and was recovered by Aaron Schobel at his own 10 sent the home team into the locker room with a 10-0 lead.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Nate Clements scooped up the loose football and took off for the end zone, sure that his touchdown return would put the Bills ahead 7-3 in a game dominated as much by the Wisconsin wind as either team’s defense.
Not so fast. Although Ahman Green had appeared to take the requisite two steps after catching Brett Favre’s swing pass to make it a catch and a fumble, the play was ruled an incompletion over the protests from the visitors’ side of the field. Favre hit Donald Driver for an 11-yard touchdown on the next play, and the 10-0 score must have looked like 100-0 to a Bills offense which only dented the Green Bay 40-yard line three times, turning the ball over twice and missing a field goal. Drew Bledsoe got the ball back twice more after Driver’s score, but defensive end Vonnie Holliday who spent the entire game in the Buffalo backfield, ending up with a franchise-record five sacks forced the Bills quarterback to fumble on both drives, thwarting any chance of a miraculous comeback.
Both Favre and Bledsoe would make the Pro Bowl following the 2002 season, but certainly not from their performances in this game. With below-freezing temperatures and 25-mph gusts combining to send the wind chill into the low teens, both quarterbacks tossed two interceptions, and Bledsoe added a pair of lost fumbles to account for four of Buffalo’s six turnovers.
With no threat from the passing game, the Packers defense concentrated on stuffing Travis Henry, holding the Bills back to just 46 yards on 20 carries. Green was more successful against a Buffalo front seven that had problems stopping the run all season, racking up 116 yards on 26 attempts and adding another 17 on two receptions.