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Packers survive scare by Seahawks
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Al Harris never got a chance for a Lambeau Leap. By the time he thought about it, he was buried under an avalanche of teammates.
His long dreadlocks flapping outside his helmet in the frigid wind, Harris streamed down the sideline with a 52-yard interception return in overtime. That touchdown lifted the Green Bay Packers past the Seattle Seahawks 33-27 Sunday in a first-round NFC playoff game.
The cornerback picked off Matt Hasselbeck's throw and headed to the end zone -- directly past former Packers coach Mike Holmgren. Only Hasselbeck had a chance to tackle Harris, but he couldn't get there. Harris scored the first defensive touchdown to win an overtime playoff game in NFL history.
"I was just praying that he did throw the ball," Harris said, "because I was going to gamble on that play."
Once he got to the end zone, his teammates tackled him, setting off a wild celebration, including Harris slapping hands with fans in the stands on a 100-yard victory lap.
His heroics sent the Packers (11-6) to Philadelphia next Sunday, while the Seahawks (10-7) go home knowing they let a prime opportunity slip away.
"I'm dying inside," Holmgren said. "It hurts bad to lose this game."
Seattle tied it with 51 seconds remaining on Shaun Alexander's third 1-yard touchdown run. Then Packers kicker Ryan Longwell was short on a 47-yard field goal attempt as regulation time expired.
'We want the ball'
Seattle won the coin toss, and Hasselbeck told the official, "We want the ball, and we're going to score."
The Seahawks got the ball, but punted. After Seattle got the ball back, it was Harris, a six-year veteran in his first season with the Packers, who scored on the game's only turnover.
"I anticipated it," Harris said, "and I know the quarterback ain't going to catch me."
That quarterback, Hasselbeck, had a pretty good day, throwing for 305 yards. He also made the one critical mistake after recognizing a Packers blitz.
"What hurts about it is I had the ball in my hand," a stonefaced Hasselbeck said. "I could have done something different, and we don't lose the game. I could have thrown the ball away. I could have seen him."
Favre, as usual, thrived in the cold: 20 degrees, with a wind chill of 7.
He set a record by throwing for a touchdown in a 14th straight playoff game and rallied the Packers to a 27-20 lead. Then Hasselbeck, once Favre's backup in Green Bay, guided a 67-yard drive to tie it.
But the Packers gutted out the victory one year after losing a home playoff game for the first time ever, to Atlanta.
"I'm not surprised by anything," Favre said. "And if you're around long enough, you lose games that you're supposed to win and you win games that you're supposed to lose."
Early on, the Seahawks -- 35-13 losers here in October -- shut down Ahman Green, who rushed for 1,883 yards this season. But he came on late, particularly on short-yardage plays.
After falling behind 20-13, Green Bay covered 60 yards in 12 plays. Green converted a fourth-and-1 from the 3 before surging into the end zone to tie it with 10:01 left.
Green later converted another fourth-and-1 at the Seattle 42, although he appeared to fumble. Holmgren vehemently argued he could challenge, but referee Bernie Kukar said no.
"Yeah, he fumbled the ball," insisted Holmgren, a former chairman of the league's competition committee. "They said no, the play was over."
Eight plays later, Green scored for the lead.
But Hasselbeck brilliantly guided Seattle to the tying touchdown, hitting Bobby Engram on a 34-yard play before Alexander scored.
Early in overtime, replay helped the Seahawks when Alex Bannister was ruled to have fumbled. But a video review overturned the call, to cascading boos.
The game was even on key calls -- and in just about every other way.
Josh Brown's 30-yard field goal on Seattle's opening drive was matched by Longwell's 31-yarder in the second quarter.
On the next series, 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.
Brown's 35-yard field goal made it 6-3.
Javon Walker's 44-yard reception led to Favre's playoff TD record. His 23-yard laser found Bubba Franks at the goal line as defender Damien Robinson fell down. Favre, who threw for 319 yards, was tied with former Dolphins star Dan Marino for the record of 13 straight games.
Longwell's 27-yarder made it 13-6 at halftime, but Seattle tied it with a 75-yard drive to open the second half. Alexander ran in from the 1 on fourth down after left guard Steve Hutchinson caught a deflected pass on the previous play.
Alexander also put Seattle on top 20-13 with a 1-yard run in the third quarter.
But Harris and the Packers had the final say.Noteworthy
***Favre moved into third place in career playoff completions (364) and touchdown passes (31), ahead of John Elway.
***Holmgren is 1-2 against the Packers.
***Harris had three interceptions this season, returning one for a 56-yard TD against Detroit.