Green Bay 17, Carolina 14

Sept. 29, 2002 at 9:26 PM
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GREEN BAY, Wis., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Brett Favre hit Donald Driver with a 22-yard touchdown pass with 4:10 remaining Sunday and Green Bay survived a late field goal try to overcome the previously unbeaten Carolina Panthers, 17-14.

The Packers (3-1) escaped with a victory thanks in part to a pivotal 34-yard pass interference penalty called against Carolina nickle back Emmanuel McDaniel, negating a 42-yard interception return by safety Mike Minter.

Favre quickly followed by finding Driver for the touchdown and turning in his 24th come-from-behind, fuorth-quarter win.

Carolina had a chance to send it into overtime, but Shayne Graham missed a 24-yard field goal attempt with 10 seconds remaining.

"No excuse," Graham said. "I worked out yesterday with the snapper and holder and I felt pretty good with it."

Panthers rookie coach John Fox released kicker Jon Hilbert and on Friday signed Graham, the all-time leading scorer at Virginia Tech as well as in Big East Conference history.

Hilbert was signed by the Panthers after John Kasay underwent hernia surgery and missed field goal attempts from 39 and 45 yards in Carolina's win at Minnesota last week.

It appears the Panthers (3-1) will be shopping for a kicker again after Graham failed his audition. He kicked in the final six games of the 2001 season for the Buffalo Bills and converted six of eight field goal attempts, but was not retained when the Bills signed Mike Hollis as a free agent.

Graham went to training camp with the Seattle Seahawks this season, but lost the kicking competition to Rian Lindell.

Driver caught a pair of touchdown passes, including one of 31 yards from tight end Bubba Franks in the second quarter.

Lamar Smith scored on a pair of runs for the Panthers, but was held to 66 yards on 22 carries.

The key sequence began with the interference penalty against McDaniel. Instead of the Panthers taking over at the Green Bay 21, the Packers retained possession at the Carolina 29. Two plays later, Favre connected with Driver on a post pattern in the end zone.

"It was a man-to-man defense with the free safety in the middle," Panthers cornerback Reggie Howard said of the go-ahead touchdown. "I think Favre was able to buy a little time and he made a great throw and a big play."

But that left plenty of time for the Panthers and they marched 75 yards to the Green Bay five. The long play was a 26-yard pass from Peete to Steve Smith and the Panthers also benefited from two penalties -- a holding call on cornerback Tyrone Williams and a 13-yard pass interference against safety Darren Sharper.

However, the drive ended when Graham missed his chip shot.

"The last 48 hours have been tough," Graham said. "I was home relaxing and working out and I got the call so I drove down to Charlotte to make the charter. I was surprised I got a call late in the week, but that's the way it is in this league."

Along with the missed field goal, the Panthers squandered two other scoring chances when quarterback Rodney Peete fumbled the ball away twice deep in Green Bay territory.

"The kicker did not lose the game today," Panthers linebacker Dan Morgan said. "It never should have gotten this far. But we are 3-1 and played them hard."

Driver caught a pair of touchdown passes for the Packers, including one of 31 yards from tight end Bubba Franks in the second quarter, and finished with five catches for 97 yards.

"I've thrown a couple of passes in college and high school, but that was my greatest toss," Franks said.

Favre was 18 of 32 for 200 yards with an interception and moved into fifth place all-time on the completions list with 3,414, surpassing Joe Montana (3,409).

"They have a tough defense and we knew this was going to be a tough game," Favre said. "We were fortunate to get through this one without going into overtime."

Lamar Smith scored on a pair of short runs for the Panthers, but was held to 66 yards on 22 carries.

Peete completed 10 of 24 passes for 202 yards. His chief target was Steve Smith, who had five receptions for a career-high 116 yards.

Ahman Green returned to the Packers after missing last week's game with a quad injury and had 73 yards on 17 carries.

Green rushed for 24 yards on four carries and Driver gained 15 yards on an end around on Green Bay's first drive, which resulted in a 30-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell with 8:52 left in the first quarter.

Peete connected with Smith on a 61-yard play and a facemask penalty on safety Matt Bowen put the Panthers on the Green Bay four. Two plays later, Smith scored on a three-yard run behind right guard to give Carolina a 7-3 lead with 23 seconds remaining in the quarter.

The Packers reclaimed the lead late in the second quarter on the game's wildest play. Favre took the snap and lateraled to Franks, who threw a 31-yard touchdown to Driver with 1:43 left in the half. However, Franks was whistled for an illegal forward pass, which caused Packers coach Mike Sherman to toss his headset and run on the field.

Sherman was slapped with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, but he calmed down when the play was reversed by the replay official, who ruled the touchdown was legal.

"The fact that a flag was thrown bothered me," Sherman said. "I didn't know if it would be reviewed. But I will fine myself for the outburst. I overreacted."

The Panthers reached the Green Bay 20 on the ensuing possession, but Peete fumbled after being sacked by Packers defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt and end Joe Johnson recovered for Green Bay at the 24 with 43 seconds remaining.

The Carolina defense caused a turnover in the third quarter when Morgan picked off a pass intended for Karsten Bailey over the middle and returned it four yards to the Green Bay 44.

A 31-yard pass by Peete to Karl Hankton brough the Panthers to the Green Bay 15. But after two incompletions, Peete fumbled after being hit by Johnson and Tod McBride recovered for the Packers and returned it four yards to the 17.

But Carolina's defense stopped the Packers and a 10-yard sack by Kris Jenkins backed them to their own 13.

The Panthers started their next possession at their own 47. Fullback Brad Hoover rushed for 11 yards on third and one and caught a 31-yard pass over the middle to the Green Bay two.

"We saw Atlanta hit that against them in Week 1 with Bob Christian," Hoover said. "The play was there and we waited for the right time to execute it."

On the next play, Smith went behind right tackle for a two-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 14-10 lead with 12:55 left.

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