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Late fumble by Favre dooms Packers to another loss

Oct 8, 2006 - 8:56 PM GREEN BAY, Wisconsin (Ticker) -- Brett Favre will be in no mood to celebrate his 37th birthday.

The three-time MVP fumbled with the Green Bay Packers in position for a potential game-tying field goal with 36 seconds left in a 23-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Two days before his 37th birthday, Favre made his NFL-record 226th consecutive start despite suffering a head and shoulder injury in last Monday's loss at Philadelphia.

And Favre nearly rallied the Packers to a come-from-behind victory before he was sacked and had the ball stripped away from him by defensive end Leonard Little. Cornerback Jeremetrius Butler recovered the fumble for the Rams at the St. Louis 13 to seal the win.

"I got the ball knocked out of my hand," Favre said. "I think it was the only sack of the game and, of course, it came at the wrong time. I actually saw Leonard coming up the field hard, and it's no secret that's what he does. I tried to step up, to buy a little time, maybe find a little crease. I felt some pressure on the back, and that's when Leonard reached around and got me with the hand."

It was the third straight win for the Rams (4-1), who moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC West. They will host second-place Seattle next week.

"I don't think anyone would have predicted what happened at the end (fumble by Favre)," said Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. "But our defense has made a lot of big plays for us."

Bulger threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half and Jeff Wilkins kicked three field goals in the second half to stake the Rams to a 23-13 lead.

But Favre connected with rookie Greg Jennings on a 46-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to pull the Packers (1-4) within 23-20 with 6:42 left in the fourth quarter.

After Green Bay's defense held, Favre drove the Packers 68 yards to the St. Louis 11. But on a 2nd-and-10 play with 44 seconds left, Little swiped the ball loose from Favre and Butler fell on the ball.

"It (the ball) rolled and it seemed like it was going in slow motion," Little said. "I was just hoping that someone would jump on it and hopefully it would be one of our guys."

The turnover spoiled any chance Green Bay had of pulling out the win or at least tying the game with a field goal. Dave Rayner had kicked a pair of 27-yard field goals for the Packers in the second quarter.

"It's a very disappointing loss," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We were in position to win the football game. Turnovers continue to plague us and we need to get that fixed."

Veteran cornerback Al Harris also squandered a golden opportunity for the Packers. With the Rams leading 17-13 and driving late in the third quarter, Bulger threw an errant pass that hit Harris in the numbers at the Green Bay 5. But Harris dropped the ball after it appeared he had a clear path down the sideline.

"That would have been for 100 yards," Bulger said. I never would have caught him."

Two plays later, Wilkins kicked a 26-yard field goal seven seconds into the fourth quarter.

Wilkins' third field goal of the game - a 20-yarder with 9:26 left in the fourth quarter - increased the advantage to 23-13. Wilkins has converted 18-of-21 field goals this season.

"We've had our share of rollercoaster-type games," Rams rookie coach Scott Linehan said. "Fortunately for us, we have been able to come out on the better end."

Favre completed 22-of-39 passes for 220 yards, including his 403rd career touchdown pass. Dan Marino is the all-time leader with 420 TD passes.

Green Bay's Ahman Green was inactive for the second straight week with a sore hamstring. Vernand Morency started in his place and fumbled twice, one of which led to a touchdown for the Rams.

McCarthy then benched Morency in favor of Noah Herron, who produced 106 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

"It was nice, but I'd exchange it for a victory," Herron said of his first 100-yard game. "Individual stats don't even matter when you get a loss."

Bulger was 18-of-28 for 220 yards and extended his streak of psses without an interception to 214, eclipsing Roman Gabriel's franchise record of 206 passes without an interception.

Bulger hit Torry Holt with a six-yard touchdown pass with 9:49 left in the first quarter. That came six plays after Morency fumbled at the St. Louis 37.

Morency, who was acquired from Houston for Samkon Gado last month, also fumbled on the next series but the Packers recovered.

"I just have to have two hands on the ball," Morency said.

Herron took advantage of his opportunity, running seven times for 38 yards in a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive and capping it with a one-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left in the quarter.

A 38-yard pass from Favre to Jennings and a 15-yard personal foul penalty against safety O.J. Atogwe helped set up a 27-yard field goal by Rayner with 13:12 remaining in the second quarter, giving the Packers a 10-7 lead.

Bulger fired a three-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Curtis on a 3rd-and-goal play with 3:27 left in the second quarter to give the Rams a 14-10 advantage. Bulger completed 4-of-4 passes for 30 yards during the drive and the Rams also benefited from a 15-yard pass interference penalty against cornerback Charles Woodson.

Favre then hit Koren Robinson with two passes for 27 yards and Herron rushed three times for 20 yards to set up a 27-yard field goal by Rayner on the last play of the half.

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