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Packers Defeat Seahawks 42-20 to Advance to NFC Championship

Brett Favre somehow spun free from the Seahawks' clutches and stumbled ahead in the snow. Ever the gambler, he flipped a wobbly, underhanded pass that he had no business trying, let alone completing. "That's right!" he shouted. Sure was, for Favre and the NFC championship-bound Green Bay Packers.

With Lambeau Field looking like a snow globe, Favre frolicked in the flurries, throwing three touchdown passes as the Packers beat Seattle 42-20 Saturday, the highest-scoring postseason game in Green Bay history.

This must have been the scene the 38-year-old three-time NFL MVP imagined when he decided to postpone retirement and try for another Super Bowl ring.

"It does make you appreciate it," Favre said. "We could be 3-13 next year. Who knows? So enjoy it and try to get the most out of it."

Ryan Grant made history, too, recovering from two fumbles that put the Packers down 14-0 after only four minutes. He set a team postseason record by running for 201 yards, and scored three times. After its early slips, Green Bay scored touchdowns on six straight possessions.

"I appreciate everyone sticking with it, staying with me," Grant said.

In the months ahead, Wisconsin might again become a wonder-land — will Favre come back again? — but for now, fans are guaranteed at least one more game.

The Packers (14-3) will take on the winner of Sunday's game between the New York Giants and Dallas. If the Cowboys win, they'll host Green Bay; if the Giants win, they'll visit Lambeau.

Green Bay beat the Giants this season and lost to the Cowboys. Favre would certainly prefer to stay home — he's 0-9 lifetime at Dallas.

"We haven't had a whole lot of success in Dallas and I'm well aware of that," Favre said.

The Packers reached the NFC title game for the first time since the 1997 season, and the largest crowd ever at Lambeau partied. Favre and favorite receiver Donald Driver started the celebration early, tossing snowballs at each other.

Favre tied his personal best for TD strikes in a postseason game, twice hitting Greg Jennings.

Favre extended his own record by throwing a touchdown pass in his 17th straight postseason game. But his most memorable effort was the crazy toss to Donald Lee that set up another score right before halftime.

"I'm not quite as nimble as I once was," Favre said.

Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks (11-7) hoped to reverse what happened the last time they were in town for the playoffs. In January 2004, the teams went to overtime and, after winning the coin toss, Hasselbeck boldly proclaimed: "We want the ball and we're going to score!"

It didn't quite work out that way as Al Harris soon intercepted Hasselbeck's pass and returned it for a 52-yard TD. In fact, a picture of the play is posted right outside the Packers' locker room.

Coming off their 35-14 win over Washington last week in the wild-card round, the Seahawks seemed primed for an upset.

"Great start," Hasselbeck said. "But that's just the start of the game. You've got to finish it."

On Green Bay's first play, Grant caught a pass and fumbled. Then on Seattle's first play, Shaun Alexander plunged in from the 1.

Grant didn't do any better a minute later, when another fumble set up Hasselbeck's 11-yard TD strike to Bobby Engram.

"When we were down 14-0, I have to admit I was not very optimistic," Favre said.

"I thought, 'Oh boy, this ain't too good,'" he said. "This is the exact game I didn't want to be in."

At that point, it seemed as if only a Lambeau leap of faith would bring back Green Bay. But when the snow started to pile up, so did the points for the Packers.

It was 14-all after the first quarter, and Green Bay led 28-17 at halftime.

Favre joined Joe Montana as the lone players to pass for more than 5,000 yards in the postseason. Earlier this week, Favre admitted he was disappointed that he hadn't performed better in some playoff games — in fact, he had lost four of his previous five, throwing 13 interceptions in that span.

This time, he was the Favre of old. And once he started to connect, there was no stopping him.

Green Bay led 21-17 late in the first half when Favre made the play of the game. On third-and-8 at the Seattle 14, he escaped from rookie Brandon Mebane and managed to slip the ball to Lee for an 11-yard gain. Grant followed with a 3-yard burst just 26 seconds before the break.

Coach Mike McCarthy won in his first postseason game, leading the NFL's youngest team to the next round.

The Seahawks fell to 0-8 in postseason road games since their only win, in 1983 when they beat Dan Marino and Miami in the AFC playoffs. The losing streak includes a loss in the Super Bowl two years ago.

It remains to be seen whether coach Mike Holmgren will return to the Seahawks next season. At 59, the coach who once guided Favre and the Packers to the Super Bowl title has recently dropped hints he might retire.

If he does, his final game will have come just a block or two from Holmgren Way, the street the city named in his honor.

Green Bay played its first postseason game in three seasons and it was a classic Lambeau scene. Favre was about the only player in long sleeves, though Seattle kicker Josh Brown brought a pair of pants with battery-powered heaters to keep his thighs warm.

During a coach's challenge in the first quarter, sweepers ran out to clear the yardlines. That eventually became futile, and a snowplow tried to do the job.

Cheeseheads dotted the crowd and delighted in singing the "Beer Barrel Polka" as their Packers pulled away.

Lambeau was properly prepped for this winter carnival, with snow sculptures of a Green Bay helmet and giant football placed outside the main gate.

A day earlier, 300 members of the Packers' ever-ready faithful answered the team's "Shovel Advisory" and showed up to clear the seats and aisles for $8 an hour. While they readied the stadium for a pep rally Friday night, Ice Bowl star Jerry Kramer greeted visitors to the team's Hall of Fame, chatting with them inside a replica of Vince Lombardi's office.