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Green Bay 27, San Francisco 17 // CRASH!

Published Jul. 6, 2006

If there were any doubts about Brett Favre being the NFL's MVP, he put them to rest Saturday.

If there were any doubts about the Green Bay Packers being among the league's elite, the defense and coaching staff removed them.

Favre played the perfect game in breaking the Dallas-San Francisco stranglehold on the NFC Championship Game, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Packers to a 27-17 victory over the 49ers.

The defense joined in, providing an early touchdown on a turnover and then protecting a 21-0 lead by controlling Jerry Rice and Steve Young.

"Nobody gave us a chance," said safety Leroy Butler, whose Packers were 10-point underdogs. "But we've got the MVP quarterback. My gosh! That's not enough to bring the point spread down?"

No, but the Packers brought down the defending NFL champions, moving within a victory of their first Super Bowl since 1967, when Vince Lombardi ran the team and the city was known as "Titletown, USA." Back then, Green Bay won as routinely as the 49ers have the past 15 years.

It may become "Favretown" if the Green Bay quarterback, who had 38 TD passes during the season, plays against Philadelphia or Dallas the way he did against San Francisco. He was 15 of 17 for 222 yards in the first half as the Packers took a 21-0 lead after 19 minutes.

"I really can't tell if he's good," said 49ers strong safety Tim McDonald, who was playing Favre for the first time. "But we did get mesmerized by him during the game."

Even when something went wrong, Favre made it right. On one play, he slipped, got back up and completed a 28-yard pass to Keith Jackson.

Favre had help from near-perfect defensive schemes devised by a coaching staff headed by former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren.

"We're gonna win it all," Holmgren said after the Packers beat Atlanta last week.

"Coach Holmgren tried to tell you what was going to happen," Butler said. "No more controversy. He said that was what we were going to do and we did it."

Green Bay, which will play Philadelphia at home or at Dallas in the NFC title game next Sunday, had lost two straight at this stage of the playoffs. San Francisco had won six straight, going to the NFC title game in six of the past seven seasons.

Dallas and San Francisco met in the last three championships, with Washington's win over Detroit in 1992 the last time there was title game without the rivals.

On this day, the Packers did to the 49ers (11-6) what the Niners have done so often, producing a quick score on a turnover _ Craig Newsome's 31-yard fumble return _ and running off to a three-touchdown lead.

"I think our players came emotionally prepared," San Francisco coach George Seifert said. "I think the other team beat us to the punch and made the plays and got untracked on us. It was something we just couldn't recover from."

Said Green Bay's Reggie White, more a force on defense with his injured hamstring than he had been in last week's win over Atlanta: "It was destiny, the way we started out playing. That set the tempo for the rest of the game for us."

The 49ers hardly looked like the machine they've so often been. Their best play in the first half, a Dexter Carter kickoff return that would have started them at the Packers 34, was negated by an illegal block by Anthony Peterson.

Rice was double- and triple-teamed, and the rest of the 49ers receivers repeatedly were jammed at the line of scrimmage against a defense that was in the nickel most of the game and rushed only three men. He caught 11 passes for 117 yards but made no big plays.

"We never allowed them to get into an early rhythm," said Green Bay defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur, who spent years with the Rams trying to stop the 49ers.

"When they come out and score on you on the first drive, it's the first of 40 points they're going to score on you. I've been bullied and beaten a lot by this team."

Young, under pressure all day, completed 32 of an NFL-playoff record 65 passes for 328 yards. But he had a fumble and two interceptions in the fourth quarter.