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Packers 37, Bears 6

October 6, 1996

CHICAGO (AP) _ The NFL’s longest-running rivalry, one of fierce confrontations and legendary figures like Butkus and Nitschke since it began in 1921, has become decidedly one-sided.

That’s because Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers have taken over and dominated the Chicago Bears the last three years.

``I don’t know what it is. It just seems like every time we’ve played them, we’ve played really well,″ Favre said Sunday after throwing four touchdown passes as the Packers pulled off their most lopsided victory ever at Soldier Field, beating the Bears 37-6.

``We just call our plays and we throw to whoever is open,″ said Favre, who has 20 touchdown passes this season.

Favre and Antonio Freeman seemed to be playing pitch-and-catch Sunday against the Bears as the Packers beat Chicago for a fifth straight game and for the seventh time in nine meetings.

Freeman came down with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Favre on the final play of the first half, jumping up with three Bears defenders and two teammates to make the grab.

Later in the third quarter, he made a fully extended catch over Chicago defender Kevin Miniefield for a 35-yard score.

But his catch at the end of the half was the pivotal play of the game.

``There’s not much to say. You just throw it up and hope somebody catches it, and Antonio did,″ said Favre, 18 of 27 for 246 yards.

``The ball happened to drop in the right place and I happened to be there,″ said Freeman, who had seven catches for 146 yards.

``It’s a play we practice. Everybody says, `It’s not going to work, it’ll never work.′ But we practice it. Brett threw a good ball and I jumped up and caught it. It swung the momentum. I knew I had the opportunity to catch the ball. And I made some space for myself,″ he added.

Mark Carrier, one of three defenders trying to stop the pass, said he was knocked down on the play.

``I was going up and I got hit and I don’t know what happened after that,″ Carrier said. ``We weren’t in a `Hail Mary’ defense. We thought they were getting into position to kick a field goal.″

In addition to Freeman’s two scoring catches, another Green Bay receiver, Don Beebe, returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.

The Packers, at 5-1, are off to their best start since 6-1 in 1978. The Bears are 2-4 for the first time since 1983.

Green Bay beat the Bears by 26 in 1994 at Soldier Field and had a 31-point win in 1962 at Wrigley Field.

The Bears’ poor performance prompted a 10-minute tirade from linebacker Bryan Cox, who after Freeman’s catch right before the half stood without his helmet in the end zone during the extra point attempt, a symbol of frustration.

``When you get into a pile like that, it’s whoever comes away with it. You just want to knock the ball down. The chances of you catching the ball and running 102 yards for a touchdown are very slim,″ said an emotional Cox, who made an obscene gesture after the play.

``Favre scrambled around and was able to throw the ball downfield and make some plays. They just threw the ball and we didn’t make some plays on the ball.″

Chris Jacke missed the extra point, his first miss in 88 attempts, but still Green Bay had a 20-3 lead.

Chicago got a field goal from 41-yard field goal from Jeff Jaeger in the third quarter, but Beebe put the Packers back in control, taking the kickoff on the right side and then breaking left at the 40 and outrunning two Bears to the end zone.

``That’s why I like to return kicks. They had just scored and then you get the momentum right back,″ Beebe said.

Seven minutes later, Favre hit Freeman for the 35-yarder, and it was 34-6.

Favre also threw touchdown passes of 18 yards to Robert Brooks and 2 yards to Keith Jackson with 35 seconds left in the first half.

That play capped a 53-yard drive in just a minute and a half, with Favre hitting Freeman three times for 42 yards.

Green Bay’s Doug Evans then intercepted Dave Krieg _ one of three interceptions Krieg threw _ at the 50 with 20 seconds remaining. Instead of sitting on the ball, the Packers decided to go for more.

After two incompletions, Favre rolled right and heaved the ball to the right corner where Freeman, Beebe and the Packers’ Derrick Mayes were battling with Miniefield, who was replacing the injured Donnell Woolford, Anthony Marshall and Carrier.

Somehow, Freeman came down with the ball.

``Antonio was spectacular, just spectacular,″ Packers coach Mike Holmgren said. ``We had our normal ritual in the first half where I had to jump him for something and then all of a sudden he gets mad at me and starts playing.″

The Bears only first-half points came on Jaeger’s 40-yard field goal that was set up by a fourth-down pass from punter Todd Sauerbrun to Bobby Engram.