After a frustrating start to season, ball finally bounces Freeman's way

Recovering onside kick part of Packer's big day

October 15, 2001|By Christopher Dabe | Christopher Dabe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman's first breakout game of the season, recovering an onside kick normally wouldn't be regarded as a highlight.

But after the Ravens' touchdown late in the game against Green Bay at Lambeau Field, it was Freeman who recovered Baltimore's second onside kick attempt with 38 seconds remaining to help preserve the Packers' 31-23 victory.

"That was probably the scariest situation of the game," Freeman said. "Knowing the game was on the line, and with a tricky bounce, I got it and sealed the game for us."

After the recovery, Freeman ran out of bounds at the Ravens' 34-yard line to complete a day in which the Baltimore native caught nine passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.

It was the end of a long-awaited day for Freeman.

Freeman entered with only 80 yards and a touchdown on nine catches through four games and had grown frustrated. After a 14-10 loss to Tampa Bay last week, Freeman thought he should be thrown more passes.

"I just felt like every time I become more involved in the offense, we become a better offense," Freeman said.

It showed yesterday, as the Packers put together four of the longest scoring drives the Ravens have allowed this season. The longest, 82 yards, included a 47-yard completion from Brett Favre to Freeman that set up Green Bay's final touchdown in the fourth quarter.

But things didn't start quite that well for Freeman. He dropped his first pass, during the Packers' second drive in the first quarter, as he was hit from behind by safety Corey Harris. The Packers punted two plays later.

But on the Packers' next possession, Freeman caught three passes for 35 yards, including back-to-back receptions for 19 and 8 yards, as the Packers drove 59 yards to tie the score at 7.

After the Packers took a 10-7 lead, Favre again found Freeman, this time in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown pass to give Green Bay a 10-point lead with two seconds remaining in the first half.

"He just wants to be involved in the offense," Favre said. "I don't know if this offense can feature any one guy. But I say this every week, anyone can be the guy, whether it is him or anyone else."

It was Freeman's first game against the Ravens since the Packers beat the them, 28-10, at Lambeau in 1998. Freeman said he was excited about playing against the team from his hometown.

"There was a little extra incentive today," said Freeman, who was named the Offensive Player of the Year by The Sun in 1989, when he recorded 47 receptions for 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns for Poly. "Knowing that everyone back home was watching was definitely more incentive."

Counting Freeman, Favre connected with nine different receivers. He said that was key against the league's most-feared defense.

"I made some good plays, but I think when you look at those catches we had downfield -- that's the difference," Favre said. "You can dink and dunk all day, but when you can throw the ball down the field, you have to make plays, and those guys made some phenomenal catches."

Freeman's big day

Antonio Freeman's nine-catch, 138-yard effort yesterday was made up of big receptions:

Down, yd. line Yds. Result

First quarter

1st/10, GB 41 8 2nd/2, GB 49

2nd/5, Bal 32 19 1st/10, Bal 13

1st/10, Bal 13 8 2nd/2, Bal 5

Second quarter

1st/10, Bal 31 10 1st/10, Bal 21

2nd/9, Bal 26 13 1st/Bal 13

3rd/5, Bal 8 8 Touchdown

Third quarter

1st/10, GB 20 14 1st/10, GB 34

Fourth quarter

2nd/8, GB 37 11 1st/10, GB 48

2nd/7, Bal 49 47 1st/10, Bal 2

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