GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)—Who knew the Jacksonville Jaguars were a cold-weather team?
Byron Leftwich threw two touchdown passes, Fred Taylor rushed for 165 yards and a touchdown and Rashean Mathis picked off Brett Favre twice, helping the Jaguars (8-6) stay in the thick of the AFC playoff race with a 28-25 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
Temperatures were in the single digits and the wind chill was well below zero.
“A team that plays in Florida in the 80s and 70s, you just can’t condition your body for the temperatures you are going to feel,” Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said. “But you can condition your mind and I felt we were ready from that standpoint.”
Said Packers coach Mike Sherman: “They have the talent to play in any conditions.”
Jaguars safety Donovin Darius was ejected for a helmet-stripping, clothesline hit that sent wide receiver Robert Ferguson to the hospital with 4:41 remaining. Ferguson temporarily lost feeling in his legs, but regained feeling in an ambulance.
He was diagnosed with a sprained neck, and team trainer Pepper Burruss said Ferguson had movement and sensation in his arms and legs Sunday night. Ferguson was admitted to Bellin Hospital for observation overnight.
For once, it was the Packers who played as if they couldn’t wait to get inside.
Favre turned over the ball four times and fell to 31-4 at home after Dec. 1, losing for just the second time in 40 cold-weather games at home.
Nevertheless, the Packers (8-6) became the ninth team in NFL history to reach the playoffs after a 1-4 start. They clinched before kickoff because Chicago, Dallas, Carolina and New York all lost in the run-of-the-mill NFC.
“We’re in the playoffs?” Packers lineman Mark Tauscher responded incredulously. “I’ll take your word for it.”
The Packers fell into a tie with Minnesota atop the NFC North after the Vikings edged Detroit 28-27 Sunday. They travel to Minneapolis for a Christmas Eve matinee that will decide the division.
“Our goal is to win the division and that is still out there,” Sherman said.
Favre hit Antonio Chatman with a 6-yard touchdown throw and found Donald Driver for the 2-point conversion to pull Green Bay to 28-25 with 1:08 left. But Jacksonville safety Nick Sorensen recovered the onside kick and the Jaguars handed Green Bay its fourth loss at Lambeau Field this season.
Leftwich was battered all afternoon, bruising his left wrist in the second quarter on a hit by Cullen Jenkins, but he hung in to guide the Jaguars to a season-high points total. Favre also was hurt in the second quarter and played with tape on his left wrist and thumb after jamming it into the ground.
The drive ended when safety Deon Grant stripped the ball away from Driver in the end zone.
Driver’s 32-yard catch gave Green Bay a 17-14 lead in the third quarter, but Taylor put the Jaguars ahead for good 90 seconds later with a 32-yard run.
Then Mathis intercepted in the end zone on first-and-goal from the 3, “the easiest pick I ever had,” Mathis said.
“I hope I never do that again,” Favre said.
Then, Del Rio went on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and rookie Greg Jones rewarded the risk with a touchdown that gave Jacksonville a 28-17 lead with 10 minutes left.
“We were ready for the cold mentally,” Del Rio said. “And we did not let the elements dictate how we played.”
The Packers sure did.
It was typical Green Bay winter weather: 12 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of minus-3. As Leftwich said, “This was beyond cold.”
But it was the Packers who looked completely out of their element.
Green Bay committed 12 penalties for 101 yards, Ryan Longwell’s streak of 45 straight field goals inside 40 yards ended and Ahman Green fumbled at the Jaguars 10, one of four Packers turnovers inside the Jacksonville 23.
“They beat us in supposedly our elements,” Tauscher said. “The AFC is just a better conference this year.”
About the only thing that went right for the Packers was safety Darren Sharper’s heads-up touchdown.
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila pummeled Leftwich and the ball squirted loose for what appeared to be an incompletion. While linebackers Hannibal Navies and Nick Barnett walked away from the ball, Jacksonville guard Vince Manuwai nonchalantly picked it up. Sharper came rushing in, poked it away, scooped it up and scampered 15 yards into the end zone.
Green posted his fifth straight 1,000-yard season, tying Jim Taylor’s franchise record. … Longwell became one of three players to reach 100 points in each of his first eight NFL seasons. … Sharper has scored six TDs in his career, one shy of Herb Adderley’s team record. … The Packers hadn’t lost a home finale since Favre’s arrival in 1992. … Jacksonville was the last team to make a regular season visit to Green Bay.