Fourth Down Conversions Lead To Victory

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On the way to winning a division championship, there are often a certain few plays that can be pointed to as key plays of the season.

Likewise, on the way to winning a division championship-clinching game, two plays and two decisions by GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman can be pointed to as keys to the Green Bay Packers locking up their third consecutive NFC North Division crown.

In a 34-31 shootout win over the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome Friday - their second win over their bitter rivals in less than two months to finish with that score - twice the Packers reached the end zone on critical fourth-and-goal plays.

The first of the two critical conversions came on an Ahman Green one-yard plunge to tie the score at 7-7 in the second quarter. Needing an answer to the Vikings' opening touchdown, Sherman was not about to settle for three points after seeing his offense drive more than 70 yards on 15 plays.

The third down play leading to the fourth down call was a controversial one, with Donald Driver being ruled to have been tackled just shy of the goal line by Minnesota linebacker E.J. Henderson.

After losing his second challenge of the half, Sherman called for a run by Green, and the All-Pro followed a fellow Pro Bowler, right guard Marco Rivera into the end zone to level the game and get the Packers on the scoreboard for the first of many times on the afternoon.

The next time the coach faced a similar decision, it led to the team's final touchdown of the day. Trailing 31-24 with three and a half minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter and two timeouts in his back pocket, Sherman refused to play conservatively and hope for a defensive stand to get the ball back.

Facing fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line, the coach decided to keep Ryan Longwell on the sideline and leave the ball in the hands of Brett Favre.

The gunslinger didn't disappoint. Favre dropped back and fired his third touchdown pass of the day, connecting with Driver just inside the end zone in the middle of the Minnesota defense to tie the score.

Minutes later, Favre led the team down the field again to set up Longwell's 29-yard game-winning field goal - on fourth down.

Prior to Friday, the Packers had converted 6 of their 11 fourth down attempts on the season, their 54.5% success rate ranking eighth in the league.

It's fair to say that the two fourth downs they converted against the Vikings were not only the big plays of the day, but two of the team's biggest plays of the season.

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