Game Review: Win Preserved On Historic Day

MINNEAPOLIS - On a day quarterback Brett Favre broke the NFL’s all-time record for touchdown passes, it would have been a shame to see the Packers let this game get away. The defense made sure that didn’t happen. Atari Bigby’s interception at the 24-yard line with 1 minute, 6 seconds left preserved Green Bay’s 23-16 win that improved the Packers to 4-0 for the first time since 1998. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Vikings Game Center


MINNEAPOLIS - On a day quarterback Brett Favre broke the NFL's all-time record for touchdown passes, it would have been a shame to see the Packers let this game get away.

The defense made sure that didn't happen.

A late fumble gave the Minnesota Vikings a last chance on Sunday at the Metrodome, but Atari Bigby's interception at the Green Bay 24-yard line with 1 minute, 6 seconds left preserved a 23-16 win that improved the Packers to 4-0 for the first time since 1998.

That allowed Favre's record-breaking performance, in which he threw his 421st and 422nd touchdown passes to move two ahead of Dan Marino on the NFL's all-time list, count for more than just statistics, which meant a lot to not only Favre but his teammates as well.

"The record is better because we won," Favre said. "That was as good a team effort as we've had. It seems like we say that week in and week out, but everyone had a hand in this game today."

Favre isn't exaggerating much. He completed passes to 10 different receivers in racking up 344 yards and a 108.0 passer rating. Three different defenders combined for four sacks of Minnesota quarterback Kelly Holcomb, while Bigby forced a fumble that Johnny Jolly recovered way back in the first quarter, long before his game-saving interception late.

That first turnover set up Favre's record-breaking 16-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings in the first quarter, making it 7-0. The air-oriented attack also led to three Mason Crosby field goals, and Favre capped his day with a 33-yard TD strike to James Jones in the fourth quarter, the rookie's first NFL score.

While the Packers were once again relying on the pass, Minnesota countered with a potent ground game. Rookie Adrian Peterson had five carries of 8 yards or more, including a 55-yard run in the second quarter, on his way to 112 yards on 12 carries. Backfield mate Chester Taylor added a 37-yard run in the third quarter as the Vikings compiled 155 yards rushing, the most allowed by the Packers since their last loss, to the New York Jets last December.

But all Minnesota had to show for that groundwork was three field goals, as the Packers' defense never let the Vikings come within 15 yards of the end zone through three quarters.

"They made some plays, but we also made some mistakes to let them make those plays," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "But once we got in the red zone, we buckled down. I think today we played a little bend-but-don't-break defense. That's not our style. We want to be a dominant defense, but today we did what we had to do to win the game."

They made many Packers faithful hold their breath in the process, though. After Favre's TD pass to Jones made it 23-9 with just over 6 minutes left, the game got a little crazy.

Holcomb (21-of-39, 258 yards, 72.4 rating) got the Vikings' passing game going, overcoming two sacks and a false start penalty to complete seven passes for 87 yards. He hit rookie Sidney Rice for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 23-16 with 1:55 left.

Donald Driver recovered the ensuing onside kick for Green Bay, and with Minnesota having only one timeout left, the Packers needed just one first down to end the game.

But Favre and running back Ryan Grant fumbled an exchange on second down, and Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway recovered at the Minnesota 46-yard line.

A 15-yard completion to Rice and a 5-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Al Harris, who subsequently left the game with a hand injury, put the ball on the Green Bay 34 with just over 1 minute left.

{sportsad300}But that's when Bigby came up with the game-clinching turnover. Charles Woodson was locked up in coverage on Bobby Wade on a short route over the middle, and Holcomb's pass deflected off the two players and was picked off by a diving Bigby at the 24-yard line.

Holcomb appeared to be pleading with the officials for a pass interference call on Woodson, and the veteran cornerback admitted it was close.

"I really didn't think he would throw (the flag)," said Woodson, whose illegal contact penalty back in the first quarter nullified his own 58-yard interception return for a score. "I had inside position. But in this league, it's an offensive league, and anytime you're locked up with a guy and they throw the ball to that guy, you know you may get that call.

"I know he could throw interference right there. It was a good no-call. Bigby was into the game, he made the play, and we got off the field with a win."

And it was a win in yet another way. The first three weeks of the season, the Packers used a special teams turnover and late field goal to beat Philadelphia, a 21-0 fourth-quarter shutout to take care of the New York Giants, and a pair of touchdowns sandwiched around an interception in just over a minute late in the fourth quarter last week to get by San Diego.

This week it was a good ol' fashioned defensive stand, despite being put in a tough spot by the inexcusable offensive miscue.

"I didn't see any panic in our guys' eyes or anything like that," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "We actually wanted to go out and make plays, and we did. I think that's going to separate us in the long run.

"This wasn't a perfect game for us, but it was a win, and it's a win that was tremendous in the sense of how we won, especially at the end."

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