All other factors aside, a three-point first half ultimately spelled defeat for the Packers in their regular-season inaugural against the Vikings. Repeatedly squandering opportunities, they found themselves trailing Minnesota 20-3 at halftime. And, in the final analysis, it was too much to overcome, particularly with a productive Daunte Culpepper presiding over the Vikings offense and taking full advantage of Randy Moss' exceptional gifts.
The hulking Culpepper (6-4 and 264 pounds) completed 10 of 21 passes for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns - without an interception - as the Vikings built up that 17-3 halftime lead with the aid of 6 catches for 87 yards by Moss, who, unfortunately, chose the momentous occasion to put on a receiving "clinic." He closed out the afternoon with 9 receptions for 150 yards, a 16.7-yard average, and one touchdown.
Meanwhile, Brett Favre was being taunted by the capricious football fates, seeing pass interceptions end his first two offensive opportunities, the latter leading to the first of three Minnesota field goals by rookie placekicker Aaron Elling.
But the Green and Gold's fate was essentially determined in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Culpepper launched what became the definitive process by presiding over a 7-play, 59-yard scoring drive on Minnesota's first possession of the second half, capping the march with a 13-yard strike to the ubiquitous Moss in the right corner of the end zone.
The Packers, interrupted the visitors' offensive show, responding with a touchdown of their own on an 11-play, 78-yard drive finished off by Ahman Green's 8-yard scoring run flanking his own left end, followed by a 2-point conversion, Favre to tight end Bubba Franks.
With Minnesota now leading 27-11, the Vikings set about settling the issue. Culpepper, a consistently productive workman on this occasion, put together an 11-play, 64-yard drive which Elling capped with a 34-yard field goal, padding Minnesota's lead to 30-11.
The Packers, with the indomitable Favre leading the late charge, rebounded with a pair of touchdowns - on a 11-yard scoring run by Green and a 24-yard pass to Javon Walker - that trimmed the Minnesota lead to 30-25 with 1:55 remaining.
There was still "time" to win but the burgeoning comeback ended when Longwell's onside kick went out of bounds at the Green Bay 39-yard line and the Vikings proceeded to run out the clock.
Linebacker Na'il Diggs, who had sat out the Packers' preseason finale against Tennessee (Aug. 28), spearheaded the defense in his return to the lineup, posting a team-leading 8 solo tackles (11 total). Fellow linebacker Hannibal Navies posted 9 tackles (7 solo) and safeties Antuan Edwards and Marques Anderson also weighed in with 8 tackles apiece, Edwards 7 unassisted stops while Anderson recorded 4 of each.
THE FAVRE FILE: Though the victim of four interceptions on this occasion, Favre continued his invasion of the league and team record books. With 2 touchdown passes, Favre padded his career total, third-best in NFL history, to 316, also swelling his club record in the process.
Favre likewise enhanced his durability streaks, making his 174th consecutive start and playing in his 176th consecutive game, the former extending his NFL record for consecutive starts by a quarterback. The latter lifted him to within 11 games of the club record for consecutive games played, 187, by Forrest Gregg.
THE GREEN FILE: Running back Ahman Green moved up on the Packers' all-time rushing list Sunday while rushing for 53 yards in 15 attempts. His production lifted him above Gerry Ellis (3,826 yards) into sixth place on the Green and Gold's career list with 3,855.
With 7 catches for 62 yards, Green also took sole possession of 17th place on the team's all-time receiving list with 199 career catches, passing Phil Epps (192). With one more reception, Green will become the 17th player in team history to catch as many as 200 passes in a career.
THE 'REDEDICATION:' With a three-year, $295 million renovation complete, Lambeau Field was formally rededicated during halftime ceremonies, featuring comments by NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Packers President Bob Harlan, and conducted by John Jones, the Packers' executive vice president and chief operating officer.
In his remarks, Tagliabue noted that, "Through the efforts of Bob Harlan and many others, Lambeau Field is a state-of-the-art stadium built on hallowed ground."
He also pointed out that "Green Bay, Wisconsin, is the last of these small-town teams from the original NFL, and you are still going strong in the new millennium.
"The NFL would not be what it is today without the Green Bay Packers."
Harlan, calling the Packers 'the greatest story in sports,' thanked Brown County voters for passing the September 2000 referendum to assist in funding the redevelopment through a sales tax.
Jones also introduced Gov. Jim Doyle, Cong. Mark Green, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker John Gard and members of the Packers Executive Committee - John Fabry, Donald Harden, Peter Platten, Jim Temp, Don Schneider and John Underwood, in addition to Harlan.
Two special guests also were introduced - 13-year-old Lombardi Middle School students Lacey Van Zeeland and Corey Jansa. Winners of a groundbreaking ceremony essay contest in 2001, they were invited back to participate in the rededication event as representatives of the next generation of Packers fans.
They formally rededicated Lambeau Field with the following words:
"On behalf of all the young people of Green Bay and Brown County, and on behalf of all past, present and future generations of Packers fans from around the world, we hereby re-dedicate the best football stadium in the world - Lambeau Field."
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:
(on Donald Driver) "I just was on the phone with the hospital. Donald did have movement in all of his limbs when he was on the field. The big concern was that his neck was very tender and we took all the precautions that we could to make sure that he was immobile and to get him on the cart to bring him to the hospital. The diagnosis is that he has a sore neck. We took all the precautions on the field because of the severity of possibilities that could have existed."
(on Robert Ferguson) "Ferguson has an MCL sprain in his knee but really his ankle got more turned than his knee and that is more of a concern at this point."
(on explaining the game) "I don't think it is difficult to explain when the other team plays better than you, they convert over 60 percent on third down, they're pretty good in the red zone, and we give them the ball five times to do it. When you turn the ball over five times, I don't care if you're at Lambeau Field, the Minnesota Vikings took full advantage of that. They are a good football team, so to explain it is that we didn't play very well."
(on practice during the week) "We had very good practices this week. Anyone that watched us practice would agree with that."
(on Brett Favre's red zone interception) "He was trying to throw it away. We had a double smash on with corner routes and he was just trying to throw it away and didn't see the defender."
(on the team's intensity) "I don't think it was a matter of intensity. I don't think they wanted it any more than we did. They made the plays that we didn't make. I think the fact that we were down like we were and made it a five-point game at the end...I think if it was a matter of intensity, we wouldn't have fought back like we did. There are no moral victories in Green Bay and it doesn't make me feel any better, but I would be concerned if we didn't fight back. I thought that on the onside kick, if we would have recovered it, we would have had a chance."
(on not using a no-huddle offense down the stretch) "We were hampered in the fourth (quarter) with personnel. Karsten Bailey had a hamstring, so he was out. Donald (Driver) was out. (Robert) Ferguson was out. We were playing with the two-tight end set and David Martin had to assume the third wide receiver spot and (Antonio) Chatman the second. So we were limited and it would be better if they heard the play in the huddle. We did do some no huddle and when we did that onside kick, we had plenty of time on the clock to go in and score if we recovered it, but it just didn't happen."
(on the decision not to go for two when it was 30-17) "I went off the chart and we had a five point game at the end and if we score a touchdown, we win the game. Sometimes I use the chart, sometimes I don't and I used the chart. I knew it was the right decision and there's no question about that."
(on concerns with how the secondary played Vikings' wide receiver Randy Moss) "Moss had a great game. He's a great player. He got the best of us today."
(on Darren Sharper's limited capability today) "He started out playing and then he was relegated to the dime package and obviously did not play in the fourth quarter."
(on whether there is doubt of home-field advantage anymore) "No I am not worried about that. I believe in the men in that locker room. I believed in them when they took the field and I still believe in them. Am I disappointed in all the work and effort that went into this game and coming away without winning in front of a great home crowd?...It was a fantastic crowd out there -- they couldn't have done more for us. They were behind us through thick and thin and that's the hard part to swallow. If we continue to have crowds like that in that environment, that home field will be established. We gave it back a little today, but we will get it back."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on the rhythm of the game) "It was a matter of execution. Regardless of who you play or where you play, turnovers, penalties, negative plays will not get it done. They were able to capitalize on our mistakes in the first half and we were able to on theirs in the second. Unfortunately, we spotted them way too many points and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The second half was just a matter of opportunities being there and making the most of them."
(on his own performance today) "Obviously it wasn't good enough to win. In the second half we battled, but we can't dig ourselves that big of a hole and expect to come out of it. Turnovers happen for a lot of different reasons from a quarterback's standpoint, and regardless if it's tipped or a perfectly thrown ball -- or a receiver falls down -- they all count the same. I was ready to play and I think our team was ready to play, and for whatever reason, it wasn't our type of performance."
(on whether this team improved from last year) "After this game it's hard. I don't know. I think we can be a better team than last year. Today is obviously not an indication of that and like I've said all of training camp, if we can avoid injuries and stay together we will be fine. There are 15 (games) left and with how upset I am...we can do like we did in the first half or we can play the rest of the season like we did the second half."
(on whether guys are embarrassed) "If you didn't play at the top of your game or give maximum effort, then I would hope guys are embarrassed. Without watching film and every play in detail, it's hard to say. Both teams gave great effort, but if we watch the films in might be different."
(on the interception intended for Javon Walker) "It's hard to say without watching the film, but I thought it was pass interference."
(on the depleted receiving corps) "I am not going to sit here and lie, it did hurt us at the end of the game. We had a tight end who really hasn't played much in training camp and wouldn't have played today if it had not been for Wesley (Walls, inactive), had to play receiver. We handled it well but it will hinder our offense if that is the case."
(on what went through his mind when Donald went down) "Obviously the same thing everyone else was thinking, that he was going to be OK and be able to walk again. You're hoping it's not a neck injury that we have seen in the past but you don't know. I wasn't concerned whether he was going to come back and make a touchdown catch for us in the game...that wasn't it. It kind of puts things in perspective."
(on the difference between first and second half) "I felt the same in the first half as I did in the second half, aside from being two quarters in to it. Did I want to win the game any worse in the first half than the second? Absolutely not. Was I frustrated with my performance at halftime? Yes, I hope the whole team was. Did I put any added pressure on myself to play well in the second half? No, I was (ticked) off and I wanted to play well in the first half. It wasn't because I wasn't prepared or because of the effort, it just didn't happen. In the second half, it did. We moved the ball well in the second half and moved the ball a little in the first, but we stopped ourselves. If we would have just gotten points in some of those drives. You never know in this game. There was a time in the second half when I was thinking this is not pretty and it could get worse. And then the next thing I know is if we get the onside kick we were going to win the football game. There is no doubt about it."
Running back Ahman Green: (on the first quarter) "It was hard getting into a groove with the turnovers that we had early. It makes it tough for any team. A Division I ranked team or any team in the NFL, if you have turnovers early in a game like that it just makes it hard to come back in the game. We fought and we just ran out of time but it makes it easier when you don't have the turnovers."
(on not getting the ball in the first two series) "We usually have the first 15 scripted. When I am out there I am not counting the plays. We have a nice amount of runs mixed in with the pass so you have to wait until the play is called. You have to run the play that's in the huddle and not worry about 'why I haven't got the ball yet?' and do my job."
(on getting over the game) "It's going to be real easy. It's just a game. We have 15 to go. It's September 7 and our last game is December 28 so we have a long way to go. If we don't get over this game we are going to be in trouble. Myself, I am over this game right now and we have to get ready for Detroit tomorrow. I am going on six seasons and Brett is on his 13th. We know what a loss is like and we know what a win is like. We have to pick it up and correct what we did wrong on the field. They got us, they came out a lot quicker than we did. We finished good, but ran out of time, though. We did have a good week of practice."
Wide receiver Javon Walker: (on near comeback and his touchdown reception) "We were just fighting to get back into the game. We just had to do what we had to do. I was just really trying to go out there and make plays."
(on injuries to teammates) "It shakes you up whenever anybody goes down. We all play this game because we love it, but it's also a dangerous game. Our team or anybody's team gets shaken up when an injury happens. I hope those guys are alright and we'll see how their doing."
Linebacker Hannibal Navies: (on the loss) "Losing is sometimes just as valuable as winning, especially the first game of the season. It's still early, so we'll take this and build on it. We know exactly what we need to do. The starters played four quarters, we know what we can do and we just need to get better at it."
Wide receiver/kick returner Antonio Chatman: (on kick returning proficiency) "I think we're getting more confident on special teams with the guys up front. I think it's more them (getting better) than me."
-With Sunday's win, the Vikings inched ahead of the Packers in their neighborhood rivalry. They now have won 42 of their 84 meetings, the Packers 41, and there has been one overtime tie, a 10-10 standoff played in 1978.
-It was the first opening day defeat for the Packers since 2000, when they were shaded by the New York Jets, 20-12.
-The loss ended an 11-game regular-season, home winning streak for the Green and Gold, who last lost a regular-season game in Lambeau Field on Nov. 18, 2001, when they fell to the Atlanta Falcons, 23-20.
-Even with Sunday's misadventure, Mike Sherman still owns a glittering 14-5 record against the Packers' NFC Central/NFC North rivals, including a 4-3 advantage over the Vikings. He is 5-and-1 against both the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.
-Sherman's regular-season Lambeau Field also remains imposing at 21-4, dating back to the start of the 2000 season.
-Quarterback Brett Favre made his 22nd career start against Minnesota. He is now 10-12 against the Vikings.
-Sunday's paid attendance, 70,505, set a new Lambeau Field record. The stadium's new capacity is 72,515. The previous record, 68,532, was set a week earlier at the Packers' preseason finale against Tennessee.
-It was a "challenging" debut, literally speaking, for Referee Peter Morelli, making his bow as an NFL referee at Sunday's game.
The opposing head coaches Mike Sherman and Mike Tice, of the Vikings, each won an "argument" in the first quarter, as Morelli reviewed the on-field calls on the field replay monitor.
Sherman challenged a call affirming an interception by Minnesota free safety Brian Russell, and Referee Peter Morelli subsequently reversed the decision upon studying the replay.
On the very next play, Tice prevailed in another challenge when the Packers were ruled to have retained possession on a Josh Bidwell punt because it appeared the ball had hit Minnesota player before being "recovered" by Green Bay's Karsten Bailey. Morelli, however, ruled that the Packers' Marcus Wilkins had "illegally" touched the football before it struck the Minnesota player and the ball thus belonged to the Vikings.
-Ryan Longwell's 22-yard field goal in the second quarter was the 160th of his NFL career and leaves him only 12 shy of the club record, 173, set by Chris Jacke (1989-96).
-Tight end Bubba Franks registered the first 2-point conversion of his NFL career following the Packers' first touchdown in the third quarter. It actually came the "second time around." On the first such attempt, Brett Favre's pass, intended for Franks, was incomplete in the back of the end zone. But Minnesota linebacker Greg Biekert was whistled for pass interference and, on the "re-run," Favre found a lonely Franks just inside the back line of the end zone.
-It was the Packers' first successful 2-point conversion in a regular-season game since Sept. 30, 2001, when Favre hit wide receiver Antonio Freeman with a 2-point throw against Carolina.
-Packers inactives for Sunday's game included cornerbacks Chris Johnson and Derek Combs, tackle Brennan Curtin, tight end Wesley Walls, linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, defensive end Chukie Nwokorie, defensive tackle Kenny Peterson and designed Third Quarterback Craig Nall.
-Walls was held out after pulling a hamstring muscle in Thursday's practice.
-Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila weighed in with a pair of black-to-back big plays at the start of the second quarter, first sacking Minnesota's monolithic quarterback for a 7-yard loss on the first play of the period, thus forging his initial sack of the season, then recovering a fumble at midfield on the next play, a contribution set up by Aaron Kampman, who forced the fumble.
-First-year kick returner Antonio Chatman electrified the record crowd when he burst into the clear on a 46-kickoff return to midfield immediately following the Vikings' move into a 10-0 lead late in the first quarter.
-Quarterback Brett Favre, center Mike Flanagan, nose tackle Gilbert Brown, placekicker Ryan Longwell and cornerback Mike McKenzie were the Packers' captains for Sunday's season inaugural.