The Packers mounted their most productive running game in 18 years -- and, in the final analysis, needed it -- to dispose of the Minnesota Vikings in their Sunday night visit to the Minneapolis Metrodome.
Serving notice with an 18-yard bolt around right end by running back Ahman Green on the very first play from scrimmage, the Packers amassed 261 rushing yards -- their best production since Oct. 6, 1985, when they churned out 285 yards on the ground en route to a 43-10 victory over the Detroit Lions.
On this explosive occasion, they put on an impressive display with a brisk, up-tempo modus operandi, averaging an offensive snap with 22 seconds remaining on the play clock while rolling up 317 yards overall in the first half and closing out the evening with a total of 451 - their best performance of the season to date.
Despite these offensive heroics, the Packers were not able to enjoy a substantial lead -- 10 points, in this case (30-20) -- until less than 3 minutes remained in the game, because the Vikings also were moving the football with some degree of regularity throughout the evening -- and scoring often enough to keep it close.
It was that last drive, a 12-play, 71-yard excursion masterfully orchestrated by quarterback Brett Favre that carried the day for the Green and Gold, because the Vikings retaliated with a late, 11-play, 68-yard scoring drive of their own, quarterback Daunte Culpepper scoring on a one-yard burst up the middle with 33 seconds remaining.
Whereupon, the Vikings essayed a last-gap, onside kick, Darren Sharpen foiling Minnesota's final bid by leaping high to field the football, permitting the Packers to run out the clock.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman, addressing his team's remarkable rushing performance in the ebullient dressing room, said, "It all begins there. I challenged our offense to give me 150 yards rushing...and they gave me a hundred more."
As per custom, Ahman Green spearheaded this project, churning out 137 yards in 21 attempts, his output including a 27-yarder on Green Bay's game-opening drive, a 66-yard push capped by a 21-yard Ryan Longwell field goal.
Green, who also emerged as the team's leading receiver with 5 catches for 52 yards, had potent assistance from Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher, who provided a productive "changeup," Davenport contributing 43 yards in 6 attempts and Fisher 38 yards in 4 carries.
Wide receiver Donald Driver also got into the act, breaking away on a 45-yard reverse in the first quarter -- the longest run from scrimmage of the game.
Favre's yardage numbers were modest for one of his talents -- 194 yards on 18 completions in 28 attempts -- but he was a superbly efficient workman, throwing 3 touchdown passes and only one interception, to emerge with an imposing 105.4 quarterback rating.
Though the Vikings managed to mount 27 points, the Packers defense essentially neutralized Minnesota's most fearsome weapon, gifted wideout Randy Moss, except for a 43-yard touchdown reception which staked the Vikings to a temporary 7-6 lead in the first quarter.
After that misadventure, Moss was held scoreless the rest of the way, being required to settle for 4 catches for a mere 23 yards until the Vikings' final drive.
A major factor in this overall process was the consistent pressure the defense put upon the monolithic Culpepper, who was sacked twice and frequently was forced to throw the football away or pull it down and run out of sheer necessity.
THE FAVRE FILE: Quarterback Brett Favre gained a new niche in NFL annals Sunday night by presiding at the 119th victory of his pro career. It tied him with the storied Johnny Unitas for fourth place on professional football's career list of most prolific winners.
Immediately ahead: Fran Tarkenton, third all-time with 125 victories. John Elway is the career leader with 148, followed by Dan Marino with 147.
Favre also made his 181st consecutive start, extending his all-time NFL record for quarterbacks and played in his 183rd consecutive game, leaving him only 4 shy of the club's record holder, Forrest Gregg (187).
Additionally, while throwing 3 touchdown passes, he authored a TD pass for the 17th straight game, tying the third-longest streak in team history. It is a niche he already holds, having previously thrown a TD pass in 17 straight games over the 1994 and 1995 seasons.
Favre also owns the second-longest such streak in team annals, 18 consecutive games throwing a TD pass, a string forged over the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
Cecil Isbell holds the club record, having thrown a TD pass in 22 straight games over the 1941 and 1942 seasons.
THE GREEN FILE: Ahman Green joined Favre in crashing the record book Sunday night. With 189 yards of total offense, the former Nebraska Cornhusker moved up to second place in combined rushing and receiving yards for a running back.
Green now has gained 6,500 yards (4,673 rushing and 1,827 receiving) and Sunday thus surpassed the previous second place tenant, Gerry Ellis, who had 6,340 combined yards (3,826 rushing and 2,514 receiving).
Hall of Famer Jim Taylor is the team's all-time leader with 9,712 combined yards (8,207 rushing and 1,505 receiving).
On the subject of yards, Green now has amassed 1,152 yards of offense in eight games, an average of 144.0 yards per outing.
With a receiving touchdown against the Vikings, Green also passed Billy Howton (258) and Don Chandler (261) to take over 17th place in Packers all-time scoring with 264 points.
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:
(on Packers' 261 yards rushing) "I don't think anybody thinks they're ever going to run for 250. I challenged our staff that we had to get 150 yards rushing and they gave me 100 more than I anticipated. But it was going to take a heck of an effort against a good football team and that's the Minnesota Vikings. We knew we had to come in here and do the job and I thought our guys rose to the challenge today and did what they had to do."
(on Javon Walker's performance) "It doesn't surprise me. Javon Walker is a heck of a player, he's going to be a great Green Bay Packers football player in the years to come and he made some big-time plays today."
(on impact of game) "It's one game. It's a big one, however. This is the second half of the season. I told the guys what's happened has happened. Before this game we're 3-4. Things didn't always go our way. We didn't always let them go our way. We victimized ourselves many times. But I said let's just play the second half and play with the best effort, the best toughness, the best physicality we possibly could play and I thought they did a good job of that. I thought they were very physical today and they needed to be when they came over here."
(on Brett Favre playing through injury) "It's just a credit to him, the type of guy that he is. As I told him last week, I said I know you're going to play the game of your life because when you're hurt you always accept that as a challenge. I think he did and I thought he had a heck of a ballgame tonight."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Quarterback Brett Favre: (on game) "Tremendous effort. The Vikings as well. Whether you're a Packers fan or a Vikings fan, watching this game you had to walk away saying, it was a great game. Either team that walks away from this with a win should realize they earned it. The Vikings have nothing to be ashamed of, because they played as flawless as we did. It came down to the end. I give them a lot of credit, I give them a lot of respect, just like after the first game, but I also give our team a lot too. For a team that's 3-4 and had our backs against the wall coming into this environment, what else can you say?"
(on success of running game) "That's the key. I don't think any of us expected to come in and throw 45 times and be successful, we never have been ... and our offensive line has gotten some good pub this year, but not enough. Tremendous effort on their part and it has been all year. Guys play hard and give great effort on every play. That's what it comes to, whether you're passing or running the football, the front five is the key."
(on Javon Walker) "Javon didn't do anything that we didn't expect him to do. Maybe from everyone else it's like, hey, he showed up tonight. He's showed up every week, the ball was just thrown to him."
(on injured thumb) "It hurt like hell every play ... but you suck it up. If you're going to play, you suck it up. You know, I'd like to say the pick was the result of the thumb, but it wasn't. It was a bad decision. It's about overcoming it. I wanted this game, I don't want to say any more than the next, but considering that everyone but my teammates was against me, expecting me to play different, I felt I needed to come in here and prove everyone wrong. This is what it's about. It feels great."
Guard Mike Wahle: (on success of running game) "It's one of those situations as an offensive lineman, you can't be any happier with the way things turned out. We had the opportunity to run the football and close the game and we did it. Those guys talked a lot of trash all week about how we weren't physical enough and they could dominate us in that aspect of the game. And we took that to heart and we showed them up today."
Wide Receiver Javon Walker: (on if this was a breakout performance) "No. I mean, it's good to have two touchdowns, but there's a lot of other things that come with the game and I'm just happy to be playing. Any little thing that I can help contribute to a win is good for me. It so happened that tonight it was two touchdowns."
-Historically successful on the Sabbath, the Packers parlayed their all-time record Sunday night record to 10-2 with the victory over the Vikings, their sixth straight Sunday night win.
-The Packers averaged a spectacular 11.2 yards per rush in the first quarter of the game, when they had 10 attempts, 9 by Ahman Green and one by wideout Donald Driver.
-The Packers' 317-yard first half was the second most productive half of offensive football in the NFL during the first half of the season. The New Orleans Saints mounted a 374-yard half against the Atlanta Falcons Oct. 19.
-Placekicker Ryan Longwell, who has not missed a kick this year, continued his "perfection" as the season reached the midpoint Sunday, making three field goals in as many attempts (21, 43 and 27 yards) and 3 conversions, thus running his field goal report card to 11-for-11 and his PAT streak to 27 in a row.
-Donald Driver's 45-yard reverse in the first quarter was the longest rush of his four-year NFL career.
-The attendance for Sunday night's game, 64,482, set a Metrodome record. The old record, 64,471, was set on the Packers' 1998 visit to the 'Dome (Nov. 22). (The Vikings won that one, 28-14).
-Packers punter Josh Bidwell saw his longest punt of the season, a 62-yarder in the third quarter, but the play was voided by a penalty. Bidwell then launched a highly respectable 51-yarder the second time around.
-Running back Ahman Green, apparently stopped in the backfield on the final play of the third quarter, wrestled free and reversed to his left for a 17-yard gain before being run to earth.
-Quarterback Brett Favre's second touchdown pass to wideout Javon Walker -- his third scoring toss of the day overall -- was the 330th of his NFL career. He now is only 12 back of Fran Tarkenton, second on the all-time list with 342. Dan Marino is the career leader with 420.
-It was a red letter day for Walker, who registered two scoring receptions for the first time in his career - on a total of three catches.
-The time of possession in Sunday night's game was remarkably even. The Packers had the football for 30 minutes, 18 seconds, the Vikings for 29 minutes, 42 seconds.
-Linebacker Nick Barnett twice left the game because of a leg cramp and, on the second occasion, was taken to the locker room for an I.V. before returning to the game.
-Recently-signed defensive lineman Larry Smith, freeing Chukie Nwokorie to move out to end, saw extensive action "inside" for the first time as a Packer.
-Nwokorie injured a knee in the closing minutes of the game and did not return to action. He, however, is expected to be available for the Philadelphia game next week.
-Running back Ahman Green and guard Marco Rivera (offense), safety Darren Sharper and defensive end Aaron Kampman (defense) and cornerback Michael Hawthorne (special teams) were Packers captains for Sunday night's game.
-Packers inactives Sunday included fullback Nick Luchey, safety Curtis Fuller, linebacker Marcus Wilkins, offensive tackle Brennan Curtin, tackle guard Marcus Spriggs, defensive end Jamal Reynolds, defensive tackle Rod Walker and Designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.
-Sunday's game marked the 20th "anniversary" of the Packers' very first visit to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which occurred on Nov. 3, 1983, day that saw them post a 29-21 victory over the Vikings. The Metrodome had opened a year earlier but the Packers' debut in the then-new indoor venue was delayed a season because the 1982 campaign was interrupted by a 57-day player strike and, in the process, the Packers' initial scheduled visit was wiped out by the work stoppage.