The Metrodome whammy, now more than a decade old, continues...
And under the most mystifying circumstances.
If there was any year that the Packers should have prevailed in the Twin Cities' deafening house of horrors, it should have been this one. The Green and Gold were invading the Metrodome Sunday with a league-best 8-1 record and a seven-game winning streak - to take on a Vikings team going nowhere with a dismal 2-and-7 record.
Yet the Purple Gang again proved to be a frustrating nemesis, mounting their best performance of the season to torpedo the Packers, 31-21, combining an explosive offense - hitherto unseen this season - with a bristling, opportunistic defense to carry the day.
It is the ninth time in their last 11 visits to the Gopher Dome that the Packers have come away empty-handed.
The Vikings, exhibiting a big-play attack in the early going, set the tone early, bolting to a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes of the game - scoring on 24- and 18-yard strikes from quarterback Daunte Culpepper to Randy Moss and D'Wayne Bates.
The Packers, staging a substantial comeback, managed to close 14-7 at halftime and, eventually, forged a 21-21 deadlock early in the fourth quarter but their sky-high hosts stormed back to score the last 10 points of the game and pull out their 41st victory in the 43-year-old series.
One of the of the most explosive contests in the history of the rivalry, it was punctuated by considerable offense, the Vikings amassing 425 yards - the most allowed by Green Bay's defense this season - and the Packers closing out the afternoon with 367.
In the final analysis, ironically, it remained for former Wisconsin standout Michael Bennett, to settle the issue. With the Vikings nurturing a tenuous 24-21 lead, he broke away on a 62-yard excursion in the closing minutes, one that took him all the way to the Green Bay 3-yard line before being run to earth by the Packers' Marques Anderson. Bennett set the stage for fellow running back Moe Williams to score the game's final touchdown two plays later, with 1:56 left, putting the game out of reach.
The mercurial Bennett ended the day with 130 yards in 20 rushing attempts, a 6.5-yard average, keying a 218-yard rushing day for Minnesota.
The Packers, in contrast, moved largely through the air, quarterback Brett Favre passing for 296 yards and 2 touchdowns via 24 completions in 43 attempts, with 3 interceptions.
Favre's second scoring pass of the day was a spectacular, 84-yard hookup with Donald Driver, who pulled in the football along the left sideline early in the fourth quarter, broke into the open near midfield and streaked the distance. Longwell's conversion lifted the Packers into a temporary, 21-all deadlock with 3:07 of the final period having elapsed.
Green, meanwhile, constituted Green Bay's running game, making all 18 Packers rushing attempts for 71 yards, a 3.9-yardaverage, and one touchdown. He added 38 yards via his 8 pass receptions to finish the afternoon with 109 yards of total offense.
GM/HEAD COACH MIKE SHERMAN'S POST-GAME COMMENTS:
(on the performance and the result) "We had won seven games in a row. It's not Doomsville around here.
"I want them to be mad that we possibly let an opportunity slip away. But, at the same time, I want them to be ready for next week. We have a tremendous challenge going down to Tampa."
(on what makes it so difficult for the Packers to win at the Metrodome) "The Minnesota Vikings. They played a heck of a football game. They took advantage of every opportunity and they made the most out of it. So I would say the Minnesota Vikings do more than anything."
(on what he was most disappointed with) "Well, we had some opportunities at different times and we didn't take advantage of them. They did however. They jumped on us with a 14-0 lead and held onto that. I thought we battled back real nicely. I mean this is a divisional game. Trust me - we never took the Minnesota Vikings and never will take anything lightly around here, and we came into this game ready to go, ready to play, and we just didn't play our best game. They played very well. I thought they did a great job. My hat's off to Mike Tice and his staff for having his team ready to go...They did a hell of a job."
(on falling behind early 14-0 not being what the Packers needed) "No, it wasn't. But even at that point, we have confidence that we can come back from those types of situations with our team. We ended up tying it up and made a heck of a game out of it - but obviously it wasn't enough. I thought our special teams played very well all of the game except for one kickoff. The Donald Driver touchdown...we kicked it off and gave them great field position and you can't give that team great field position. They kicked a field goal and that was certainly the deciding factor in the football fame."
(on what, except for the first quarter, he thought of the Packers' defense) "I thought they handled things fairly well. I was concerned obviously about the running game with a great back in Michael Bennett. I thought we held up. Obviously the last run there (a 62-yarder by Bennett) wasn't good at the end of the game. But I thought for the most part that for what we were working with there at one point, they held up OK. But other than the first 14 points that they got from us, we didn't give them anything. They earned 'em."
(on the multiple penalties) "The penalties were too many penalties. I think we had 13 penalties. That was too many penalties to have over here. I know they had a bunch of penalties as well and it certainly appeared to be a game of penalties at different times and certainly it cost them as well as us. But they ended up on the winning side."
(on whether Brett Favre, as an emotional player, might have crossed the line to where he was a detriment) "I don't know if it was a detriment. He threw a pretty nice pass after that incident (an unnecessary roughness penalty). Obviously, he doesn't need to be doing that. He was trying to make a play. I don't think he was trying to injure...I saw the play and I didn't want him to go in there because I was afraid he was going to get hurt. But he was trying to make a game-saving tackle in his mind, and he doesn't practice tackling very often - he doesn't work the boundary lines...I think he was trying to make a tackle, to be honest with you."
(on whether he thought the Vikings were trying to throw Favre off his game by all the talking they were doing) "Brett has been around a long time - he knows better than to get involved in that type of game. I don't think that had much to do with it. I mean he's always communicated with his opponents. That has not been a problem in the past. I don't think that was a problem today...Certainly not why we lost this ball game."
THE PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:
Brett Favre: (on whether the Vikings' two roughing-the-passer penalties suggested it was part of their game plan to disrupt him) "I doubt it. Every time I've played here, even the games we won, it's been that type of game, dating back to John Randle. It's just that type of game when you play them. It's a physical game - more so in this building, and we always get their best. Today was no exception. They are going to jaw; I guess I am going to jaw back. I don't think it had much of a factor in this game. It offset itself, I think."
(on it "obviously" being tough to dig yourself out of a hole the entire game) "Yeah, at least the last seven or eight games, it has been unfamiliar territory for us. I don't want to say I knew that it was going to be that type of game, but I anticipated it being a tough game. Maybe behind. Going into a game like this, all you have to do is pick up the statistics from the past 10 or so games. Bottom line is you can't give them an edge, you can't give them turnovers, and you can't give them penalties and big plays. And that's what happened. It's not like it wasn't addressed all week. It is a difficult place to play. I am not making excuses - we had our chances and it was as hard of a football game as far as guys playing both sides of the football as I have seen this year. There were a lot of penalties and turnovers and stuff like that. When has there not been at this place? You definitely don't want to go in, at least at halftime, behind or keep fighting. If you can lead at some point and the crowd is out of it, I am not saying you are going to win, but you up your chances considerably."
(on the frustration with his personal foul) "I was frustrated. But I don't think it took away from my game any. I have been down that road before and (will) probably be down that road again next week and maybe the following week. I don't want to say I love it, but I am not going to back down from any challenge. I know every time I step into this building, it is a challenge. Regardless of records, regardless of statistics, who is favored and all that stuff, it is just is the way it is. This is one of those games, every time we play here, you can basically throw everything out the window and have no idea what to expect.
"They were aggressive. Heck, whether they throw the flags (and) give us 15 yards, it's not up to me. I'll scrape myself off the carpet and I'll keep playing. I don't know if they had any sacks today, but they had a lot of hurries. Just little fingers in facemasks, rolling on your legs and stuff like that, for any quarterback makes a huge difference. Our offensive line did a hell of a job. I am thinking there was some frustration on their (the Vikings) part, too. Maybe that they were not getting there. They still won the game."
(on whether there had been 'more talking and bad blood than in a normal game') "Yeah, I would say so. I am sure, for everyone watching it, it was non-stop. I don't guess these teams like each other."
Wide receiver Donald Driver: (on his 84-yard touchdown reception) "They were playing a 'cover two.' I beat the guy outside and Brett just put it in the hole. I made a great catch and after that, a great run. Terry (Glenn) came back and made a great block. That is one thing I can say about that guy. I blocked for him last week and he came and blocked for me this week. (If) we continue this, we will be OK."
(on whether he thought that touchdown would give the Packers winning momentum) "We thought so. That is the biggest thing we thought of. We thought it was changing, but in case they still had momentum running their way."
(on whether the Dome could be blamed 'on this one') "It never is never the Dome. They are a good team. They just outplayed us...and they got the win."
Safety Marques Anderson: "They made some big plays throughout the game on offense and defense. The NFL is about making plays and today they made more plays than us."
(on whether it was surprising that the Vikings came out 'so hot' on offense right away) "I think it was a little surprising they went with a no-huddle. They came out fast and any time you have Randy Moss on the field, you have big play potential, and he showed that early. As we got into the groove of things, we kind of settled down and got a feel for what they were trying to do and we started to make some plays."
(on after his first experience in the Metrodome, how difficult a place is it to play in) "It is not difficult at all. I am not going to blame anything on the Metrodome. In my eyes, we should have beat them, Metrodome or not. If we are playing in the parking lot, we should have beat them. We just have to take this - this loss right here is really going to show the character of our team. I think this is something that is going to pull us together. We still haven't got our eyes off our goal. We're just going to go back and reload and come back firing."
-Sunday's victory gave the Vikings a 41-40 advantage over the Packers in the 82-game history of their rivalry, including one tie, a 10-10 standoff played in Lambeau Field in 1978.
-Rookie safety Marques Anderson was temporarily tied for the team lead in interceptions with Darren Sharper after waylaying a Daunte Culpepper pass in the second quarter. Sharper, however, subsequently picked off a Culpepper pass on the final play of the first half to register his fifth theft of the season - and the 25th of his six-year NFL career.
-The ubiquitous Anderson also spared the Packers a likely Minnesota touchdown in the third quarter, recovering a Culpepper fumble at the Green Bay 2-yard line.
In addition to that heroic, Anderson ran down Michael Bennett from behind on his 62-yard jaunt late in the game, felling him at the Green Bay 3-yard line, but it subsequently went for naught when the Vikings' Moe Williams scored two plays later.
-Brett Favre's two touchdown passes against the Vikings padded his season total to 19. He thus needs only one more to have thrown 20 or more touchdown passes a season for nine consecutive years, which would lift him within one of the all-time record, held by Dan Marino, who threw for 20 or more TDs for 10 years in a row (1983-92).
-Donald Driver's 84-yard scoring reception was his second of the season of longer than 80 yards. He previously collaborated with Brett Favre on an 85-yarder in the Packers' 34-21 victory over Chicago Oct. 7.
-Driver (and Favre) earlier had a 5-yard touchdown hookup nullified by a penalty in the third quarter. The Packers were able to recoup however, Favre passing one yard to tight end Bubba Franks for the score four plays later.
-Ahman Green had launched the latter scoring drive with a 34-yard run off right tackle, his longest excursion of the afternoon.
-Penalties were plentiful in Sunday's contest, the principals amassing 223 yards in levies overall. The Packers were penalized 13 times for 118 yards, the Vikings 12 times for 105 yards.
-The Packers forced three turnovers, intercepting Daunte Cu[pepper twice and recovering a fumble, marking the ninth consecutive game they have registered two or more takeaways.
-Defensive tackle Rod Walker stuffed the Vikings' Moe Williams on a third-and-inches play from the Minnesota 42-yard line in the third quarter, forcing a Viking punt.
-Wide receiver Robert Ferguson made one of the afternoon's better special teams plays in the third quarter, streaking downfield to fell Minnesota's Moe Williams with a shoe-string tackle at the Vikings' 17-yard line on a kickoff return.
-The Packers settled for one yard rushing in the first quarter. The Vikings, meanwhile, posted nine first downs with their first 11 offensive plays of the game.
-Packers inactives for Sunday's game included wide receiver Karsten Bailey, tight end David Martin, offensive lineman Barrett Brooks, defensive linemen Vonnie Holliday and Cletidus Hunt, linebacker Marcus Wilkins, defensive back Bryant Westbrook and designated Third Quarterback Craig Nall.