*PACKERS-VIKINGS RIVALRY, ONE-SIDED IN EARLY YEARS, HAS EVOLVED INTO
DEAD-EVEN STANDOFF (42-42-1), 'CHALLENGER' TO VENDETTA WITH BEARS*
When their paths first crossed, there was little to suggest that the Packers' series with the Minnesota Vikings would evolve into the colorful and tautly-contested rivalry it has become - one that some loyalists insist is every bit the equal of the Green and Gold's storied vendetta with the Chicago Bears.
Nothing, certainly, in their initial encounters.
To begin with, the Packers - already on the pro football scene for more than four decades, were a talented and experienced aggregation then en route to the first of five NFL championships during the '60s, while the Vikings were a new, nondescript expansion team when they launched their on-field relationship in 1961.
So substantial was the disparity in talent in those early years - expansion teams were not stocked nearly as well then as they have been in recent years - the Packers won nine of the first 10 meetings, most of them by double-digit margins.
Forty-three years later, however, things are much different between the neighborhood rivals competitively. They are, in fact, essentially back to where they were at the very beginning - dead even.
Pending next Sunday's 86th meeting in Lambeau Field, at least.
To date, each team has won 42 of the 85 games played to date and there has been one tie, a 10-10 overtime standoff in 1978 that figured in the determination of a division championship won, alas, by the Vikings.
Meanwhile, so competitive has the series become during the past four decades that the average point differential over the history of the rivalry is a mere 1.35 points per game.
And when the backdrop is the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, with a host of the Packers' faithful fans in the stands and attempting to match decibels with those of Purple persuasion, it is invariably deafening - a presumed plus for the Vikings.
Over time, no fewer than 30 games have been decided by seven or fewer points - a dozen of those 30 by three-point margins.
And the intensity appears to be as high today as it has ever been.
For example, the last three meetings have been determined by four points (Packers 26, Vikings 22, in their second meeting of 2002), five points (Vikings 30, Packers 25, in their first encounter of '03) and three points (Packers 30, Vikings 27, in their '03 rematch at the Minnesota Metrodome).
In keeping with the mutual antipathy the rivalry has long since engendered, the highly competitive principals have gone into overtime on six occasions. In this "competition," the Vikings have clearly had the better of it, winning four and tying one of the sudden death struggles.
The Packers finally interrupted the Purple Gang's OT success in 2000, Mike Sherman's rookie year as Green Bay's head coach, shading the Minnesotans, 26-20, in rain-swept Lambeau Field the night of Nov. 6 by way of Antonio Freeman's "miraculous," on-the-back reception.
For the record, the Packers were "introduced" to the then fledgling Vikings in somewhat surprising fashion when the Purple Gang made its NFL debut at the start of the '61 season.
In a scheduling rarity, they were paired in their first home-and-home series - as fellow members of the NFC Central Division - on back-to-back weekends, a substantial challenge for the youthful Vikings.
The Packers invaded Metropolitan Stadium, a venue the Vikings shared with the Minnesota Twins of the American Baseball League, for the first time on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 22, 1961, with two legendary figures presiding over their respective teams - Vince Lombardi directing the Packers and colorful ex-field general Norm Van Brocklin masterminding the Vikings, the latter only 10 months after quarterbacking the Philadelphia Eagles to the 1960 NFL championship.
Just seven days later, Oct. 29, they squared off again - this time at Milwaukee County Stadium, then the Packers' second home.
As might have been expected, the Packers disposed of the Vikings with anticipated facility in those back-to-back encounters, forging to a 33-7 victory in their first meeting at the "Met" in Bloomington, Minn., a Twin Cities suburb, and triumphing again a week later with only marginally greater difficulty, 28-10, in Milwaukee.
The Packers went on to win four more in a row at Vikings expense over the next two seasons and mount a six-game winning streak, which remains Green Bay's longest successful skein in the history of the rivalry.
Things began to change competitively in 1967, with the arrival upon the Minnesota scene of Bud Grant as head coach, succeeding the tempestuous Van Brocklin. Grant, who went on to become the winningest coach in Vikings history en route to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, inaugurated a prosperous new era for Minnesota by leading the Vikings to a 10-7 victory over the Packers - and Vince Lombardi, then in his ninth and final season as Green Bay's head coach - in his first game against the Green and Gold.
Lombardi did manage to even the score with Grant in the teams' rematch that '67 season, 30-27, before closing out his coaching tenure in Titletown.
Grant proceeded to dominate the series over the next 15 years, posting a 22-12-1 record while leading the Minnesotans to 11 division championships and four Super Bowl appearances.
In the midst of that period, the Packers made team history - in more ways than one - in forging the 10-10 standoff with the Vikings in Lambeau Field Nov. 26, 1978.
With the stalemate, the rivals finished in a tie for NFC Central Division honors with identical 8-7-1 records. The Vikings, however, became division champions because of having defeated the Packers head-to-head earlier in the season, 21-7, and went on to the playoffs while the Green and Gold stayed home.
Both teams had possession of the football four times in the scoreless, sudden death period, and both missed field goals, Minnesota's Rick Danmeier erring wide right from 19 yards and the Packers' Chester Marcol wide left from 40 yards.
In the process, the Packers made team history by playing the first regular-season, overtime tie in team annals - and running back Terdell Middleton established a club single-game record for rushing attempts, 39, a mark he still holds.
Middleton, then en route to becoming only the fourth running back in Packers history to
rush for 1,000 yards in a season, finished the afternoon with 110 yards. He subsequently
closed out the season with 1,116 yards in 284 attempts.
Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former *Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for Packers.com as part of his new assignment.
In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here. *