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Rivalry Produces A Memorable Chapter



In the 85 meetings between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings dating back to 1961, that was the record for each team in the head-to-head match-up before the latest incarnation of the border war.

After Ryan Longwell put an end to one of the most exciting games in the series' history with a 33-yard field goal as the clock showed all zeroes at Lambeau Field Sunday, the Packers emerged with a 34-31 victory and a one game historical edge.

With less than 300 miles separating the teams' home fields and their on-field hostilities renewed twice every season, Packers-Vikings has developed into one of the more spirited rivalries in all of the NFL.

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman opened his post-game press conference not by extolling his players' performance (which would have definitely been warranted), but by talking about how great it is to play in rivalry games such as Sunday's and all six times every season his team lines up against an NFC North foe.

"When you play a rival like we just played in the Vikings, the intensity that was on the field and the type of play that was displayed by both teams - that's what it's all about," Sherman said.

The Packers' head man, who has racked up a 22-9 record in his four-plus seasons against the Vikings, the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions, loves the fact that he coaches in such a tight-knit division.

"That's why it's so special in this division, because of the rivalries that do exist," explained Sherman. We don't have to travel half way across the country to play somebody, they're all right here."

Quarterback Brett Favre, who pulled his career mark even at 12-12 against the Vikings with the win, said that he thinks these teams bring out the best in each other.

"I think anyone who watched the game or has watched these games in recent years can easily tell that they're good games," said Favre. "You're seeing the best of both teams, and tonight was no exception. They battled and they deserved this game just as much as we did. That's what it's all about. Fortunately for us, we came away with it. It gets better it seems like with every game and every year."

In many rivalries, there are often participants who have been on both sides of the fence. This one is no different, and Sunday one of those players who have worn both helmets played a crucial role in securing a victory for the home team.

Third-string tight end Ben Steele, unknown to many Packer fans, was picked up by the team in September as a member of the practice squad for the Green and Gold after being waived by the Vikings at the conclusion of training camp, his second summer with Minnesota.

Through hard work and an affinity for special teams, Steele was promoted to the active 53-man roster and made his biggest impact to date for Green Bay when he emerged from the bottom of the pile with the football following a Robert Ferguson fumble on a kickoff return with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter.

"It seemed like an eternity under there," Steele said of the scrum to recover the loose ball. "There was no way I was letting go of that ball until they said that I had it. I was in the right place at the right time and was able to come up with the ball. How I came up with it, who knows?"

Five plays and a Longwell kick later, the Packers were walking off the field victorious.

This was just the first of two meetings between the two teams for the 2004 season. They will meet again on Christmas Eve on the turf of the Metrodome for a rematch. The Packers will be looking for their first season sweep of their neighbors to the west since 2000.

The series has definitely become one of the premier ongoing battles in the league, but as it stands, the advantage lies in the hands of the Green Bay Packers.


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