Two minutes into the second half, this rivalry game at Lambeau Field that began with a barrage of boos had the same feel as the 1998 Monday night Randy Moss coming-out party, which ended with a final score of 37-24 thanks to some garbage time points from the Packers.
But then the game had the same feel as Ravens-Vikings in Week Six, during which the Minnesota defense left the building early and but for a missed field goal by Baltimore would have sustained a historic collapse.
To their credit, the Vikings held it together this time around after their 24-3 bulge quickly became a 24-20 margin with plenty of time left.
Armed with a short field thanks to another long kickoff return from rookie Percy Harvin, Brett Favre took the Vikings 38 yards in seven plays, pushing the lead to 31-20 and regaining some much-needed momentum, albeit on a touchdown throw to Jeff Dugan that arguably was not a completed pass.
But the Packers quickly stormed back down the field, with deceptively fast quarterback Aaron Rodgers turning another run for his life into a sideline sprint that ultimately covered 35 yards and put the ball at the Minnesota 15. Three plays later, receiver Greg Jennings reeled in a “he did what?“-style catch. Even with a failed two-point conversion, the game was back on at 31-26, with more than 10 minutes to play.
And that’s when it looked as if the Vikings would finally blow the lead. Their next drive resulted in a punt, and in two plays the Packers moved from their own 19 to the Minnesota 35, thanks in part to a very questionable roughing the passer penalty on Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards.
But a key calf-roping display from Jared Allen, who had three sacks on the day, helped force a field goal try that sailed just to the right.
Perhaps feeling a little of the same divine intervention that blew Steve Hauschka’s would-be game-winner a hair left 14 days earlier, Lord Favre took his team 59 yards in four plays for the decisive touchdown. Of course, Adrian Peterson’s 44-yard sideline rumble with a short pass had a lot to do with the outcome, but Favre’s willingness to throw in the red zone on third down with a five-point lead became a 16-yard, game-clincing touchdown to Bernard Berrian at a time when Vikings fans surely were sensing that coach Brad Childress was once again wearing his airplane wig and skirt and playing for a field goal and an eight-point lead, that could have resulted in overtime.
Instead, the bulge was pushed to 12 with 3:48 to play, and this one was finally over.
“It was very disappointing — no matter what team they were,” linebacker Nick Barnett said after the game, per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “We’re disappointed in the loss. We had shots there to win this game
and we let it slip right out of our hands. We’re disappointed. If
you’re not, if you don’t feel this all in your gut and in your heart
and in your gut right now in this locker room, something’s wrong with
you. I feel like someone just kicked me in the stomach.
be honest it doesn’t bother me at all as far as him being Favre and him
celebrating. It bothers me because he’s celebrating, no matter who the
quarterback was. He played a hell of a game, but we had an opportunity
to win this game. Disappointing. I can’t express it through words right
The mood in the visitors’ locker room was obviously brighter, with Favre paying homage to The Chris Farley Show in describing the moment.
The two-game swing puts the Vikings firmly in control over the NFC North. At 7-1 and with the Packers and Bears knotted at 4-3, Minnesota gets a week off followed by three straight home games, against the 1-7 Lions, the 2-5 Seahawks, and then the Bears.
So by the end of November, the Vikings could be 10-1, with the only question being whether they can nudge out the Saints for the top seed in the NFC playoff field.
For the Packers, the one-game-over-.500 record through eight weeks pales in comparison to the fact that Favre, who made no secret about his desire to beat the Packers once they didn’t welcome him back from his First Annual Unretirement, swept his former team in what likely will be his final NFL season. (We think.)
And so whatever hold G.M. Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy had on their jobs is now a little more tenuous, and a failure to rebound given the high preseason expectations could make 2010 a make-or-break year for the guys who currently run the show at Lambeau.