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Nightmare in new Lambeau

Late in Sunday's game, a beaten and battered Packer squad put a heartwarming twist on an opening day tale that was nothing but a horror story the rest of the way. Too bad both Packer plots had the same ending -- a 30-25 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the opening game at "new" Lambeau Field.<p>

Down 27-3 in the third quarter, the Packers tried to claw out of a hole dug by five turnovers including four Brett Favre interceptions on one of the worst days of his career.

The comeback attempt looked especially brave coming from a team that saw receiver Donald Driver taken to the hospital on a stretcher and lost fellow starting WR Robert Ferguson moments later.

"I'm proud we didn't fold our tent and that we had the character to fight back," head coach Mike Sherman said. "It shows what we're made of."

"But there are no moral victories in Green Bay," he said.

An onside kick recovery, Favre-to-Franks 2-point conversion and late fumble recovery helped put an out-of-reach game just one score away.

But too much scrambling by Daunte Culpepper, too many mistakes by the Green Bay offense and too much Randy Moss, period, sent the Packers to their first regular-season defeat at Lambeau since a Nov. 18, 2001 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Finding a way to stop Moss was job one for the Packer defense, which has been the source of much speculation and uncertainty in the preseason. That analysis will undoubtedly continue after Moss demolished the Packers for 150 yards on nine catches including a touchdown. No other Viking caught more than one pass.

Culpepper was 15-30 for 195 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. That wasn't the most damaging aspect of Culpepper's game, however. He scrambled for 50 yards on 9 carries and was instrumental in the Vikings converting 8-of-14 third downs – three on Culpepper runs.

Those third down conversions, plus turnovers and injuries combined for a collective kick in the gut for the Packers. The worst blow came when top receiver Donald Driver went up high for a Favre pass. Driver got his hands on the ball and started to pull it in, when he lost control of his fall and came down awkwardly on his right shoulder and head with 8:40 remaining in the fourth quarter. He was down on the field for several long minutes, and was eventually immobilized and taken from the field on a stretcher. According to coach Sherman's post-game comments, Driver never lost consciousness. He was transported to a local hospital where all x-rays were negative and Driver had full sensation in his limbs. According to reports the team will have more information later after swelling around Driver's spinal cord subsides.

"That's a pretty scary feeling," Sherman said. "Any time a player is down on the field we're all just concerned for that player and his well-being."

On the same drive, Robert Ferguson caught a Favre pass and fought to cross the goal line, but was ruled down on the 1-yard-line, as Minnesota's Ken Irvin had hold of his leg. Ferguson suffered a MCL sprain and sprained ankle on the play, with the ankle injury thought to be more serious, according to Sherman.

Ahman Green punched the ball over the goal line on the next play to start the Packer rally. Unlike Green's earlier TD, this one wasn't followed by a Lambeau Leap as the record crowd of 70,505 remained somewhat subdued following the receivers' injuries.

Green Bay executed a perfect on-side kick with both kicker Ryan Longwell and punter Josh Bidwell lining up to kick. Erwin Swiney scooped up the kick on the right sideline to give Green Bay the ball around mid-field with 6 minutes remaining.

Favre's fourth interception of day, the second to Corey Chavous who was out part of the game with a hamstring problem, ended that inspiring series with 5:13 remaining. The pick ended that drive but not the comeback. The Vikings were running the ball to eat the clock and forcing Green Bay to exhaust its time outs, but Culpepper tried to take it around the right side himself and had the ball punched out. Green Bay's Cletidus recovered and clung to life.

Green Bay marched downfield and this time Favre was his old, efficient self. He connected with Javon Walker for a 24-yard touchdown strike which pulled Green Bay to within 30-25 with less than two minutes remaining.

The Packers attempted another onside kick, but this time the ball sailed out of bounds. Thanks to a new NFL rule which doesn't allow a rekick with less than five minutes left, Minnesota got the ball and full control of the clock.

Minnesota out-gained the Packers 196-2 yards in the first quarter. They led 20-3 on the strength of touchdown catches by John Avery and D'Wayne Bates. On the second-quarter drive capped by Bates' 2-yard TD, Moss accounted for 65 of the drive's 67 yards. New kicker Aaron Elling had two field goals, including one set up by Brian Williams 77-yard intercpetion return to the Packer 28.

Green scored the Packers' first TD with about a minute and a half remaining in the third quarter. Green's 8-yard scoring run punctuated a drive on which Favre connected with three different receivers for a total of 44 yards. Green Bay followed up with a Favre-to-Bubba Franks two-point conversion to pull within 27-11.

Favre finished 25-of-41 for 248 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions.

The injuries suffered Sunday pile on the already battered Packers. Safety Darren Sharper and guard Marco Rivera attempted comebacks from serious injuries Sunday and were able to start but couldn't play as long as they had hoped and were spelled early and often. Nose tackle Gilbert Brown was able to play with his torn biceps muscle in his right arm.


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