Packers pull through vs. Vikings

GREEN BAY - Even if the rest of the way was a struggle, for two minutes in the fourth quarter the Green Bay Packers shone on offense and defense and put away the Minnesota Vikings 24-13.<p> The win, coupled with San Francisco's loss to Dallas, puts Green Bay atop the wildcard race, while Chicago kept a one-game lead in the Central by beating the hapless Lions.

Trailing in the fourth quarter, Brett Favre took over. Favre completed 5-of-5 passes to account for most of the 72-yard march and utilized a no-huddle offense in engineering the game's most impressive drive.

"I knew the conditions would be tough," Favre said. "It was difficult to throw, but they pay me a lot of money to handle these conditions."

Less than two minutes later, Mike McKenzie picked off Spergon Wynn and raced 38 yards for the decisive score.

After suffering through a flurry of drops Sunday, Favre showed all was forgiven. He used four receivers on the drive, then handed off to Ahman Green for a 4-yard TD run. That gave Green Bay a 17-13 lead with 6:28 remaining.

Bill Schroeder had receptions of 12 and 14 yards and Antonio Freeman caught passes of 7 and 19 yards. After a 3-yard run by Green, tight end Bubba Franks pulled down a 20-yard pass inside the 5-yard line, setting up the touchdown.

"The one to Free, I thought I was throwing the ball out of bounds. It must have been a wonderful catch," Favre said. "The one I threw to Bubba, they had a great pass rush. I was on my back and didn't know he caught the ball." The Vikings pulled themselves out of the shadow of their own goal line on the ensuing possession, and looked like they were finally comfortable with third-stringer Spergon Wynn throwing the ball. But they shouldn't have been. Packer cornerback Mike McKenzie stepped in front of Cris Carter and returned an interception 38 yards for his first career touchdown with 5:25 left.

The pick was a fitting reward for McKenzie who once again shut down Randy Moss.

Favre completed 18 of 29 passes for 169 yards a touchdown and no interceptions. While Sunday's chilly temperatures at times hindered his throws and definitely affected his receivers, Favre improved to 30-0 at home in temperatures of 34 or below.

Favre also threw a devastating block to clear the way for Donald Driver on a 31-yard touchdown run that gave the Packers a 7-3 lead in the second quarter.

"That's the only way I know how to play," Favre said. "Give it up for the team." The Vikings, using a remodeled defense, held Green to 31 yards rushing on 16 carries. Meanwhile Minnesota's Michael Bennett, a nephew of former Packer linebacker Tony Bennett, ran 25 times for 104 yards for Minnesota, but only 25 yards came after halftime.

While Minnesota found success with its ground game, neither team was able to get much going through the air on the bitterly cold afternoon.

Wynn, who had just one completion in the first half, gave Minnesota a 13-10 lead in the fourth quarter on a 47-yard scoring pass to tight end Byron Chamberlain on third-and-10.

Before that play, Wynn had just 16 yards passing. He finished 11-of-30 for 114 yards, with three interceptions.

Wynn's only completion in the first half was a 3-yarder to Moss just before the two-minute warning.

The Packers gained just 16 yards on their first four possessions before putting together a seven-play, 70-yard touchdown drive aided by three Minnesota penalties to take the 7-3 halftime lead.

Driver scored on a 31-yard reverse after Favre leveled safety Orlando Thomas at the 25.

The Packers had another chance to score before halftime when Darren Sharper intercepted Wynn with 35 seconds left, but he was stripped during his return at the Minnesota 29 and Harold Morrow recovered for the Vikings.

Sharper dropped an interception at the Green Bay 10 in the third quarter, and two plays later, Gary Anderson's 42-yard field goal pulled Minnesota to 7-6.

Ryan Longwell's 24-yard field goal made it 10-6 with 12 minutes left. Linebacker Bernardo Harris intercepted Wynn at the Vikings 26 on the first play of the fourth quarter to set up the score. The Packers faced fourth an inches on the drive, but opted for the trey after staging a fourth-down attempt to draw the Vikings offsides.

The Vikings started the game with 11 consecutive handoffs before a fumbled pitch and an incomplete checkoff pass brought on Anderson, who missed a 39-yard field goal. Anderson later hit from 44.

The Packers' victory prevented the Chicago Bears from wrapping up the NFC Central title. The Packers (11-4) can still win the division if they beat the New York Giants next week and the Bears lose to Jacksonville.

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