Close shaves

In case you hadn't heard, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings by identical 34-31 scores during the Nov. 14 and Dec. 24 matchups.

The results of those close games mirror the results of the season as a whole. The Packers finished 4-2 in games decided by seven points or less. Minnesota won its first three close games, but dropped five of their final seven games decided by a touchdown or less during their end-of-season swoon.

Close Packers-Vikings games are nothing new. In 2003, the Packers won 30-27 at the Metrodome but lost 30-25 at home. In 2002, the Packers won at Lambeau 26-22 in the teams' second matchup of the season. That's five consecutive games decided by five points or less.

The key to it all is quarterback Brett Favre, who is one of the game's all-time clutch performers. He has 34 career come-from-behind victories, including a 10-point rally over the final four minutes of the Christmas Eve game in Minneapolis.

"I don't know if there's a guy you want to give the ball to in those situations more than him," Packers coach Mike Sherman said.

"You just look in everybody's eyes, and everybody's like: 'Let's go. Let's get the first down and move the chains from there,'" tight end Bubba Franks said. "That's a reflection of who our leader is."

Favre thrives under the pressure. That doesn't mean he enjoys it, though.

"He doesn't like those situations," Sherman said. "He says people think he likes being in those situations, but he doesn't necessarily like it. But he does respond to them."

Favre agrees. He'd rather take a knee at the end of the game than have to be the hero.

"It's like shooting the last shot in basketball," Favre said. "It's a great thing when you make it. But occasionally you don't."

Favre made it big time on Christmas Eve. On the game-tying drive, he converted a third-and-11 to get the drive going and then capped it with a daring fourth-and-goal touchdown pass. On the winning drive, Favre got drilled on a safety blitz but hit Javon Walker for a 31-yard gain to set up Ryan Longwell's field goal.

Favre called the comeback one of the finest — if not the finest — of his career.

"Considering the circumstances, our lack of success, my lack of success in that building. To come back with two drives to win the game, that has to rank near the top," Favre said.

With Favre, Sherman says, "there's always hope."

"The thing with Brett, other than his incredible talent, is the trust and the confidence he exudes to other people," right tackle Mark Tauscher said. "People just feed off that. With Brett, there's never a question about whether or not we're going to get this thing done."

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