Vikings eliminate Packers, 31-17

As Randy Moss took a bow, with his backside aimed high toward the fans in Lambeau Field's south end zone, there was nothing the Green Bay Packers nor their fans could do. Moss' end zone antics were low, but Green Bay's performance was even worse.<p>

For the the fourth straight post-season the Packers melted down, this time to the Vikings in the first ever post-season game between the two teams. Brett Favre, a hero through most of the the season for Green Bay, was a goat in the Packers' Wild Card playoff Sunday. Favre threw four interceptions and the Vikings bolted to a 17-0 lead before finishing off the Packers, 31-17.

The Vikings lost seven of their final 10 regular season games, including two games to Green Bay this season. They fell 34-31 on Ryan Longwell's game-winning field goal on Christmas Eve in the Metrodome. But they played error-free against the Packers in a do-or-die scenario and capitalized on Favre's errant throws.

"I expect more out of myself, obviously," said Favre. "My expectations of myself and this team are probably no different than everyone in this room and everyone who watched the game.

"As I was talking to Mike (Sherman) and we've had this discussion before, I said, ‘I know it's a lame excuse, but I'm going to use it anyway, but some days it's just not your day, for whatever reason.' ... I was prepared to play this game. Heck, how can I not be prepared. We just played them two weeks ago. I know our team was prepared. They (the Vikings) were prepared, too. Obviously, it's disappointing. We've been down this road before, and I don't know if it makes it any easier or worse. I wish them (the Vikings) the best of luck."

Minnesota (9-8) advances to play the Philadelphia Eagles (13-3) in an NFC Divisional playoff next Sunday in Philadephia. Green Bay, which won the NFC North Division for the third straight season after a 1-4 start, finished at 10-7. The Packers lost in overtime to the Eagles last year after failing to hold the Eagles in regulation on a fourth and 26 with a minute remaining. The Packers also fell hard in the first round of the 2002 playoffs, 27-7, to the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field, the team's first loss at home in the playoffs. Green Bay's post-season in 2001 came to a skidding halt against the Rams in St. Louis when Favre threw six interceptions in a blowout loss.

"We were incredibly confident," said Packers tackle Mark Tauscher. "We knew we matched up well with this team, and we knew if we executed we would be all right. That didn't happen today."

The Packers pulled within seven points twice – in the second and fourth quarters – but were not able to overcome the early deficit.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who completed 19 of 29 passes for 284 yards, threw four touchdowns, including two to Moss. Culpepper's 34-yard touchdown pass to Moss early in the fourth quarter killed Green Bay's momentum after the Packers closed to within a touchdown on Najeh Davenport's 1-yard touchdown run.

After Moss got past cornerback Al Harris to catch Culpepper's pass in the end zone, he jogged over to the goal post and simulated "mooning" the crowd – though he kept his pants on. The Packers, more or less, were caught with their pants down on the play.

"It was a run call and they showed the total blitz that they got us on a couple of times earlier in the game," said Culpepper. "I saw Randy and gave him an audible signal and he just ran it perfectly. he ran a five-yard stop and took it back up. We were able to fool number 31 (Al Harris) and I just put it out there and Randy made a great catch."

The Packers spotted the Vikings a 17-point lead within the first 8 minutes, 54 seconds of the game, mainly due to pathetic defense and the first of Favre's four interceptions.

Running back Moe Williams caught a pass from Culpepper on the Vikings' third play from scrimmage and turned it into a 68-yard touchdown. Safety Darren Sharper missed a tackle on Williams at the Packers' 45 and Williams outran cornerback Ahmad Carroll to the end zone as the Vikings took a 7-0 lead.

The Packers were forced to punt after their first three plays of the game. Starting at their own 45, the Vikings needed just four plays to go up 14-0, highlighted by Culpepper's 20-yard touchdown pass to Moss.

Cornerback Antoine Winfield got the first of Minnesota's interceptions when he picked off Favre on the second play of the Packers' second series of the game. Culpepper, who often had all kinds of time to pass, moved the Vikings to the 17 before Morten Andersen booted a 35-yard field goal to make it 17-0.

"I was as disappointed as I've ever been after a loss," said Sherman. "I can handle losing a ballgame, but losing the way we lost the ballgame, not playing smart, was disappointing. We are better than what we showed today. We are a better team than we demonstrated today."

The Packers finally got on the board on Longwell's 43-yard field goal with 2:42 left in the first quarter. Green Bay's defense, which gave up 384 yards in the game, forced Minnesota to punt for the first time. The Packers then went on a 10-play, 57-yard drive, highlighted by Favre's 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Bubba Franks to make it, 17-10.

The Packers caught a big break on Minnesota's ensuing drive when Andersen slipped as he attempted a 27-yard field goal. His kick hit the legs of an offensive lineman, and gave the Packers momentum.

But a communication breakdown between Favre and wide receiver Javon Walker on the next play turned into a 14-point swing. Favre thought that Walker was going to cut toward the sideline on a deep route, but he instead cut upfield. When Walker made his break upfield, Favre had already released the pass and it ended up in the hands of safety Brian Russell, who returned it 14 yards to the Packers' 28. Two plays later, Culpepper threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nate Burleson as the Vikings went up, 24-10.

"We ran that play at Minnesota a couple of weeks ago and hit Donald (Driver) over the top I think on our second drive," said Favre. "... To me Javon one on one with anyone you would like to think is a good match up, but miscommunication."


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