Drive of the Game: Vikings draw first blood

With the Minnesota Vikings, losers of seven of their final 10 regular-season games and staggering into the playoffs in spite of themselves, a popular line of reasoning went something like this: If the Packers could take a quick lead, the Vikings might start their end-of-season vacations a few hours early.

Nice theory.

The Vikings drew first blood in Sunday's NFC wild-card game at Lambeau Field. That quick strike inspired the Vikings to a stunningly easy 31-17 upset win.

The opening touchdown was a microcosm of all the Packers' defensive shortcomings. On third-and-2, the Packers were playing their preferred man-to-man coverage. With nobody open, Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper ran to his left.

Inexplicably, Packers linebacker Nick Barnett left his man, running back Moe Williams, and ran toward Culpepper. Culpepper stopped on a dime and flipped a pass to the suddenly wide-open Williams. Williams ran about 20 yards before being confronted one-on-one with safety Darren Sharper. Instead of breaking down and using sound technique, Sharper dove forward. Williams eluded the dive, and from there, it was clear sailing. The Vikings led 7-0 on a defensive breakdown on a missed tackle.

"When you're playing man and you're supposed to cover the back, it's your job to do that. It's that simple," Packers coach Mike Sherman said.

Three-and-a-half minutes later, Randy Moss scored his first touchdown of the game to make it 14-0. Three-and-a-half minutes after that, the Vikings added a field goal to make it 17-0.

The Packers were forced to play catch-up from there. With the Vikings inspired, Brett Favre off target and Javon Walker in the locker room, the Packers had no chance and their season was over.

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