Packers bounce back to beat Vikings, 23-17

The Green Bay Packers avoided making any turnovers, which killed them a week ago against the Buffalo Bills, and capitalized on miscues by the Minnesota Vikings for a much-needed 23-17 victory Sunday afternoon in the Metrodome.

The Packers (4-5) moved into a tie for second place in the NFC North Division with the Vikings and snapped a three-game losing streak, including playoffs, against their arch-rivals to the west.

Green Bay, which equaled its total number of victories in 2005, took advantage of two Vikings turnovers that led to 10 points.

"I thought we played well in all three phases," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "I thought the special teams won the field position battle. The defense was outstanding, especially in the second half, they gave us the short field for most of the second half, and on offense we generated points."

Brett Favre passed for 347 yards (24 of 42) and two touchdowns with no interceptions and no sacks in his own House of Horrors. Veteran wide receiver Donald Driver had a career day, catching six passes for 191 yards and an 82-yard touchdown that gave the Packers a 17-14 halftime lead that they never relinquished.

"I thought our pass protection was outstanding," said McCarthy. "Brett had a lot of time back there today."

Despite out-playing the Bills in all facets seven days earlier, the Packers committed four turnovers and lost 24-10. Against Minnesota, the Packers dominated Minnesota's pop-gun offense, especially in the second half, sending the Vikings to their third straight loss. Green Bay sacked Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson four times, and the Vikings were forced to punt five straight times before cornerback Patrick Dendy, who was burned on a couple of occasions earlier in the game, made his first career interception midway through the fourth quarter.

"The coaches made a great call in the coverage," said Dendy. "I got a chance to get my eyes on the quarterback and had a chance to see the ball come out of his hand. I just went out and got it after that."

The Packers took advantage by moving to Minnesota's 11 yard line, then took a 23-14 lead on Dave Rayner's 29-yard field goal.

Ex-Packer Ryan Longwell made it 23-17 by making a 34-yard field goal with 58 seconds left, but the Packers caught a break on the ensuing kickoff when the Vikings' Artose Pinner was penalized for being off-sides on an onsides kick that the Vikings recovered. Longwell's next attempt sailed out of bounds, which sealed the Packers' third road victory of the season.

"I thought the resiliency of our defense, especially shutting (the Vikings) out in the second half, I was proud of their performance," McCarthy said.

The Packers dodged a major bullet when Bethel Johnson returned the opening kickoff of the second half 103 yards for a touchdown, only to have it called back on a block in the back by Pinner.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings came through with one of the bigger plays of the day midway through the third quarter when he alertly pitched the ball to Driver after catching a 12-yard pass from Favre. Driver then picked up another 24 yards, plus a 15-yard personal foul penalty on cornerback Cedric Griffin, who tackled Driver by his helmet opening, for a 51-yard play to Minnesota's 7. The Packers could get no closer than the Vikings' 5, but Rayner's 24-yard attempt richocheted off the left upright and through for a 20-14 lead.

Driver caught four passes for 151 yards in the first half, including an 82-yard catch and run through the middle of Minnesota's defense with less than a minute left in the first half that gave the Packers a 17-14 lead. The Packers began the drive at their own 3, but Favre's 13-yard pass to Jennings got Green Bay out of the hole, and his pass to Driver, who caught the pass in stride while running a slant route, put the Packers ahead.

"I actually looked at Donald, looked outside and actually kind of felt the coverage stay with Donald on his outside shoulder," Favre said. "The guy is really supposed to close down with Donald and shut that off. I figured that was going to happen and I was going to go outside, but the guy fell off of Donald and kind of went back to him later. I wouldn't usually go to him on that particular play. Our touchdown passes have been hard to come by this year but this was one right when he caught it I figured there was a good chance he was going to score."

Favre completed 9 of 18 passes for 189 yards in the first half and two touchdowns. It marked the sixth straight game that Favre has thrown at least two touchdown passes against the Vikings.

Johnson took advantage of miscommunication in Green Bay's secondary by connecting with wide receiver Billy McMullen for a 40-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to close the Vikings to 10-7. McMullen scored his first touchdown with the Vikings, and only second as a pro, blew past safety Nick Collins, who bit on a play fake, and was all alone at the 2-yard line for the touchdown.

Johnson found Taylor over the middle for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 7:52 left in the second quarter as the Vikings took a 14-10 lead. Taylor fumbled as he was hit by linebacker A.J. Hawk, and McMullen recovered the loose ball in the end zone, but officials ruled that Taylor crossed the plane of the goal line before fumbling. Johnson made an impressive one-handed catch with Dendy in pursuit for a 41-yard completion to Green Bay's 29 to highlight the 82-yard drive.

"I train with the guy," Dendy said of Johnson. "He's a great athlete and extremely fast. He made a couple of big plays."

The Packers took a 10-0 lead on Favre's 5-yard swing pass to running back Noah Herron with 3:34 left in the first quarter. The Packers capitalized on Johnson's fumble, which was forced by blitzing linebacker Brady Poppinga and recovered by defensive tackle Corey Williams on the Vikings' 22. Green ran four straight times and converted a third-and-1 with a one-yard run to the 1 to set up the touchdown.

Prior to Minnesota's turnover, the Packers drove 83 yards on 13 plays and Rayner put the Packers ahead 3-0 with a 20-yard field goal. Following Favre's 25-yard pass to Driver, running back Ahman Green burst 10 yards up the middle and appeared to have crossed the 1-yard line as he was downed. The officials ruled that he was short by inches and Green was thrown for a loss by Minnesota's top-ranked rush defense on the next play, forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal.

Green finished with a hard-fought 55 yards rushing on 22 attempts against Minnesota's stingy run defense. It was the first time in four games that Green has finished with less than 100 yards yards rushing.

The Packers, as a team, were held to a season-low 47 rushing yards.

"Obviously there is a reason why they are number one in the league against the run," McCarthy said. "We like to run the ball more because that is who we are, but it is important to be able to run and pass the ball, and that is what we were able to do today. The yards are not what you would like, but every time you run it it is helping with the pass protection. I was very pleased with the pass protection and the performance we got from the passing game as a whole.

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