Report card vs. Vikings

Good grades for Packers' sweetest victory of the season

For the first time this season, a greater reliance on Brett Favre and a patchwork receiving group didn't spell a setback. The Packers had lost all three games in which Favre put the ball up at least 40 times but not Sunday, when he turned 42 attempts into a season-high 347 yards, two touchdowns and a 100.0 passer rating bolstered by no interceptions.

A game-winning, 82-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver notwithstanding before halftime, Favre saved his best work for a critical fourth-quarter series with Green Bay nursing a 20-14 lead. He completed six of eight throws for 69 yards -- relying not on Driver or Greg Jennings, but fullback William Henderson (three catches for 17 yards), No. 3 receiver Ruvell Martin (two for 34) and previously hibernating tight end Bubba Franks (one for 18) -- to set up a short field goal that put the Packers up two scores.

Driver had inflicted his damage long before then, racking up a career-high 191 yards. He had three conversions on third-and-long and the big breakaway run of more than 70 yards out of a short crossing route for the touchdown. Driver later saved Jennings on an ill-advised lateral, as the rookie was being tackled in the open field, by gaining 30 more yards.

Despite losing right tackle Mark Tauscher to injury and having three rookie linemen the last 18 minutes, the pass protection was stellar in keeping Favre sack-less for the fourth time this season.

The good news is Ahman Green came out of the dastardly Metrodome unscathed, a year after he suffered a season-ending ruptured thigh there. By the looks of it in the early going, Green was poised to carve up the Vikings' top-rated rush defense. He had powerful runs of 8, 11 and 9 yards in separate first-quarter series deep in Vikings territory. However, in that sequence, Green was stuffed for no gain on a third-and-1 call at the Minnesota 2, forcing the Packers to kick a field goal.

The running game wasn't to be heard from again after Pat Williams drove Noah Herron back for a 4-yard loss on second-and-goal at the 1 in the next series. The Packers had a season-low 47 yards, averaging a minuscule 1.8 yards per carry. Green finished with only 55 yards and a 2.5-per-carry average. His streak of three straight 100-yard games ended with a thud as Williams (nine tackles) dominated an out-of-sorts interior of the line.

Another week, another inexcusable coverage breakdown in the secondary. Fortunately for the Packers this time, Brad Johnson's 40-yard touchdown strike to an unbelievably open Billy McMullen in the second quarter didn't haunt them. Like the previous Sunday in the loss at Buffalo when Lee Evans sprinted uncovered to haul in decisive touchdown, Al Harris passed off coverage on McMullen to a safety (Nick Collins) who wasn't there in the supposed Cover 2 coverage.

Nickel back Patrick Dendy was picked on and beaten repeatedly in the first half, giving up two long completions to Bethel Johnson. Dendy, though, bounced back with a nice over-the-shoulder interception after Bethel Johnson stopped his route on a deep pass in the fourth quarter, setting up the key field-goal drive to all but seal the win.

Meanwhile, the linebacker trio of A.J. Hawk, Brady Poppinga and Nick Barnett were downright nasty in getting after Brad Johnson, combining for three of the team's four sacks. Hawk led the way with one and a half sacks and also forced a second-quarter fumble on a big hit of Chester Taylor near the goal line, though McMullen recovered it for a go-ahead touchdown. A blitzing Poppinga earlier forced a turnover deep in Minnesota territory with a jarring hit of Brad Johnson in the pocket.

With the exception of a couple sizable runs by Taylor and Mewelde Moore in the second quarter, the defense continued its season-long trend of having the upper hand against the run. It still hasn't allowed an individual 100-yard rusher, holding Taylor to a quiet 75 yards in 20 carries. The Vikings changed things up with Moore only three times and found it to be tough sledding downhill between the tackles, totaling but 90 yards. The Packers have held four opponents below 100.

Most of the breaks worked in Green Bay's favor in what could have been a disastrous showing by a few units. Dave Rayner connected on all three field-goal attempts, all within 30 yards, but a 24-yard attempt in the third quarter took a fortuitous carom off the left upright.

To start the second half, a 102-yard return by Bethel Johnson for a would-be touchdown to erase a 17-14 Packers lead was wiped out by rookie Jarrett Bush's drawing an illegal block by Artose Pinner inside the Minnesota 15. Pinner also was offside on an onside kick that the Vikings recovered in the final minute.

Punter Jon Ryan was instrumental in the Vikings' not having a short field with which to work, averaging 51.3 gross yards and 40.7 net yards with seven kicks, only two that were returned. The loss of rookie Shaun Bodiford to leg injury on the game-opening kickoff diminished the potential for any appreciable gains on returns.

A week after the big collapse at Buffalo, Mike McCarthy and Co. did a commendable job in getting the players quickly back on track for an impressive victory in a venue that often hasn't been kind to the Packers.

McCarthy tried as long as he could to stick with running the football, but he wisely sided with the pass and allowed Favre and Driver to exploit the weakness of the Vikings defense. After he had second-guessed himself following the Buffalo game for throwing the football down near the goal line, McCarthy curiously called for a throw on first-and-goal at the 1 in the first quarter. Green, who had just picked up a yard for a first down on third down, was split out wide, tipping the Vikings off that a pass was coming. The play fizzled when Green dropped Favre's throw in the back of the end zone. McCarthy was taken off the hook two plays later on a 5-yard swing pass from Favre to Herron for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, as much as Bob Sanders' defense is on fire with the pass rush (17 sacks in last four games), the first-year coordinator still doesn't have the secondary speaking the same language with coverages.

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