Dome luck

MINNEAPOLIS - It was just one of those days - one of those days that seems to come along once a year in the Metrodome.<P> On this year's visit, the Packers were plagued by a slow start, an ineffective running game and turnovers in a 31-21 loss. Green Bay, still atop the NFC, fell to 8-2 while the Vikings improved to 3-7.<p>

The Packers (8-2) have lost nine of 11 at the Metrodome and missed out on a chance to become the earliest team to clinch a division title in a 16-game season.

"At first we didn't make plays needed to win the football game and they did," coach Mike Sherman said. "We had opportunities, but the ball just didn't bounce our way. Then again, we didn't do the things we had to do to make it bounce our way."

The Green Bay offense couldn't take advantage of the Vikings' 31st-ranked defense.

The Vikings held Ahman Green to 71 yards and kept Favre -- who was 24-of-42 for 296 yards and two touchdowns -- completely out of rhythm in the fourth quarter.

"We really struggled running the football. The stats might say we had over 70 yards, but a lot of it came on one run, so you can't say we had success running the football - we didn't."

The Packers got off to a miserable start. After Javon Walker returned the opening kickoff to midfield, the Packers couldn't take advantage of the rare field position and went three-and-out. They didn't manage a first down until the final minute of the first quarter, and by then the Vikings were up 14-0.

The Packers sprang back to life on a 63-yard drive which culmninated in Ahman Green's 1-yard TD run.

"It was a dog fight the whoe way, " Sherman said. "Even when we were down 14-0, we came back. A half-time I came in and told them we were going to win this football game.

For awhile in the second half, it looked like the coach was right.

Trailing 21-7 in the third, Favre threw a 24-yard pass to Bubba Franks on fourth-and-1. After Lance Johnstone's second third-down roughing-the-passer penalty, Favre found Franks again for a 1-yard TD pass that cut the lead to 21-14.

Early in the fourth, Favre completed a third-and-10 pass to Donald Driver, whose catch and spectacular run -- aided by a key block from Terry Glenn -- turned into an 84-yard TD that tied the game at 21.

Daunte Culpepper threw for two touchdowns and ran for another one, and the Vikings intercepted Favre three times. Favre had just four interceptions coming into Sunday's game.

Michael Bennett ran for 130 yards on 20 carries. His 62-yard run just before the 2-minute warning in the fourth quarter set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Moe Williams -- his 10th of the year for the Vikings (3-7). The Packers' reputation as "Team Turnover" stayed intact, as they came up with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Rookie Marques Anderson continued to gain the notice of the league as he claimed two of the three takeaways.

Despite adding three more turnovers to his league-high total of 22, Culpepper was 13-for-26 for 217 yards and lost one of his three fumbles. Randy Moss caught six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Minnesota's Greg Biekert intercepted Favre twice, but both times Culpepper gave Green Bay the ball right back. Biekert returned his second pick to the Green Bay 5, but Culpepper fumbled the snap on third-and-goal at the 1.

Gary Anderson's 32-yard field goal with 7:16 left put the Vikings up 24-21, and then their defense forced Favre into two straight three-and-outs before Bennett's run put the game away.

So the game ended much like it began, with a Vikings' score.

On the first series, Culpepper led Minnesota on a five-play, 79-yard drive that ended on a 29-yard TD pass to Moss for its first score.

Then the Vikings stopped Green for no gain on third-and-2 and forced a punt by Josh Bidwell that netted only 27 yards.

Capping a drive kept alive by a questionable third-down pass interference penalty on Tyrone Williams, Culpepper lofted an 18-yard pass to D'Wayne Bates -- who jumped over Williams' shoulder for the touchdown to put the Vikings up by two touchdowns.

More injuries piled on the Packers Sunday. The most serious injury is thought to be to offensive lineman Marco Rivera's medial collateral ligament. Fullback Najeh Davenport, still recovering from a foot/ankle injury suffered vs. Detroit, was poked in the eye and had to leave the game. Two more Packers suffered ailments before the game began. Aaron Kampman jammed his wrist during warmups and wore a cast in limited action, while Earl Dotson suffered a migraine headache before the game, but still started.

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