A 40-year-old Brett Favre completed his revenge, and he can thank a magnificent rookie for getting it.
Percy Harvin had kickoff returns of 77 and 48 yards and scored on a 51-yard touchdown heave from Favre that sent the Packers' secondary tumbling like bowling balls as the Minnesota Vikings seized control of the division race with a 38-26 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday evening.
The first of Harvin's long returns set up a fourth-and-goal touchdown that gave Minnesota a 7-3 lead. His touchdown catch, in which Charles Woodson wiped out safeties Atari Bigby and Nick Collins, ran the tally to 24-3 early in the third quarter. His second long kickoff return threw a bucket of water on a Packers comeback and set up another touchdown that bumped the Vikings' margin to 31-20 early in the fourth quarter.
Aaron Rodgers started horribly but the offense caught fire in the second half. Trailing 31-26 after his third touchdown pass of the game, he got the ball at his 19-yard line and 8:13 on the clock, with a chance to spoil his predecessor's homecoming wishes. Rodgers drove the Packers to the Vikings' 28, but on second-and-3, T.J. Lang blocked inside and Jared Allen got an uncontested sack. Rodgers threw incomplete deep to Donald Driver into double coverage on third down, and Mason Crosby missed a 51-yard field goal with 5:38 remaining.
The Vikings got the kill moments later. Favre's screen to Adrian Peterson went for 44 uncontested yards to the Packers' 15. On third-and-11 – when holding Minnesota to a field goal would have kept it an eight-point game – Favre fired to Bernard Berrian. Nick Collins went for the interception but didn't get there in time, and Berrian scored a 16-yard touchdown to make it 38-26 with 3:48 to go.
With the outcome decided, the crowd booed. Their displeasure was mostly directed at Favre, but there was plenty of frustration from a horrific opening 32 minutes that put the Packers into a deep, dark hole.
The Vikings held a whopping 157-47 edge in yards and flattened Rodgers four times en route to a 17-3 lead at halftime. It was a repeat performance of the game at the Metrodome last month, with Rodgers feeling constant pressure and Favre either making quick decisions or having ample time to find his explosive weapons. Favre's touchdown to Harvin in the first 2 minutes of the second half made it 24-3.
The loss puts the Packers almost out of contention in the NFC North race. The Vikings are 7-1 heading to their bye. The Packers are 4-3, putting them two games behind in the loss column and behind the 8-ball in head-to-head and division tiebreakers.
The Packers had rallied to within 24-20 on Aaron Rodgers' second touchdown pass to Spencer Havner, and a regular-season-record crowd of 71,213 had Lambeau Field rocking. The plan on the ensuing kickoff was to keep the ball out of Percy Harvin's hands, but Mason Crosby's plant foot slipped as he kicked the ball. Rather than a squib, his kickoff floated to Harvin at the 14. The coverage unit didn't have time to cover the kick, Harvin burst through a huge seam to his right and he returned it 48 yards to the Packers' 38. Moments later, Favre hit tight end Jeremy Dugan on third-and-goal for a 2-yard touchdown.
Percy Harvin must have felt like he was playing against one of those nonconference scrubs served up on the University of Florida's schedule. The Vikings' first-round pick returned five kickoffs for 175 yards and had five receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown.
14: The Packers allowed 14 sacks in the two losses to the Vikings, including six on Sunday. In 2004, Favre was sacked 12 times in the entire season. Jared Allen had three of them in this game, giving up 7.5 for the season series.
Brett Favre: "I had mixed emotions coming in because I know how special these fans are. It is always nicer to be here as a home team. It was loud, and that is what makes Green Bay such a special place. I want to lead this Vikings team to the Super Bowl, but I also know that Packer fans who make this organization so special and unique will never change. How could you not miss that?"
The other things you need to know
-- Linebacker Brandon Chillar broke a hand and did not return, nor did safety Derrick Martin (head). Returning were safety Nick Collins (ankle), receiver Donald Driver (shoulder) and receiver Greg Jennings (wind).
-- Coach Mike McCarthy said veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher were available but he elected to stick with young tackles Allen Barbre and T.J. Lang.
-- Ahman Green returned seven kickoffs for a 20.1-yard average. He hadn't returned a kickoff since doing it 63 times for Seattle in 1998 and 1999.
-- Aaron Rodgers posted his fifth consecutive game with a passer rating topping 100. He completed 26-of-41 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns. He had only 38 passing yards in the first half.
-- With two carries, Green broke Jim Taylor's franchise record with 1,812 attempts.
-- With Jermichael Finley inactive with a knee sprain, Spencer Havner scored the second and third touchdowns of his career.
-- The Vikings swept the season series for the first time since 2005 and pulled within 49-48-1 all-time.
-- Favre had his first four-touchdown game since throwing for six against the Cardinals on Sept. 28, 2008. In two games against Green Bay this season, he threw seven touchdowns, no interceptions and wasn't sacked.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.