Each week during the 2015 season, Viking Update examines a past game against the Vikings' upcoming opponent. Some of the choices are obvious; others are not. However, all the games chosen stand the test of time.
Minnesota at Green Bay
January 9, 2005
On paper, the Minnesota Vikings didn't deserve a spot in the 2004 postseason. For the second consecutive season, Mike Tice's team won just three of its final 10 games. In the weak NFC, Minnesota's 8-8 record was sufficient for a wild card berth, although no previous playoff entry in NFL history had lost seven of its final 10 games.
The Vikings’ unlikely opponent in the first round would be arch rival Green Bay. The NFC North Division champs pinned two 34-31 defeats on Minnesota during the regular season and entered the postseason with nine wins in its previous 11 games.
To pull off the upset, Minnesota would need a big day from Daunte Culpepper. The quarterback enjoyed an MVP-caliber season by passing for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns. The Vikings defense also would need to generate turnovers, something the unit failed at it 2004. Minnesota intercepted just 11 passes.
Vegas installed the Packers as 6-point favorites over the Vikings in the first playoff meeting between the bitter foes.
A chilly 26 degrees and 71,075 Cheeseheads greeted the Vikings at Lambeau Field for the late Sunday afternoon playoff tilt. Considering the Vikings had lost 20 of their previous 22 outdoor games, a quick start was essential for the Purple. The Vikings got their wish answered on the third play of the game. From his own 32, Daunte Culpepper tossed a short pass over the head of linebacker Nick Barnett into the arms of Moe Williams. The veteran running back avoided safety Darren Sharper, followed a tremendous downfield block by wideout Marcus Robinson and dove into the end zone to complete the 68-yard play. Minnesota led 7-0 before many fans had found their seats. Less than four minutes later, the Vikings doubled their lead. Culpepper directed a five-play, 55-yard drive that culminated with a 20-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Randy Moss.
The Minnesota defense maintained the Purple momentum on Green Bay's ensuing drive. After the Packers finally recorded a first down, Antoine Winfield intercepted Brett Favre's pass intended for Donald Driver at midfield. The Vikings drove to the Packers 17 before Morten Andersen booted a 35-yard field goal to give Minnesota a 17-0 cushion with 6:06 to play in the first quarter.
The sellout crowd at Lambeau sat in stunned silence. Favre and the Packers offense desperately needed a drive to stem the Purple wave. The future Hall of Famer delivered on his team's next two possessions. Favre marched Green Bay from its own 38 to the Vikings 25 for a Ryan Longwell 43-yard field goal toward the end of the first quarter. Early in the second stanza, Favre drove the Packers 57 yards in 10 plays. His 4-yard touchdown pass to Bubba Franks cut the Minnesota lead to 17-10.
The Vikings responded with a crisp drive from their own 35 to the Packers 9. From there, Andersen attempted a 27-yard field goal that Hannibal Navies blocked. The Green Bay fans went nuts. Their beloved Packers had scored on two consecutive possessions and thwarted an easy field goal try. Surely, Favre would produce a touchdown to tie the game, and the Packers would roll to victory. One play later, the Vikings replaced that assumption with doubt. From his own 12, Favre fired a pass in the direction of Javon Walker that safety Brian Russell picked off at the Green Bay 42 and returned 14 yards. Culpepper followed Michael Bennett's 9-yard run with a 19-yard TD pass to Nate Burleson for a 24-10 Minnesota lead. Momentum was once again colored purple.
The Packers spent the remaining six minutes of the half clawing their way downfield. In 12 plays, Favre moved Green Bay from its own 10 to the Minnesota 8, where the Packers faced a third-and-6. Favre scrambled and could have easily slid at the 2 for a first down. But inexplicably the gunslinger flipped a pass to Walker in the end zone after he had crossed the line of scrimmage. The illegal forward passed forced the Packers to settle for a 28-yard Longwell field goal try to end the half. The veteran kicker misfired on the chip shot, and the Vikings headed to the locker room with their 24-10 lead intact.
The teams traded miscues at the start of the second half. Favre threw his third interception of the game, and Burleson muffed a punt for the Vikings. The Green Bay QB followed the Burleson turnover by throwing his fourth interception, courtesy of Brian Williams. Just like Ralph Brown's interception earlier in the quarter, Minnesota couldn't take advantage and had to punt. The Packers put together a very impressive nine-play, 78-yard drive, capped by Najeh Davenport's 1-yard plunge. With 13:39 remaining in the game, Minnesota's lead was cut to 24-17.
In such moments during the second half of the season, the Vikings offense appeared to play not to lose rather than in a confident, play-to-win manner. This day, though, would be different. The offense didn't shrink from its responsibility. It seized the opportunity. Culpepper pushed the Vikings from their 34 to the Green Bay 34, where he spotted Moss lined up in single coverage against Al Harris. Despite a gimpy ankle, Moss sold Harris on a slant and ran a go-route on the right side. Culpepper's pass was perfect, and the Vikings once again had a two-score lead, 31-17. Moss then enraged the Green Bay fans and FOX Sports play-by-play announcer Joe Buck by pretending to drop his pants and moon the crowd. Following a short Packers drive, the Minnesota offense secured the upset by consuming 7:58 of the game's final 8:21. The Vikings reeled off 15 plays in taking the ball from their own 18 to the Packers 10. As the final seconds ticked off, the Minnesota sideline celebrated the unlikely 31-17 victory, becoming only the second 8-8 team to win a playoff game. The Vikings proved they did, in fact, belong in the postseason.
Vikings safety Brian Russell intercepted a Brett Favre pass moments after the Packers had cut Minnesota's lead to 17-10 and had blocked a field goal. Russell's pick led to a 19-yard TD pass from Daunte Culpepper to Nate Burleson and a 24-10 Purple advantage.
Vikings Player of the Game
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper completed 19 of 29 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns. Culpepper added 47 yard rushing.
Purple Honorable Mention
Wideout Randy Moss caught four passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns, including a 34-yard TD that iced the game.
(via ESPN.com and The Associated Press)
Daunte Culpepper (Vikings QB)
"Pretty much everybody said we couldn't do it and we just pulled together. We never bought into the negativity."
Randy Moss (Vikings WR) on pretending to moon the crowd
"Just having a little fun with the boys a little bit. I hope I don't get in trouble by it, but if I do, I'll take the heat."
Nate Burleson (Vikings WR)
"I expect a big game from Randy every single time we go out. It's hard for him, because everybody gives him a lot of flak about certain things that he does, but really when it comes down to it that's a guy that I know I would rather have than any other receiver in this league.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the playoff magic vanished when they traveled to Philadelphia to play the Eagles the following Sunday in the divisional round. Plagued by several miscues, the Vikings fell 27-14 in a game not as close as the score may indicate.
The Green Bay playoff victory proved to be the last true Vikings highlight for Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss and head coach Mike Tice. In the offseason, Minnesota traded Moss to Oakland. In the seventh game of a tumultuous 2005 campaign marred by the "Love Boat," Culpepper suffered a catastrophic knee injury against Carolina and would never again suit up for the Vikings. Despite a strong finish to the year, Tice was fired moments after the regular-season finale by new owner Zygi Wilf.