The talk of Green Bay entering the season opener was the renovation of Lambeau Field, but the talk after the game was the renovation of the Minnesota Vikings. Just like Lambeau Field, the heart of the Vikings still remains. The stars of Green Bay's past made their way onto the field for a ceremony at halftime, but during the game it was the stars of Minnesota's present — Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss — making the plays to remember.
Culpepper continued his preseason status of managing a smart game by not forcing passes and running when needed. He fumbled twice while scrambling, but his ability to scramble also saved drives on numerous occasions. Moss simply burned Green Bay like he often does, catching nine passes for 150 yards and a touchdown
With an improved defense that didn't break until put against the hurry-up offense and mistake-free special teams, it was an overall good 30-25 win in the Packers' new house with room for improvement down the stretch. The first win in Lambeau goes to the Minnesota Vikings. The first catch goes to Moss. The first touchdown goes to John Avery. The first of four Vikings interceptions goes to Corey Chavous. And the first real signs of hope for a playoff team in Minnesota in two years have emerged with all the other firsts.
The Vikings opened the game by making the Packers think. They faked a reverse to Moss on the kickoff return, then returned to the reverse on the second play of the opening drive with a handoff to Kelly Campbell and a 17-yard pickup. After a second-down sack of Culpepper by Hannibal Navies, Culpepper avoided a free runner on third down with a spin move to his left and found enough room down the sideline to turn third-and-12 into a first down with a 17-yard scramble. An 8-yard pass to Campbell turned into another first down with a 9-yard run from Williams. Facing third-and-8 from the 11-yard line, Culpepper found John Avery in the middle of the defense, and after a catch-and-run the Vikings found themselves with a 7-0 lead with 9:28 left in the first quarter.
Besides the excitement of the opening game against a division rival at a renovated stadium, the early action also featured challenged calls. It started with Brett Favre's second pass of the game, which was ruled an interception by Brian Russell and correctly overturned on the challenge. After Favre's third pass fell incomplete, the punt produced another challenge when Eric Kelly reached for the bouncing ball after it had been illegally touched by a Packer. When Green Bay recovered, Tice challenged and won.
The Vikings had their first three-and-out possession, but on the third play of Green Bay's next drive, Favre went for Javon Walker with Denard Walker covering. The deflection went high and Corey Chavous pulled down the interception to set the Vikings up on the Packers 48-yard line. A rush by Williams produced 13 yards on second down, and a 15-yard pass to Moss on the next second down put the Vikings in the red zone. Once inside the 10-yard line, the drive stalled and Aaron Elling made the Vikings' lead 10-0 with a 22-yard field goal.
Green Bay's next drive ended with another turnover when Greg Biekert popped the ball loose from Ahman Green and Chris Claiborne recovered.
With an impressive opening quarter in the books, the second quarter didn't start out as kind to Minnesota. On the first play, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila beat Bryant McKinnie and blindsided Culpepper for a 7-yard sack. When KGB lined up across from Mike Rosenthal on the next play and Culpepper tried to scramble up the middle, a defensive lineman got a hand on the ball and stripped it from the QB and KGB fell on it.
Green Bay took advantage, using a 29-yard pass interference call on Denard Walker as the big gain. After getting one first down by their own effort, the Packers were forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal with 11:02 left in the half.
The Vikings answered with a touchdown drive of 67 yards, as the stars continued to do it on offense. Moss picked up the initial first down with a 23-yard pass across the middle. Another reception by Moss, an 11-yarder, moved the chains again, but his best catch of the half came when Culpepper threaded the needle between two defenders, and Moss reached out for the reception despite seeing the hit coming. That put the ball on the 7-yard line, and after a 5-yard draw by Culpepper, he found D'Wayne Bates in the back of the end zone as two defenders followed Moss. The Vikings were off to a 17-3 lead with 5:34 left in the half.
But it wouldn't be that easy. Favre looked to hit his throwing stride, picking up first downs with passes of 8 yards to Green and 8 yards to Ferguson, sandwiching a 16-yard run by Green. However, facing third-and-1 at the Minnesota 37-yard line, the Packers faked the handoff and Favre went deep for David Martin, who tripped. Brian Russell took advantage with an interception that would require no challenge.
The Vikings got conservative with three running plays to force three Green Bay timeouts, but after the punt Favre had the ball on the Vikings 48-yard line with 1:21 to play in the half. He had plenty of time with a 23-yard completion to Javon Walker, a 2-yard pass to Martin and a 13-yard pass to Green to the 10-yard line before getting out of bounds to stop the clock with 35 seconds left. But on the next play, Favre felt pressure and lofted a pass Donald Driver. While Driver cut outside, Favre threw inside and Brian Williams had an interception that he returned all the way to the Green Bay 28-yard line. With four seconds left, Elling sneaked a 46-yard field goal inside the right upright, and the Vikings were on their way to halftime with a 20-3 lead at Lambeau.
While the defensive backs were the recipients of some good fortune in the first half, the defensive line and blitzing linebackers created the first stop of the second half, with Chris Claiborne shutting down the Packers' first attempt with a third-down sack of Favre.
Like the defense, the Minnesota offense continued to roll — with Moss leading the way. He started the forward progress with a 27-yard catch. After an unnecessary roughness call on Marques Anderson gave the Vikings a first down, Moss was called for offensive pass interference two plays later on a touchdown reception. So, two snaps later, Moss, who was working against Mike McKenzie again, caught a 13-yard touchdown pass for a 27-3 lead with 8:47 left in the third quarter.
With a 24-point lead, the Vikings defense didn't go to a prevent defense, but they did make sure to keep the action in front of them. That allowed Green Bay to get down the field, but it used most of the rest of the third quarter in order to do it. The Packers used 14 plays with a heavy dose of wide receiver Robert Ferguson and tight end Bubba Franks. The Packers had three plays of 10 or more yards with five of fewer than 5 yards. Green capped the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, and Favre found Franks in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion. It was what the Packers needed to pull within 16 points — 27-11.
Moss continued to carry the offense, picking up a first down with a 23-yard reception, and an 18-yard scramble from Culpepper moved the chains to the 23-yard line. Three short gains brought on Elling for a 34-yard field goal and a 30-11 lead with 10:07 left in the game.
The spirits of Lambeau woke up, as did Favre. He found Donald Driver for 21 yard and later Walker for 15 yards on a third down. Robert Ferguson put the ball at the 1-yard line after a 19-yard reception, and Green finished the job with a 1-yard run. That quickly, the Packers were trailing 30-18, with 6:27 to play. But the drive also proved costly to the receiving corps, as both Driver and Ferguson were lost for the rest of the game, with Driver being immobilized and carted off the field.
The Packers recovered the onside kick, and Favre was setting up shop at midfield. He found Walker for 17 yards to open the drive, but Chavous got his second interception of the game when picked off a 48-yard prayer pass into the end zone.
The Vikings looked to manage the clock with a strong running game, which they did until Culpepper fumbled on a rollout on the seventh play of the drive. Three plays later, Favre found Walker in the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown with 1:55 remaining.
However, the onslaught of fourth-quarter points from the green and gold ended when the Packers' last prayer, another onside kick, sailed out of bounds, preserving a 30-25 win for the Vikings in the new Lambeau.
Of course, it wasn't as easy as it should have been, but the Vikings winning in Lambeau — no matter the fashion — is their prayer answered.
Lambeau Gets Mossy
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