Penalties and turnovers marred the start of the Vikings' game against division-leading Green Bay, but by the time Minnesota's offense eliminated them the defense had kept the Packers scoreless. A total team effort finally came together, as the Vikings were able to hold down a good Packers offense on defense, and on offense were able to rush the ball, pass the ball and avoid too many costly turnovers.
When it was finished, a host of Vikings had big plays and the team came away with a 35-13 NFC Central Division win against the former division leader. The defense held Brett Favre to under 100 yards passing when the game still mattered, Doug Chapman rushed for 90 yards and the Vikings were able to mix the run and pass effectively.
"Things went our way today," Vikings head coach Dennis Green said, summarizing the win succinctly.
The win puts the Vikings in the thick of the division race with a 3-3 record and holding wins over Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Detroit. Meanwhile, the Packers dropped to 4-2 and Chicago heads the division at 4-1.
Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper ran an efficient offense, completing 18 of 27 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown and avoiding a costly interception. He also ran eight times for 72 yards.
The Vikings' momentum didn't start early, but Green said it was the best job the team had done all season of overcoming early mistakes.
After being pinned deep and failing to pick up a first down, the first big play came when the Vikings defense stopped Favre and the Packers after they took over at midfield. A 12-yard pass to Antonio Freeman picked up one first down, but when the Packers went for a 51-yard field goal, Ryan Longwell couldn't deliver and left it wide right.
The Vikings slowly gained the advantage in the battle of field position in the first quarter, but one bad decision changed that quickly. When the defense stopped the Packers inside their own 20-yard line, Troy Walters didn't call for a fair catch on the ensuing punt and was nailed by Chris Akins as the ball arrived. Walters fumbled and the Packers recovered, setting up the offense on the 16-yard line.
But Minnesota's defense continued to perform at a high level, stopping Ahman Green for minus-10 yards on two carries, the second one coming on fourth-and-1 and holding the Packers scoreless for the second time from well inside Vikings territory. Even though the Vikings put together their first sustained drive of the game behind the running of Doug Chapman, it ended quickly when Culpepper reversed field, ran into Everett Lindsay and fumbled. This time Packer Nate Wayne recovered and Green Bay was sitting with the ball at its own 46.
Once again, Minnesota's defense played it well, allowing one first down before forcing a fourth-and-1 situation. This time, however, the Packers sent in the field goal unit. But the result was seen before. Ryan Longwell missed his 42-yard attempt wide left.
Instead of wasting another opportunity, the Vikings finally capitalized. A steady dose of Chapman finding and exploiting the right holes put the Vikings across midfield on three runs and a pass reception. But on the first attempt long downfield Culpepper found Carter streaking down the left sideline and lofted it for the end zone. With starting safety LeRoy Butler in the locker room checking out a chest contusion, replacement Chris Akins was late in helping and the Vikings had a 7-0 lead on a 43-yard strike with 8:18 left in the first half.
The lead quickly increased.
On the Packers' second play from scrimmage following Carter's touchdown, Favre isolated his view on his receiver and didn't see linebacker Kailee Wong in zone coverage and threw it right to him. Wong took it in stride at the 27-yard line and ran in for the first touchdown via interception by a Vikings linebacker since 1992. In less than 30 seconds, the Vikings went from a scoreless game to a 14-0 lead.
Minnesota would add to the lead when Favre followed with two incompletions and a muffed snap from the shotgun that lost 18 yards, forcing a punt and putting the Vikings offense in business at the Green Bay 46. Three runs by Chapman, a 10-yard pass to Moss and a 3-yard run by Culpepper set up Gary Anderson for a 42-yard field goal and he delivered. With 3:29 left in the first half, the Vikings had a 17-0 lead.
They would add to it when the Vikings defense stopped Favre and Company again and Culpepper drove the Vikings 62 yards in one minute, 30 seconds. The result was a 36-yard field goal by Anderson with four seconds left in the half and a 20-0 lead the Vikings would take to the halftime locker room.
However, the Packers answered on the first drive of the second half, with Green doing the damage. The defense that had held Green Bay to 4 yards rushing in the first half gave up the big one on the first drive of the second half. After picking up 7 yards on his first carry of the half, Green broke through tackle attempts before finding open field ahead. The result was a 61-yard run to the 5-yard line that was backed up 15 yards because of a stiff-arm facemask on Kenny Wright's tackle. It wouldn't matter. Six plays later, Favre sold the run fake and found tight end Bubba Franks wide open for a 2-yard touchdown with 10:20 left in the third quarter.
Revenge would come not on the next possession for the Vikings, but the one following. Starting from the 37-yard line, Culpepper picked up first downs with passes of 10 yards to Chamberlain and 15 yards to Moss before the quarterback sneaked for a first down to the 22-yard line. He would do it again on the next third down, taking a short drop and taking off running 14 yards for the end zone. After the two-point conversion pass to Jake Reed, the Vikings had a 28-7 lead with 14:07 left in the game.
After forcing a Packers punt, the offense did exactly what it need to. Taking over with 12:21 left in the game, Chapman milked the clock with intermediate runs and Culpepper picked up first downs through the air, as the Vikings kept the clock and the ball moving. By the time it was done, the Vikings drove the ball 73 yards for a touchdown and used nine minutes and 34 seconds of the game to do it. Jim Kleinsasser did the scoring damage with a 2-yard run, the first touchdown of his career, with 2:47 left to play to give Minnesota a 35-7 lead.
The Packers answered with a drive covering 69 yards against a softer defense, capped by a 3-yard pass to Charles Lee with 45 seconds left, but before that drive the Vikings had held Favre to 96 yards in the air. The damage was clearly done, and the Vikings walked away with an all-important 35-13 win and back in contention in the divisional race, with a 3-3 record and 3-1 in the NFC Central.
Total Team Win, 35-13
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