In old-time NFL jargon, some defensive struggles are affectionately called slobber-knockers. With the game-time temperatures in Green Bay in the mid-20s, there was plenty of slobber to knock off the upper lip, and, with the Vikings showing an unmatched determination to run the ball, the opportunities for grunting and a man-on-man attitude were plentiful.
The Vikings came into the game on a two-game losing streak and not having won a game on the road in their eight tries. And with less than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, they had a three-point lead. But it was then, when the Vikings took a late lead, that the Packers came to life offensively for the first time in the game.
Despite a 24-13 loss, the Vikings had their most persistent and effective running game of the season, with Michael Bennett rushing for 104 yards on a season-high 25 carries and the Vikings going for 199 yards against the Packers defense. But in the end, it was the Vikings' third-string quarter, Spergon Wynn, who couldn't find the receivers often enough, completing 11 of 30 passes for 114 yards, three interceptions and a woeful 20.0 passer rating.
The cold, with game-time temperatures in the mid-20s and wind chills near zero, had something to do with that, but Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre overcame it, mostly in the fourth quarter, to go 18-for-29 for 169 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions and a 78.1 rating.
The Vikings outgained Green Bay with 302 total net yards to the Packers' 213, further testament to a Purple defense intent on stuffing the run.
The weather, numerous lineup changes and an inexperienced quarterback led to the Vikings not scoring early and not scoring often, but it also helped the defense keep the Packers from moving the ball much either.
Minnesota, with the offensive line shuffled to put Brad Badger, Calvin Collins, Matt Birk, Everett Lindsay and Chris Liwienski starting from left to right, ran the ball in extremely effective grind-it-out fashion, especially on its opening drive. The game opened with 12 straight runs for the Vikings, with Travis Prentice, Jim Kleinsasser and Doug Chapman all getting their hands on the ball but with Michael Bennett carrying the load six times for 33 yards. But when third-string quarterback Spergon Wynn finally threw his first pass on third-and-11, it fell incomplete and Gary Anderson was called upon to put the first points on the board. However, Anderson's kick stayed out to the right of the uprights and Green Bay took over on its own 29-yard line.
From there, the rest of the first of first quarter and much of the second was a defensive struggle, with the Vikings playing good run defense with linebackers Jim Nelson and Andre O'Neal starting in place of Ed McDaniel and Lemanski Hall. Minnesota and Green Bay traded seven consecutive possessions in the search for field position and any advantage.
On their second possession of the second quarter, the Vikings finally gained enough ground again to get into field goal position. From his own 31-yard line, Michael Bennett started the drive with a 23-yard run that had 15 yards added to it when Tyrone Williams was called for a face-mask penalty. That put the ball on the Packers 31-yard line, and a 4-yard lateral pass to Cris Carter was enough to bring on Anderson for his second attempt. This time, from 44 yards out, he was true, giving the Vikings a 3-0 lead with 8:16 left in the first half.
However, Green Bay would answer, but only after consecutive questionable calls that kept the drive alive. First, facing third-and-4 from the 37-yard line, cornerback Eric Kelly was called for defensive holding when he got tangled with a receiver on a play when Brett Favre was being sacked and fumbled. That gave the Packers a new set of downs. On the next play, after Favre hit William Henderson and Henderson fumbled and Nelson recovered, Hall was called for offsides even though a replay showed no one offsides. All the Packers did was take advantage of the two new lives.
Now near midfield, Corey Bradford caught a 9-yard pass to move into Vikings territory for a first down. After Chris Hovan was offsides, a short outlet to Dorsey Levens for 8 yards picked up another first down to the 31-yard line. Then the Packers struck paydirt by taking advantage of the Vikings' aggressive rush. Favre handed off to Green, who reversed the ball to the wide receiver Donald Driver. After the defensive line lost contain on its right side, all Driver needed with a block by Favre on Orlando Thomas to find open field to the end zone and a 7-3 Green Bay lead with 3:18 left in the half.
That's how the half would end despite a Wynn interception by Darren Sharper. Sharper would return the turnover on the same play, however, when he fumbled the ball back to the Vikings. Wynn ended the half completing only one of 10 passes for 3 yards.
The Vikings had the same determination to run the ball to start the second half as they did in the first, probably mostly because of Wynn's inability to hook up with his receivers in cold weather. But it would take two series in the second half to get points again.
Minnesota's defense continued to hold the Packers out of scoring position, and eventually set up the offense with incredible field position, as the Packers started their second possession on their 4-yard line, failed to move the chains and punted to only the 32-yard line.
After a 1-yard run by Bennett and a 7-yard pass to Reed, the Vikings had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Anderson to pull within one point at 7-6 with 5:07 left in the third quarter.
The defense, playing their best game of the season with little threat of the deep pass in cold weather, held the Packers again, but they would be called into duty and dire circumstances shortly — when Wynn threw his second interception of the game. This time it was Bernardo Harris who picked the ball and returned it to the 26-yard line.
The Packers picked up one first down on a 17-yard pass — the longest of the game to that point — to Antonio Freeman, but the defense held again, forcing Ryan Longwell onto the field for a 24-yard field goal and a 10-7 Packers lead with 11:57 left to play.
With few other options (Daunte Culpepper out, Todd Bouman still hurting and Romaro Miller having never taken an NFL snap), the Vikings stayed with Wynn despite having only one more completion (3) than interceptions (2) and an unbelievable 0.0 rating. Still, Wynn finally came through when Green Bay continued to stack the line of scrimmage. He completed an 11-yard pass to Carter for a first down across midfield, then hit Byron Chamberlain for 47 yards down the middle of the field and a touchdown when Sharper missed teeing off on the tight end. With 10:03 to play, the Vikings regained the lead and threatened all the hoopla about the Packers being 29-0 at Lambeau Field with the game-time temperature being below 34 degrees.
But Favre showed why the Packers are revered in those conditions. Starting from his 21-yard line, Green Bay put the game-deciding drive in Favre's right hand — and he delivered in a big way. He started with a 12-yard pass to Bill Schroeder, then went 7 yards to Freeman and 13 more to Schroeder. He then found Freeman for 20 yards, Green ran for 3 yards and Bubba Franks hauled down a pass in the middle of the field for 20 yards. Green capped the seven-play, 79-yard drive, which never saw a third down, with a 4-yard touchdown run to reclaim a 17-13 lead with 6:28 left in the game.
After one good series, Wynn showed his inexperience with another pass in which he stared down his receiver and threw into coverage. The result, on the third play of the drive, was a 38-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 24-13 Packers lead with 5:25 to play.
Wynn's ineffectiveness showed again on the final Vikings drive. He was able to drive the Vikings into the red zone with short passes, 4 yards to Andrew Jordan, 7 to Bennett, 4 to Chamberlain, 7 to Moss, 3 to Bennett and 15 to Chamberlain. Moss finished the positive-yardage gains with an 11-yard reverse to the 3-yard line, but when the Vikings needed some decisive throws into the end zone, three Wynn passes bounced incomplete, ending the Vikings' chances with 1:20 left in the game.
The defense played strong in the cold, the running game was as effective as any game this season, but the Vikings quite simply needed a quarterback to pose any real threat of a passing game and didn't find that with Wynn.
The loss dropped the Vikings to 5-10 on the year with only one game left, a Monday night game in Baltimore for the last regular-season game on the NFL's schedule against the defending Super Bowl champions. They will have find to a much better quarterback performance there, no matter who is playing the position, in order to have a shot against one of the NFL's best defenses in what could be another slobber-knocker outdoors at night.
No Win For Wynn
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