NOTEBOOK: What Made It Possible

If you think your Monday morning is better win a big over the Packers, imagine how much better it feels for Daunte Culpepper, who played probably his best half of football this season in the second half against the Packers. We look at the adjustments that helped the Vikings make their big comeback, a controversial use of a timeout, what players were thinking during the franchise's longest field goal, all the Packer history the Vikings had to overcome, and putting the win in perspective.

Did your coffee taste a little better this morning? Did Snap, Krackle and Pop sound a little livelier in your breakfast bowl?

Imagine how Daunte Culpepper feels.

The quarterback has taken a beating – literal and figuratively – in the last two months, but Culpepper showed a couple of key components in leading the Vikings from a 17-0 deficit and the very real prospect of a 1-5 abyss to making them the improbable 23-20 winners against their biggest division foe.

Despite trailing 17-0 at halftime, Culpepper didn't panic and didn't press himself too much, a trait that caused him to throw 12 interceptions to four touchdowns entering Sunday's contest. Instead, Culpepper stayed the course and turned in his best half of football this season – and his best quarter was the fourth.

"We didn't make any adjustments personnel-wise," Culpepper said of the second half of the Vikings' 23-20 win. "We used the same linemen. A lot of times people think protection is just about the offensive linemen, but it could be on me holding the ball for too long or receivers not breaking on a hot route when they are supposed to."

Whatever happened at halftime, when head coach Mike Tice said he addressed the team in a "stern" manner and talked negatively for the first time in two years, it worked.

Culpepper had a decent first half, completing six of eight passes for 52 yards and a 91.7 passer rating, but in the second half that efficiency turned into effectiveness and put points on the board after entering intermission trailing 17-0.

He passed for 228 yards in the second half on 17 of 23 completions, had two touchdowns and no interceptions and finished the game with a 123.1 passer rating.

Getting things kick-started with points – any points – was the goal of the Vikings offense to start the second half.

They did it by starting the half with a 59-yard, 11-play drive that was culminated by a 27-yard field goal for the Vikings' first points of the game.

"That's what it takes for a good offense to get something going, get one little spark here and there and, boom, the next thing you know you are making plays all over the field," Culpepper said.

"We talked about scoring, holding them, scoring and making it a one-score game, and then when it played out that way, guys started saying, ‘All right, let's go do this thing,'" Tice said.

Culpepper completed passes of 16 yards to Nate Burleson and 13 yards to Jermaine Wiggins for first downs on the opening drive of the second half, but offensive coordinator Steve Loney said some of the second-half success had to be attributed to finally being able to stretch the field with a vertical passing game.

"I think you saw some of the naked bootlegs when he got out and got the ball to Jermaine, and we had some plays down the field. I think that takes some of the pressure off our offense, not just having three-, four- or five-yard plays. We had some plays down the field," Loney said.

The Vikings left the field at halftime to booing from the Metrodome crowd, but when the Vikings started to mount their comeback, the crowd followed suit. Eventually, the crowd caused more problems for the Packers.

Green Bay got a taste of what hurt the Vikings in the first half, when Daunte Culpepper muffed a snap from Melvin Fowler on the first play from scrimmage following a 72-yard kickoff return from Koren Robinson. Tice said on his TV show Sunday night that he thought the officials used a kicking ball on that play, causing Fowler to mishandle the more slippery ball.

In the second half, Favre and the Packers also muffed a snap on third-and-short, but this time it was the crowd that helped the Vikings by muffling the communication between Favre and replacement center Scott Wells.

"I don't think Scott could hear me, I know he couldn't hear me," Favre said. "Several times on third-down situations when they got back into the game, we couldn't hear it. … We practice with noise and we knew it was going to be difficult and that was one of those times where we didn't handle it, and I mean we."

Culpepper's strong fourth quarter still didn't put him among the top 20 QBs in the fourth quarter this season, but his performance Sunday would have put him second to Peyton Manning's fourth-quarter performances this season.

When it counted, Culpepper completed 11 of 13 passes for 137 and a touchdown for a 136.2 rating in the final stanza, a refreshing change from the trying season he had entering Sunday's game.

ADJUSTMENTS THAT COUNT

The Vikings made two significant adjustments at halftime – one on offense and one on defense.

Offensively, Tice said they used the I-formation with two running backs more in the second half. The running game played about the same, but Culpepper appeared to have more time in the pocket in the second half. Having a player like Richard Owens or Jim Kleinsasser as the up back offering protection might have contributed to the improvement.

On defense, the Vikings shadowed Green Bay wide receiver Donald Driver with double coverage and used cornerback Fred Smoot on him exclusively, according to safety Darren Sharper. In the first half, the Vikings kept Smoot and Winfield on their normal sides of the field, and that allowed the Packers to get favorable matchups, resulting in Driver catching six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.

"They came in here and handed it to us in the first half in our stadium," Sharper said.

In the second half, the Vikings held the receiver to two catches for 13 yards. It was Driver's 54th consecutive game with a reception.

DEFENSIVE TURNAROUND

The Vikings' last-place run defense wanted to hold its opponent under 100 yards for the second straight game. Instead, the Vikings held the Packers under 50 yards rushing – 45 to be exact.

"We couldn't run the ball effectively throughout the ball game," Packers head coach Mike Sherman said. "That contributed somewhat to our flaws. We weren't able to get the ball much because of the fact they moved the ball pretty well against us."

The Vikings allowed the Packers 329 yards of passing offense, but the goal was to stop Green Bay's rushing attack, and the Vikings certainly did that, limiting the Packers to a 2.0-yard rushing average.

"We've been playing pretty solidly since the second half of the Atlanta game," middle linebacker Sam Cowart said. "We held Atlanta to just 60 yards in the second half and we held Chicago to 192 yards. For Green Bay, we knew coming in they were going to run the ball, and I think we did a pretty good job on that stage. You know, if you can stop the run and run the ball in this league, you will win a lot of ball games," Cowart said.

Four times, the Vikings defense stuffed the Packers running backs for losses. At 3.1 yards per carry, Ahman Green had the best average of the Packers, but he was knocked out of the game midway through the fourth quarter with knee, quad and ankle injuries.

MEANING OF THE WIN

Players and coaches had differing ways of putting the the come-from-behind win into perspective. Here is a sampling:

Darren Sharper: "Sometimes it takes a big win against an arch-rival like Green Bay here, and keep playing, playing with confidence. I think the last couple of games we weren't playing as a confident team. We're a talented team, but we weren't playing as a confident team."

"That's a big win for us. The gods need to appreciate it and relish it for awhile."




Nate Burleson: "It's kind of like a brand new car that died out and needs a jump start. If you get a jump start, it's back to normal. This might be the jump start that we needed."

Tice: "Athletics is about confidence and momentum, and the National Football League is a one-week league. Right now, this week, we won a game and we feel a little better about ourselves, but as I told the team before I left the locker room, if we don't go down to Carolina and play well, this win means nothing. It means absolutely nothing."

EDINGER'S BOOT

Former Bear Paul Edinger needed a boost after missing two field goal attempts and not getting off another last week in Chicago. His game-winning 56-yarder with no time left against long-time rival Green Bay did the trick.

"It has to be the top. It's good to kick winning field goals, but the way we were kind of struggling it's good to get off to the right start against Green Bay," he said. "For me, personally, I've been playing against Green Bay for six years now and to beat them with a winning kick feels great."

Offensive players were just hoping it was Edinger's time.

"I just said a prayer," Culpepper said, confirming what television coverage showed. "I knew he was going to make the kick. I'm always on the positive side. I always feel like we have what it takes to do it."

"I was sitting down," Burleson said. "I said a prayer and was holding hands with my teammates and God answered. Paul did a great job. He's a consistent player and we knew it was going to go in. For some reason, it was our day regardless of what happened in the first half. We knew it was going to turn out to be a great day."

After getting kick in Chicago blocked, Edinger said he didn't kick a low line drive despite it being the longest kick of his career and the longest in franchise history.

"I think I just proved that wrong (kicking low) on that kick because it took off real high. I mean, it was way up there and it had the distance, too," Edinger said. "I just proved to myself there that you don't have to kick the ball low to get it that far."

"He's one of the ultimate pros," Moore said of Edinger. "A guy that goes through going back home and wanting to make a statement. But he didn't get his opportunity to do that last week. But he came back here in a big game, big rival game and made a play like that at the end of the game, a game-winner, it's unbelievable and hats off to him for overcoming that."
According to ESPN, it was the first time in league history that two field goals of 50 yards or more won the games for their teams on the same day. Seattle's Josh Brown hit a 50-yarder with no time left to give the Seahawks a 13-10 win over Dallas.

The Vikings say they knew they were within range for Edinger.

"I know he can hit it from 56. He hit one from 60 yards in practice two weeks ago," Tice said. "I think last week he let the pressure of going back to Chicago get to him. He seemed a lot more relaxed this week."

THE TIMEOUT

Several people were questioning why the Vikings didn't take a timeout late in the game with the Packers driving for points.

Here was the situation: Green Bay trailed 20-17 and on third-and-2 from the 20-yard line with 1:13 to play gave the ball to running back Tony Fisher, who was stuffed by Napoleon Harris for a 1-yard loss. That set up fourth-and-3 from the 21-yard line and an obvious field goal situation.

The Vikings elected to let the clock run down at least 30 seconds before the Packers called a timeout with 28 seconds left in the game and one second left on the play clock in order to use as much time as possible.

"There were some that were screaming for us to use that timeout before the Packers' field goal try," Loney said. "If we had a hope in our two-minute segment, we had to save the timeout for us because we only had one left. We came with what we had hoped would be a try down the field, but we dumped it off underneath and got the ball up the field. We were able to get the timeout called and our only hope at that point in time, Paul Edinger, to his credit came up and told us in the huddle he could make it from 56, so we knew."

Tice defended the move as well, also saying they wanted to save their last timeout for offense.

OVERCOMING THE GOOSE EGGS


The Vikings overcame two big obstacles Sunday. They didn't get any sacks of Favre and they didn't create any turnovers.

The fact that they won despite digging a 17-0 halftime deficit and did it without getting any turnovers against Green Bay is significant.

From halftime of their loss to Carolina two weeks ago to halftime of the Vikings game, the Packers had outscored their opponents 91-12 and outgained them 774-434 with no giveaways and seven takeaways. The significance of turnovers means more to the Packers than any other team. According to Elias Sports Bureau, when the Packers have won the turnover ratio since 2000, Green Bay was 36-1 for a .973 winning percentage. With one turnover of fewer, Green Bay was 38-3 for a .927 winning percentage.

After the Vikings' come-from-behind win, you can drop the Packers' record in those categories to 36-2 and 38-4.

The Vikings also snapped the Packers' streak of winning eight games in a row when they scored the first points of the game.

STREAK BUSTERS

In their previous five games, the Packers had allowed only three points on their opponents' first possession of the second half. Minnesota had the same stat. Only Buffalo had allowed fewer points.

The Packers were going for their third straight win at the Metrodome. Had they won, it would have been the first time that had happened since 1983-85.

Packers coach Mike Sherman is now 3-3 at the Metrodome. Former Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren was 1-6.

Conversely, Brett Favre is now 4-10 in the Metrodome, but he had won three of his last five in the Dome before Sunday's loss

The Packers were coming off their bye week and had won four straight post-bye week games and eight of their last nine.

Green Bay entered the game with the league's 10th-rated defense, giving up 295.6 yards per game. It yielded 363 to the Vikings.

Ryan Longwell entered Sunday's game having connected on 50 of his last 51 field goals of less than 40 yards. While that streak stays intact, he missed a 53-yarder wide right and a 42-yarder wide left.

DEACTIVATIONS

Deactivated for the Vikings were QB Shaun Hill, CBs Laroni Gallishaw and Dovonte Edwards, LB Dontarrious Thomas, OL Anthony Herrera and Toniu Fonoti, TE Jeff Dugan and DL Spencer Johnson.

The Packers' deactives were QB Craig Nall, S Earl Little, C Mike Flanagan, LB Na'il Diggs, C Chris White and DL Donnell Washington and Michael Montgomery.

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