Last Monday, Winfield spoke publicly about how he felt defenses were loading up in front to stop the Vikings' persistent running game and eschewing responsibilities in the back end of the defense in order to limit running back Chester Taylor.
In some ways, Brad Johnson throwing downfield worked. In the first half alone, he connected on passes of 40 and 35 yards to Bethel Johnson and 40 yards to Billy McMullen. McMullen was more involved with the offense Sunday than he had been all season, getting three receptions for one touchdown and recovering a fumble in the end zone for another touchdown, but McMullen said he was just Brad Johnson's target more often rather than seeing the field more.
"Every time Billy's been in it this year, every time he makes a play. Seems like when you go look at drive charts, every time he makes a play, we end up doing something positive," Brad Johnson said. "So it's great for him to come in there today and make the touchdown and then pick up the fumble for a second touchdown. It's good to see that. He's worked hard in practice, he deserved it."
But the long ball also bit the Vikings midway through the fourth quarter when cornerback Patrick Dendry intercepted a Johnson bomb in stride. On that play, it appeared Bethel Johnson and Brad Johnson had a communication breakdown, as Bethel's hitch in the route put him nowhere near where the ball was thrown down the right sideline.
Wide receiver Troy Williamson, who dropped two critical passes last week in a loss at San Francisco, didn't catch a pass all game despite Brad Johnson saying he wouldn't waver from throwing Williamson's way.
Williamson was the target on one pass that was thrown behind the receiver.
Brad Johnson finished the game with 257 yards against the league's last-ranked pass defense.
PASSED ON DEFENSE
While the Vikings long passes seemed to come along the sidelines, Brett Favre and the Packers found continued first-half success in the middle of the field, although head coach Brad Childress seemed put off by that line of questioning.
"You'd have to define the middle of the field," Childress said. "I think horizontally, there's a lane in there if you're able to have time to be able to hit that lane. It's not there at all times. Sometimes there's a robber or a thief hanging down in there. But you have to give Brett credit. That's why he's a Hall of Fame guy; he's able to buy time. He's a great anticipatory thrower."
The Vikings' robbers or thieves weren't dressed the part as they failed to get an interception, but Childress is right about Favre having time to let his receivers become uncovered. The Vikings had no sacks in the game, and more often than not Favre had all the time he needed find a target.
But it was a quick release that really broke the Vikings' spirit at the end of the first half, when Favre hit leading receiver Donald Driver on a quick slant in a defensive seam before Driver turned it upfield between the safeties and ran 82 yards for a touchdown with less than two minutes to play in the first half.
Driver, who finished with six catches for 191 yards, said he simply exploited the Vikings' cover-2 defense on that play.
"A cover-2 zone, the middle of the field was wide open. Winfield was looking at Brett, and Brett kind of pumped the other way and came back to me late. I knew Winfield was outside of me and I caught the ball and it was all she wrote," Driver said.
Favre said the Packers learned early that running against the Vikings would be difficult, so they relented to a very successful passing game.
"They have a very solid defense. I am not going to say that we are going to run the ball against them anymore. I don't know if anybody is going to say that," Favre said. "94 (Pat Williams) is a one-man wrecking crew and a heck of a player. I can go up and down the line. Everything we got today we had to work for."
All 347 yards of passing.
CHANGES NOT LIKELY
Brad Johnson fumbled once when blindsided by a sack and threw a fourth-quarter interception, and the Packers turned those two turnovers into 10 points. But Childress indicated that a change at quarterback isn't likely.
"If I felt like those were wanton disregard for the football, that's one thing, but I don't feel that way," Childress said of Johnson's turnovers.
When asked if a more mobile quarterback might help mask protection problems and limit the aggressiveness of the pass rush, Childress continued to stick with Johnson.
"I just think offensively we need to play better around Brad Johnson," he said. "Again, I'm not going to stick that on him. Are there plays that maybe he would have liked (back)? Sure there are, but I think basically those other 10 need to play around him better."
Johnson was sacked four times and the Packers were credited with five more quarterback hurries.
GRIFFIN FILLS IN
Cornerback Cedric Griffin started in place of Fred Smoot, who was inactive after missing all of last week's practices to attend the funeral of his brother, who was killed in a car accident early last Sunday morning.
Griffin started off strong, knocking down Favre's first third-down attempt of the game and giving strong support in stopping the run. Griffin ended the game with seven tackles and two passes defensed.
Childress wasn't too effusive in his praise of Griffin.
"I think he's moved along since he's gotten here, with his 20 special teams plays, 50 plays on defense, and I thought he had some good hits. I think he's making good progress," Childress said.
With the Vikings trailing 10-0 late in the first quarter, head coach Brad Childress took an uncharacteristic gamble. No, he didn't he open up the passing game just yet. Instead, when a Brad Johnson-to-Bethel Johnson third-down completion came up 1 yard short of the first-down marker, Childress elected to run the offense on fourth-and-1 from their own 37-yard line.
Needing a yard, Taylor gave the Vikings 2 with a plunge over right guard. The gamble paid off. After two more Taylor runs, Johnson hit Travis Taylor for a 13-yard slant that he was nearly able to break free if not for a tackle from behind from safety Nick Collins.
No matter. On the next play, Johnson found Billy McMullen wide open down the left sideline for a 40-yard touchdown – all possible because of an extremely risky gamble on fourth down in their own territory.
"I just think you have to be aggressive at times," Childress said. "We didn't have much to start. We needed a first down there; we needed to keep the defense off the field, and we needed to exert our will on them."
READY IF NEEDED
With so many of the recent Vikings-Packers games decided by less than a touchdown, Ryan Longwell figured to be a big part of the outcome. Warming up before the game, Longwell hit field goals from 53 and 55 yards, among other, but was also short once from 55 yards.
As it turned out, Longwell was only used once and connected on a 34-yard field goal with less than a minute to play.
There was one surprise deactivation Sunday. Defensive end Ray Edwards, a fourth-round draft pick, was inactive with rookie free agent Jayme Mitchell active. Childress indicated that Edwards' benching was similar to Dwight Smith's benching in the season opener against Washington, when Smith was thought to have violated a team rule.
CB Fred Smoot was also held out. Also inactive for the Vikings were QB Tarvaris Jackson (emergency QB), RB Ciatrick Fason, LB Napoleon Harris (dislocated wrist), offensive linemen Ryan Cook and Anthony Herrera and WR Marcus Robinson (lower back).
The Packers had a few contributors inactive as well. Among the Packers' deactivations were LB Abdul Hodge, RB Vernand Morency, FB Brandon Miree, QB Ingle Martin (emergency QB), safety Charlie Peprah, OL Junius Coston, WR Chris Francies and DT Johnny Jolly.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, since 1990 only three series have experienced a game-ending field at the end of regulation or overtime nearly as much as the Vikings and Packers. San Diego and Seattle (Nov. 5, 2000 to Dec. 29, 2002) and the Minnesota-Green Bay series (Nov. 14, 2004 to Nov. 21, 2005) each had a current four-game streak going before Sunday, while Buffalo and New England went three games with an end-of-game deciding field from Dec. 26, 1999 to Dec. 17, 2000.