The Vikings offense finally pulled ahead of their defense in scoring, but it took them until two minutes left in the fourth game of the season, and it wasn't enough to beat the undefeated Green Bay Packers.
Despite a 100-yard effort from running back Adrian Peterson and a solid receiving contribution from receiver Sidney Rice, the Vikings kept pace with the Packers in nearly every facet of the game except scoring touchdowns, leading to a 23-16 Green Bay win to push the Vikings further back in the standings with a 1-3 record and keeping the Packers undefeated at 4-0.
Green Bay built a 13-9 lead through three quarters while the Vikings settled for three field goals and advanced that lead to 23-9 before quarterback Kelly Holcomb found Rice in the end zone for the first offensive touchdown in six quarters and only the second touchdown pass of the season.
Trailing 23-16 with 1:55 to play, Minnesota caught an unlikely break when running back Ryan Grant fumbled and Chad Greenway recovered to give Kelly Holcomb and Company one final comeback chance. They advanced to the Green Bay 34-yard line, but a deflected pass and ensuing interception ended Minnesota's hopes and sent them into the bye week on a three-game losing streak.
In a game that featured Brett Favre's record-setting 421st touchdown pass (as well as No. 422), the Packers quarterback threw for 344 yards while Holcomb had a solid day on 21 of 39 passing with one touchdown and one interception. But the offensive star for the Vikings once again with Peterson, who had 112 yards on 12 carrries for a 9.3-yard average but was left on the sidelines once again during the game's final failing drive.
The broken record that is the Vikings' offense will have the bye week to try to figure out how to get into the end zone more consistently, something that has been suffering since the early days of Brad Childress' offensive installment.
The Vikings came out trying to get Rice involved early. On the second play of their initial drive, Holcomb threw deep for Rice down the right sideline on a pass that went off his hands. After picking up the first down with a 3-yard Jeff Dugan run and another one on a 5-yard Taylor run, Holcomb launched another pass for Rice on third down. This time, Rice was more open but was overthrown.
Defensively, the game appeared to start as ideally as could be hoped when Favre launched a bomb intended for Greg Jennings, but it turned into more of a prayer that Darren Sharper rejected with an interception. However, Sharper awoke from his dream when Antoine Winfield was flagged for illegal contact to nullify the interception. Still, the two penalties on the Vikings defense to open their series was the only first down it would allow.
The Vikings responded by driving the ball across midfield on an 8-yard Peterson run and catches of 5 yards by Bobby Wade and two more runs from Peterson for 14 yards. However, the Packers got a taste of the illegal contact medicine as well when Charles Woodson intercepted a pass and returned it 58 yards for a touchdown, only to get flagged for illegal contact himself. But on the very next play, Dugan turned a 14-yard gain into the Packers' possession when he fumbled at the end of the play and Johnny Jolly recovered the ball and returned it 19 yards.
It didn't take Favre long to capitalize, as he opened the drive with a 27-yard pinpoint pass to Donald Lee to the 19-yard line. Two plays later, Favre audibled at the line of scrimmage and proceeded to hit Greg Jennings on a slant for a 16-yard gain to break Dan Marino's touchdown record with 421 scoring passes. With 4:56 left in the first quarter, Favre had the record and the Packers had a 7-0 lead.
Minnesota continued to drive the ball, but also continued to get stymied after crossing midfield. Their third drive of the game started with two penalties, but receptions of 16 yards to Williamson and 11 to Rice picked up the first down. The next set of downs started negatively when Aaron Kampman beat Visanthe Shiancoe for an 8-yard sack, but once again the Vikings' passing game bailed them out. Wade pulled in an 11-yard reception and Rice converted the first down with a 15-yard reception across the middle. But once across midfield, the offense stalled out again.
The teams exchanged punts, but the Vikings were getting the better of the battle for field position. Despite being pinned at his own 18-yard line, Favre came out firing and immediately hit Ruvell Martin for 36 yards to get across midfield in one play. After picking up another first down with a 9-yard pass to Jennings, Favre connected with Lee across the middle for a 27-yard gain near the goal line, but safety Dwight Smith stripped Lee of the ball and Cedric Griffin grabbed it out of the air.
While the Vikings were backed up to their own 8-yard line, Peterson quickly changed that. On second down, he took a handoff up the middle, made one move and found open space to sprint 55 yards before safety Nick Collins finally got him to the ground. His 8-yard run one play later helped set up Longwell's 44-yard field goal to make it 7-3 with 5:19 to play in the first half.
When the defense shut down Green Bay in three plays, the Vikings had their best starting position of the day at their own 42-yard line. Holcomb found Wade for a touch pass that turned into a 40-yard reception to start the drive, but that was the only first down the offense could muster, and Longwell was called upon for a 35-yard field goal to draw Minnesota within a point at 7-6 with 1:56 left in the first half.
That would prove to be enough time for the fast-acting Packers offense. Favre connected on three consecutive passes to Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones that netted 29 yards. After an incompletion to tight end Bubba Franks, Favre went right back to him for 12 yards, then found Vernand Morency for 18 yards to the 17-yard line. With 27 seconds remaining, the Packers misfired on two straight passes before Driver found just enough of a seam for a 13-yard gain to the 4-yard line with 12 seconds remaining. But on the next play, rookie defensive end Brian Robison ended the touchdown threat with a 6-yard sack, and Mason Crosby came on for a 28-yard field goal for a 10-6 lead as the game moved to halftime.
The Packers continued to move the ball in the second half, albeit more methodically. Favre found Driver for two of the first four plays, and Lee picked up another first down at the 44-yard line. When it looked like the Vikings defense had them stopped at midfield, punter Jon Ryan took off on a fake punt and somehow avoided at least three would-be tacklers to gain 7 yards and a first down. Favre then connected with Martin for 16 yards on third-and-11, and the Packers were in field goal range, where Crosby connected from 44 yards out for a 13-6 lead with 6:04 to play.
The Vikings responded with their own field goal drive, and Shiancoe got it started with a 15-yard pass. Like Peterson in the first half, Taylor took a run up the middle, hit the hole hard and found running room. He went 37 yards before he was taken down, and that run set up Longwell for a 48-yard field goal for to pull the Vikings within four points, 13-9, with 3:18 left in the third quarter.
The teams exchanged punts to move it into the fourth, and the battle of field position helped set up another a Green Bay field goal on their third drive of the second half, this one from 33 yards out and giving the Packers a 16-9 lead.
Minnesota's offense went three-and-out for the second consecutive drive, and Favre went back to work. On third-and-2, he connected with Morency for 11 yards before he fumbled out of bounds. On the next play, Favre hit fullback Korey Hall and a big hit by Antoine Winfield appeared to cause a fumble that Greenway picked up and was advancing, but the officials whistled the pass incomplete to keep the drive moving. Seven plays later, Favre hit rookie receiver James Jones on third-and-9 for a 33-yard touchdown with 5:46 to play. That gave Green Bay a 23-9 lead with 5:41 to play, effectively forcing the Vikings into desperation mode.
Holcomb found Shiancoe to covert the initial third down of the ensuing drive, but Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila immediately put the Vikings in a long-yardage situation again with a 10-yard sack. Peterson turned a third-and-13 into a first down with a 6-yard pass play that ended with a personal-foul facemask, and the offense still had life. Holcomb took another sack and then found Rice for 12 yards and Williamson for 7 on fourth-and-4. As the clock ticked down toward the two-minute warning, Wade penetrated the red zone with an 18-yard reception. On the next play, Rice jumped high in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown with 1:55 to play, making it 23-16.
When Driver recovered Longwell's onside kick, the Packers were close to being able to run out the clock, but first-year running back Ryan Grant fumbled on second down and Greenway recovered this clear fumble.
With 1:45 to play, the Vikings assumed possession at their own 49-yard line. They went right back to Rice for 15 yards, and Troy Williamson drew a pass interference penalty on Al Harris to move the ball to the 34-yard line. After an incompletion, Holcomb threw a slant for Bobby Wade that deflected off him and to a diving Atari Bigby for a game-ending interception.
With a 1-3 record, the Vikings head into their bye week looking for ways to get their offense more consistently in the end zone and a way to make up ground on the forward-charging NFC North team that just beat them to move to 4-0.
Packers Drop Vikings, 23-16
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