Defensive Dandy

The Vikings had the right defensive plan and executed it better than they have all season, as Greg Biekert came away with two interceptions and the Vikings sprinted away with a 31-21 upset of Green Bay.

All week long, the Minnesota defensive players were concentrating on Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre going to the middle of the field. When he did it repeatedly at the Metrodome, the result was three interceptions and a 31-21 upset.

Yep, defense was a big reason for the Vikings win against one of the best quarterbacks to play the game. The defensive backs generally kept tight coverage and middle linebacker was ready for the slot receivers coming across the middle. Biekert finished with two interceptions and barely missed a third.

Meanwhile on offense, Daunte Culpepper started with one of his best games, but finished with two interceptions and two fumbles. Still, by hitting Randy Moss early and Michael Bennett breaking a late touchdown for his fourth straight 100-yard game, the Vikings were able to turn their prowess against Green Bay into a win against a team looking to clinch a division title in 10 games.

The Vikings used a tremendous variety of calls on their first series, the first time they've scored on the opening series this year. It started with an 11-yard reverse to Kelly Campbell on the first touch of his career. Culpepper sandwiched a 1-yard run by Bennett with passes of 20 and 18 to Byron Chamberlain. It took only one penalty, a defensive hold, and a 24-yard pass to Randy Moss in the end zone and the Vikings had a 7-0 lead just 2:26 into the game.

While many would have expected Favre to march the Packers to a tie, the defense held on three downs, stuffing Ahman Green without letting him get the needed 1 yard on third down, and the Packers added to the favors with somewhat of a shanked punt to the Vikings 35-yard line.

Culpepper started hot and he stayed hot. On third-and-3 he hit Moss for a 19-yard pass. Culpepper and Bennett combined on consecutive rushes to pick another first down to the 18-yard line. With D'Wayne Bates locked in single coverage, Culpepper found him in stride in the corner of the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 6:51 left in the first quarter.

Through two drives, the Vikings had piled up some very impressive numbers. Culpepper was 5-for-5 for 103 yards (already 10 more than his total from last week) and two touchdowns, and Minnesota had nine first downs on 11 plays. Most importantly, they had a 14-0 lead.

After trading punts on the next two series, the Vikings caught a break on the Packers' next possession. Favre looked to be heating up on the previous possession and started this one with a 20-yard pass to Robert Ferguson, but needing 2 yards on third down he found Donald Driver open in the middle of the field. Driver batted the ball twice, but just about the time he could have brought it in Greg Biekert went aerial for the diving interception at midfield.

That was the start of wild last 8:27 in the first half. On the ensuing possession, penalties backed the Vikings up 14 yards and they punted. Then came the penalties — in bunches.

After a 19-yard pass to Terry Glenn, Kenny Mixon was flagged for a late hit on Favre. On the next play, Favre hit Bubba Franks for 12 yards and Biekert was called for a facemask. After only two plays, the Packers were on the 12-yard line, but after a penalty and two plays later Favre went for Glenn again at the goal line and safety Jack Brewer stepped in front of the pass for an interception. It was also one that had 15 yards added to it with a late hit out of bounds by Favre on Brewer.

But on the next play, Culpepper made his first bad decision of the game — and it was bad going into triple coverage. Rookie safety Marques Anderson, the defensive rookie of the week last week, picked the pass and put Favre in business with 3:47 left in the half.

This time Favre wouldn't be denied. He found Glenn for 16 yards to start the drive and used a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on Lance Johnstone to get inside the red zone to the 17-yard line, at which point Ahman Green took over. Green caught a 5-yard pass, ran for 4 and 3 yards, caught a 4-yarder and finished the drive with a 1-yard run for a touchdown with 43 second left in the half. After an eight-play, 63-yard drive, the Packers were only down 14-7 despite an incredibly strong first quarter from Culpepper. Ironically, it was Culpepper's first mistake of the game that allowed Favre and Co. to get on the scoreboard at all in the first half.

Just like the start of the game, the Vikings defense held in three plays to start the second half. And just like Minnesota's first possession of the game, Culpepper led the Vikings to a touchdown.

Starting from the 19-yard line, Culpepper picked up the initial first down with an 11-yard pass to Campbell. On the next play, Bates drew a pass interference penalty on Tyrone Williams to get to the Minnesota 41-yard line, then Bates picked up another first down with a 22-yard catch. Bennett put the ball on the 7-yard line with a 13-yard run and Culpepper did the rest on two designed runs, finishing the job with a 1-yard touchdown six minutes into the second half for a 21-7 lead.

But Favre and Green led the Packers on an answering drive. Green started it with a 34-yard run and, facing third-and-15, Favre found Javon Walker for 14 yards and Mike Sherman elected to go for the first down on the 29-yard line. After a playfake to Green, Favre found tight end Tyrone Davis wide open for 24 yards to the 5-yard line. An illegal formation on Green Bay because Favre was trying to get the ball snapped and go to an uncovered Donald Driver split wide dropped Green Bay back 5 yards. After a 7-yard run by Green, the Packers were facing third-and-goal from the 3. Favre looked for Bubba Franks in the end zone and missed, but Lance Johnstone was called for roughing Favre, giving the Packers new life on the 1-yard line. This time Favre connected with Franks, and the Packers were trailing by 7 points with 5:36 left in the third quarter.

Following a 16-yard run by Culpepper, the Vikings' next drive stalled, but the punt and a Green Bay penalty pinned the Packers on the 4-yard line. On the second play, Biekert stepped in front of his second pass of the game and returned the interception to the 5-yard line.

However, not only would the Vikings not get the touchdown, they wouldn't come away with points, as Culpepper fumbled the snap on the 1-yard line and Marques Anderson recovered on the 2-yard line.

While the Vikings held and forced a punt, they failed to put the pressure on Favre you'd assume they would need to apply.

While the Vikings drove to midfield before punting, it wouldn't faze Favre. On third play from scrimmage, facing third-and-10, Favre found Driver in stride and the wide receiver was off to the races for an 84-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21 with 11:53 to play.

However, after the Packers' drive that took only 1:27, the Vikings followed with a 51-yard kickoff return by Moe Williams that had 15 more yards tacked on because of a facemask penalty on Ferguson. So, sitting on the Packers 43-yard line to start the drive, Bennett went to work, picking up 8 yards on two runs and Moss picked up the first down with a 7-yard catch. But once on the 16-yard line, the drive stalled and Gary Anderson connected for a 32-yard field goal and a 24-21 lead.

The defense found their rhythm as well, shutting down Green (two runs for 9 yards) and Favre (four incompletions) in the next two drives before getting the ball back to the offense with 4:20 left to play. Bennett and Culpepper picked up one first down with three rushes between them, and the Vikings decided to keep it on the ground as long as it was working and eating clock. Instead of eating time, Bennett took the next carry 62 yards to the 4-yard line to set up the game-sealing touchdown. Williams ran twice to get in the end zone with a 3-yard run and finish off the game with a 31-21 lead with 1:56 to play.

After getting to midfield in desperation mode, Favre threw four straight incompletions to end the game.

The Vikings have lost time and again with Culpepper turning over the ball. While he threw two interceptions and fumbled two times, this time the defensive game plan was executed to a "T," and that made all the difference, even against arguably the best quarterback and best team in the NFC.

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