All week, we've used phrases like the "mystique of Lambeau" and the "curse of Lambeau" to describe the happenings and rare occurrences that give the Green Bay Packers their home-field advantage.
It was no different Sunday night, as the Vikings took advantage of early Packers turnovers to build a 13-0 lead, but eventually the incomparable Brett Favre led his team for the winning touchdown drive with only 1:06 remaining in the game — and the mystique of Lambeau Field lived on, along with the Vikings' 17-game road losing streak.
Less than a month ago in the Metrodome, the Vikings pulled out to a 14-0 lead against Green Bay, but few figured they would do the same in December in Lambeau. But in a season of the bizarre for the Vikings, they were the ones taking advantage of the opposition's miscues in Lambeau Field and pulling out to a first-half lead, one they held until Favre's final drive.
This time they made it 13-0 on the heels of two Packers turnovers in the first half.
Playing without running back Ahman Green, Favre and the Packers were stopped a yard short of picking up a first down on the game's opening drive. The Vikings took the punt and started on their own 30-yard line.
Despite saying the Vikings would rely on a two-tight end offense in the cold of Green Bay, Minnesota started with four receivers and used D'Wayne Bates heavily early. Bates picked up the initial first down with a 24-yard pass from Daunte Culpepper. Moss picked up the next with a 15-yard reception to eclipse 1,000 yards for the fifth straight season, moving the ball to the 32-yard line. Two Michael Bennett runs and another pass to Bates put the Vikings on the 10-yard line, and they got to the 5-yard line before Gary Anderson gave them a 3-0 lead with a 23-yard field with 6:16 to go.
Then the Vikings used what had dogged them the whole season to their advantage — being the recipient of multiple turnovers. Despite a strong showing early from rookie running back Tony Fisher, on the sixth play of the Packers' next drive, Favre dropped to pass and looked to unload early. But when the QB cocked his arm, he lost the ball and Chris Hovan, Favre's vocal nemesis from the first meeting, dove on the ball at the 30-yard line.
The Vikings would take advantage in only four plays — a 6-yard run by Bennett, passes of 14 and 7 yards to Bates and a 3-yard touchdown pass to Moss — to take a 10-0 lead with 1:02 left in the first quarter.
The turnover demon struck Green Bay again on its next drive. After having an explosive play to Donald Driver called back on the second play of the drive, Favre unleashed a pass across the middle of the field that went off the hand of Javon Walker, off of Corey Chavous and into the diving hands of Greg Biekert, his third interception of Favre in two games.
This time the Vikings were starting on Green Bay's 23-yard line. While they couldn't score, they got close enough — the 4-yard line — for Anderson to cap the drive with a 22-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead with 12:55 left in the first half.
Unlike the first meeting, however, Favre settled down and began leading his team after falling in an early hole.
The Packers were able to establish a solid drive with a good mix of the pass and the run, throwing six times and running five, with a combination of Fisher and midseason acquisition Jay Graham. But after getting to the 3-yard line, Green Bay called on Ryan Longwell to put its first points on the board, and he delivered with a 33-yard field goal to make it 13-3.
Without that ideal field position after a turnover, the Vikings offense couldn't get anything going in the second quarter, and Favre would lead the Packers on one more field goal drive. Starting from his own 48-yard line, Favre hit Robert Ferguson on third down, and he just barely made the sticks. A reverse to Driver picked up 17 yards, and Walker put the Packers on the 3-yard line with an 11-yard reception. But the Vikings defense would rise to the occasion there, stopping the Packers from the 1-yard line on two consecutive downs and forcing Longwell on for a half-ending 19-yard field goal to preserve a 13-6 Vikings lead.
In a game of reversals from the norm, the Vikings continued the oddities to open the second half. With Moe Williams hurting all week long, Bennett became the workhorse and Williams the replacement that broke a long one on his first carry of the game. Bennett began the drive with runs of 4, 8 and 12 yards to move to midfield. Then Williams took a handoff and cut to the right sideline and was off to a 44-yard run that likely would have gone to the end zone if he weren't hurting so badly. No matter, as Bennett ran for 3 yards and Culpepper finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown sweep to the right following blocks from Bryant McKinnie and Jim Kleinsasser, and the Vikings had a 19-6 lead after a blocked extra point.
As if a deeper hole inspired Favre, he came out throwing on the next drive, completing passes of 6 to Fisher, 13 and 15 to Ferguson and a 21-yard touchdown to Ferguson to pull to a 19-13 deficit.
However, the Vikings didn't back down. Bennett broke off a 35-yard run on the second play of the ensuing drive, bringing it to the 25-yard line. But that was about all the Vikings could move it, just close enough to bring on Anderson. It was a risky call in the cold and having an extra point already blocked, but the 21-year veteran was true from 37 yards away, making it 22-13 with six minutes left in the third quarter.
It would stay that way for four more possessions between the two teams, at which point Favre and the Packers started on their 46-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter. Favre would only use six plays to pull within two points. He hit Driver with an 11-yard pass on third down, then waited until the next third down to gain positive yardage — but positive it was for the Packers, to the tune of a 40-yard touchdown pass to Ferguson with 10:48 to play and making it 22-20 Vikings.
The Vikings drove down to the Green Bay 36-yard line, thanks to a Culpepper scramble for 13 yards on third down and a 16-yard pass to Bates. But the forward drive ended there, and the Vikings were forced to punt after taking about five minutes off the clock.
Favre took over and calmly drove the Pack. On third-and-2 from the 23-yard line, Favre hit Walker for 16 yards. On third-and-2 from the 47-yard line, he was able to draw a pass interference call on Corey Chavous on a play where Jack Brewer intercepted the ball. Sitting on the 23-yard line and facing third-and-8, Favre scrambled for the necessary yardage, and on the next play Tony Fisher gave the Packers the eventually game-winning touchdown with a draw play with 1:06 left in the fourth quarter. After a failed two-point conversion, the Packers had a 26-22 lead — the final score after the Vikings couldn't use the clock wisely on their final drive.
The Vikings tried to break their 16-game road losing streak in the most unlikely of places, Lambeau Field, but the mystique (or curse, depending on your viewpoint) of Lambeau struck again, dropping the Vikings to 3-10 in a season where nearly everything has happened in one close loss after another.
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