Brett Favre said he was probably more nervous than he's been entering a game. With the spotlight shining brightly on him, he made a point to stay in the locker room longer before the game to avoid the media "zoo," but when he took the field at the start of the game, Favre seized his opportunity and made the most of it.
The former Packers quarterback completed 24 of 31 passes for 271 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against his ex-teammates. The 30-23 win against Green Bay Packers meant the most. It also completed the cycle for Favre, as he became the only quarterback in history to defeat all 32 NFL teams, and he also became the only quarterback in history to play 16 years for one team and then play against that team.
On a Monday night stage in front of a national television audience, Favre was masterful and strong. He said his arm feels great and it showed on several hard throws, including one he said he wouldn't have made last year. He also seems to be gaining a rapport with his primary receivers. Bernard Berrian caught six passes for 75 yards and a touchdown, and Sidney Rice had five grabs for 70 yards and a touchdown.
With the Packers limiting Peterson to 55 yards on 25 carries (a 2.2-yard average), the Vikings had to have Favre and a solid defense. They got both. Although Aaron Rodgers threw for 384 yards and two touchdowns, the Vikings – especially Jared Allen – harassed him all night. Rodgers threw an interception, fumbled away his first possession and was sacked eight times, 4½ of those coming from Allen.
The Packers started with a strong drive and a solid game plan, using screens and draws to take away some of the Vikings' aggressiveness on the defensive line. A second-down screen to Ryan Grant gained 13 and Donald Lee gained 16 on the next second down. Greg Jennings converted third-and-7 with a 13-yard reception and Jermichael Finley converted another third down. However, on the next play, Brian Robison and Jared Allen met at Rodgers, and Allen was able to strip the ball. Chad Greenway recovered and the Vikings avoided any damage despite a solid drive from Rodgers.
Minnesota took advantage of the turnover, starting first with Peterson. He ran four straight times to start the drive before Berrian gained a first down. The short passing game and two runs by Peterson set the offense up at the 1-yard line, where Favre and Peterson executed a play-action pass, and Favre found Visanthe Shiancoe cutting across the field for a 7-0 lead with 3:20 to play in the first quarter.
The Packers responded quickly. On their first third down of the ensuing drive, they caught the Vikings in a blitz and Rodgers hit Finley for a 62-yard touchdown with 2:16 to play in the first quarter.
Following a Vikings punt, the Packers were on the move again. After first down, Ben Leber put the Packers in a hole with a sack, but a fourth-down reception off a deflected pass kept Green Bay's drive alive … for two more plays. While the Vikings didn't challenge quickly enough what appeared to be an incomplete pass on the deflection, Antoine Winfield intercepted Rodgers one play later.
Once again, the Vikings took advantage of a Rodgers turnover. On third down, Favre hit Rice for a 24-yard pass play and Peterson followed that with a 12-yard run. Favre converted another third down with a 16-yard pass to Bernard Berrian, and the quarterback stayed hot on third down with a 14-yard touchdown toss to Rice with 4:59 to play in the half. The seven-point lead wouldn't last long.
The Packers tied the game on the Vikings' next drive when Peterson was stripped of the ball and Clay Matthews returned it 42 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-14.
But the first-half scoring wasn't done yet. The Vikings responded with their third touchdown drive of the game. With Peterson sidelined for a stint, Chester Taylor picked up 19 yards on a run before Favre went to the air to hit Rice for 16 and Taylor for 19 on a screen pass. With the ball across midfield, the Vikings went deep for Percy Harvin, who made a leaping grab and kept his footing for a 43-yard pass play. Following pass interference in the end zone, Peterson found a crease over left guard for a 1-yard touchdown and a 21-14 Vikings lead with 30 seconds to play, a lead that held until halftime.
The Vikings offense didn't let up to start the second half. They picked up a couple of first downs before the offensive line gave Favre all day long – or almost eight seconds – to find Jeff Dugan for a 25-yard strike across midfield. On the very next play, Favre rifled a bullet in between coverage to Berrian for a 31-yard touchdown to give the Vikings a 28-14 lead 3:20 into the second half.
The Packers responded with an 81-yard drive, but they needed 82 for the touchdown. Rodgers moved the ball across midfield with a 10-yard pass to Jordy Nelson and a 24-yard pass to Donald Driver. The Packers continued their drive down the field and made it to second-and-goal from the 1-yard line. From there, the Vikings defense stiffened. John Kuhn gained nothing, Finley caught a pass for no gain and Donald Lee dropped a fourth-down pass in the end zone, turning the ball over to the Vikings on downs at the 1-yard line.
They moved out from the shadow of their end zone, but that just set up the teams to exchange punts until Chris Kluwe and his coverage units pinned the Packers at their own 1-yard line. Just like the defense came through on their own 1-yard line, they did on the Packers' 1-yard line. After two plays of no gain, Allen caught Rodgers from behind for a 1-yard sack in the end zone and a safety, giving the Vikings a 30-14 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
With Minnesota trying to drain the clock, Green Bay held on defense and worked quickly to score on offense. Grant picked up 15 yards on a run, Finley got free for 37 yards and Rodgers scrambled for 11 to the 33-yard line. One play later, Nelson worked his way through the Vikings defense for a 33-yard touchdown with 3:40 remaining, but the two-point conversion pass failed and the Packers were still down by 10 points.
Minnesota continued to try to run the clock and Green Bay would get another opportunity. Rodgers hit Driver for 10 yards and James Jones for 34 yards into Vikings territory. They were in scoring position after a 17-yard pass to Grant, but Jared Allen's final sack of the game eventually forced the Packers to settle for a field goal and hope to recover the onside kick.
They got the first part of that strategy right when Mason Crosby hit from 31 yards out to make it 30-23, but when Rice recovered his second onside kick of the game, Favre was able to line in the victory formation he wanted so badly against his former team.
Favre claimed his meeting with the Packers wasn't about revenge, but he showed he still can play well only five days before his 40th birthday.
"He's still got great command of the football, whether the command is touch or velocity or being able to pump it and let it go," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He is what he is. He's a great competitor. He's steely-eyed when it comes to competing. Some games tickle you a little bit more than others."
Consider Brett Favre tickled pink and with the last laugh on this night of hype.
Favre proves he's still got it in 30-23 win
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