The old man and the young rookie were the combination the Vikings needed.
Brett Favre, the old Viking at 40, returned to Lambeau Field with another impressive performance, and the team fed off of Percy Harvin, the youngest Viking at 22.
Favre handled the pressure of his return to Green Bay without any obvious nerves. By the time he finished sewing up a 38-26 win at Lambeau Field in his first game there as a Viking, he smiled and admitted it felt pretty good.
Favre said his nerves were worse than he expected, but you would have never guessed it seeing how he played. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 244 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 128.6 passer rating, despite saying he hoped to ride Adrian Peterson's coattails in the running game. Peterson had a couple of big gains – runs of 33 and 21 yards – but was still held to 97 yards on 25 rushing attempts.
Favre's homecoming as the heretic was all about him throwing the ball efficiently and his counterpart, current Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, being pressured constantly by the Vikings defense. The last time the two teams met in the Metrodome, Favre wasn't sacked and the Vikings had eight sacks on Rodgers. Sunday was nearly a repeat, as Favre wasn't sacked again and Rodgers was brought down six times, three of them by Jared Allen.
Minnesota also counterpunched well, as Harvin followed two Packers scores with kickoff returns of 77 yards and 48 yards. Both of those led to touchdowns.
It all helped the Vikings build a 24-3 lead early in the third quarter, but Rodgers eventually got hot after throwing for only 38 yards in the first half, ending the game with 287 yards and three touchdowns. And the Packers were able to take advantage of two key fumbles, the second one coming in a 17-point third quarter for the Packers, as they pulled within four points by the end of the period. But when the game moved to the fourth quarter, Favre resumed his passing success, with two touchdown throws in the final period to cement the win and send the Vikings to their bye week with a 7-1 record and essentially a three-game lead in the division.
The Vikings' success started early before the third-quarter tension set in.
The first three drives of the game produced little, but the Packers came up with a big fumble recovery on a mental mistake on the Vikings' second drive. While Favre was making an adjustment at the line of scrimmage in the shotgun, John Sullivan snapped the ball when Favre was moving to the left and not expecting the ball, which hit Favre in the leg. DE Johnny Jolly recovered and the Packers were set up on the Minnesota 21-yard line. When the pass defense held up, Green Bay had to settle for a 37-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead with 5:05 left in the first quarter.
However, the Vikings immediately responded in a big way. Harvin took the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to the 14-yard line. The Packers responded with solid defense, but Jolly was flagged for a head butt after a third-down stop and the Vikings took advantage. With the ball on the 7-yard line, it took them four plays to punch it in, but Peterson capped the drive with a 1-yard dive for a 7-3 lead with 1:17 left in the opening period.
Ray Edwards got his second third-down sack of the game on Green Bay's next drive, and Jaymar Johnson gave the Vikings excellent field position with a 20-yard punt return. Favre was perfect on the drive, too, completing all five of his passes, the last one going 12 yards to Visanthe Shiancoe for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead with 10:42 to play in the second quarter.
The defense continued to harass Rodgers, as Jared Allen registered his first sack of the game, and the Vikings had the ball at midfield again. After struggling to find running room in the first quarter, Peterson broke the first run of the team's sixth drive for 33 yards to the 16-yard line. However, he was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 run and the Vikings failed to come away with any points in the red zone.
It wouldn't matter that much, because the defense continued to thrive and take advantage of Green Bay's offensive line. This time, Pat Williams got into the act with a second-down sack that forced a punt one play later.
The Vikings got their missed points back on their final drive of the half. Favre and Rice connected twice on the drive, for 13 yards to start the drive and 14 yards three plays later. That set up Ryan Longwell for a 41-yard field goal and a 17-3 Vikings lead, one that held up for the final seconds of the half.
Favre didn't let up in the second half, either. On third-and-17, he connected down the middle of the field with Bernard Berrian near midfield for 19 yards. On the next throw, Harvin made a great catch in traffic near the 20-yard line and kept his feet to sprint into the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown and a 24-3 lead only 1:52 into the second half.
The Packers responded with a scoring drive, but it ended with a field goal. Rodgers kept the chains moving with a 7-yard run and 9-yard pass to Donald Lee. But once inside the red zone, the defense stiffened with a Jared Allen sack, forcing Crosby on for a 26-yard field goal to cut the Vikings' lead to 24-6.
It wouldn't take long for the Packers to respond. They caught the Vikings off guard and pooched a kickoff. Brian Robison caught it but fumbled on the return, giving the Packers the ball at the 41-yard line. Rodgers stayed hot in the second half and hit Grant for 13 yards and Donald Driver for 10 yards on consecutive passes to get inside the red zone. This time, Rodgers turned it into a touchdown with a 16-yarder to TE Spencer Havner to bring the Packers within 11 points, 24-13, midway through the third quarter.
The Vikings' lead would diminish even more on Green Bay's next drive. Rodgers completed all six of his passes on the drive, hitting Ahman Green for 12 yards and Greg Jennings for 14, but the big play was a short pass to James Jones that he turned into a 42-yard gain. A 14-yard strike to Jennings got the ball inside the red zone, and three plays later Rodgers found Havner again to draw the Packers within four point, 24-20, at the end of the third quarter.
But Favre found a groove again following a 48-yard kickoff return from Harvin, who also converted the initial third down of the drive with a 15-yard reception. Once inside the 10-yard line, Chester Taylor brought it to the 2-yard line. From there, Favre used play action on third down and hit Jeff Dugan with a 2-yard pass for a 31-20 lead less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.
But Rodgers wasn't done either. He converted one first down with a pass, then moved the chains again with a 35-yard run to the 15-yard line. Two completions to Jennings were all he would need to get the Packers back in the end zone on another quick scoring drive. However, trailing by five points, they tried a pass for a two-point conversion that fell incomplete.
They had another chance to get the deficit lower on their next drive, but Mason Crosby missed a 51-yard field goal wide right and the Vikings took advantage of the good field position with one more touchdown drive.
This time, it was Peterson providing the big play. On the first play of the drive he took a short pass and turned upfield for a 44-yard reception. Three plays later, Favre fired for Bernard Berrian for a 16-yard touchdown, and the Vikings had their winning score, 38-26.
A crazy third quarter allowed the Packers to make a game of it in the second half, but just like the first meeting in the Metrodome, the Vikings had control of the game for the vast majority and ended up with the win because of stellar play from the guy who called Lambeau Field home for 16 years.
Old man, young rookie propel Vikings to win
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