With a ton of pressure on his shoulders facing a hostile crowd at the same place he became a football legend, Brett Favre showed his resilience and why the Vikings made such an effort to sign him with a 38-26 win over Green Bay Sunday at Lambeau Field. Plus, get dozens of notes that help tell the story of the game.
From the day the Vikings signed Brett Favre
, much of the talk about him coming to Minnesota was that he would have the chance to play his former Packer teammates. In the first game, he was dominant at the Metrodome in front of a partisan crowd. Sunday he made his return to Lambeau Field and was nothing short of brilliant.
Not only did he throw for 244 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-26 win, but he did so with the world on his shoulders – Packer fans booing loudly throughout much of the game and people asking him if he somehow felt like a traitor for playing the Vikings. Many players face distractions, but few have handled them as well as Favre in his two games against his former team.
In the first meeting at the Metrodome, Favre had a passer rating of 135.3. Sunday he had a passer rating of 128.6 and, in the two games combined, he threw seven touchdowns and no interceptions. For a player with a history of playing his best under conditions that would make others crack, Favre said maybe distractions aren't as bad as they're made out to be.
"I think we've handled distractions fairly well," Favre said. "Maybe we should continue having distractions."
His teammates were quick to point out that Favre is unflappable in pressure situations and that is what they believe could be the difference in getting the Vikings to the Super Bowl that has eluded the organization for more than 30 years.
"He's a professional," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe
said. "We expect that from him. He expects it from himself. We need him on this field and he knows that."
His return to Lambeau Field was the talk of the sports world this weekend. Local TV newscasts led their 10 p.m. nightly news with five or more minutes devoted to Favre. There was a cross section of reaction – those who still loved him and those who felt somehow betrayed by his signing with the Vikings.
In the end, Favre said his passion for the game was what brought him back and he hopes that people – including the fans that booed him all day – understand that he wasn't out to prove a point to Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson or anyone else. Rather, he wanted them know he still loves the game and can play it at an elite level at age 40, when most NFL players have long since been retired.
"I knew I didn't have to prove anything," Favre said. "Am I glad with the way these two games turned out? Absoutely. I knew I could play. I knew this was a good football team. I know the Packers are a good football team. It had nothing to do with trying to prove myself to anyone.
"I still have a passion for it. It's a little tougher to get up and bounce back, but my arm feels great, my mind is in a good place, the team has welcomed me in and all the other stuff doesn't matter. It makes for a good story. I'm glad it's over. I'm glad we won both, but I'm not going to throw any daggers."
Favre was animated much of the game, wearing his emotions on his sleeve. When he threw a touchdown to Shiancoe to give the Vikings a 14-3 lead, he pumped his fist and celebrated more than he usually does. When asked if that was proper, Ryan Longwell
, another former Packer now wearing purple, was succinct about his feelings on that subject.
"Without question," Longwell said. "Say what want to about Reggie (White) and the other guys, Brett brought the Packers back to prominence. He plays an infectious style of football. He had every right to take celebrate. He's earned it."
Favre said he didn't know how he would feel playing on the Lambeau Field turf because everything was new – from the bus ride to the visiting locker room. But he said he was happy with how was able to perform under less-than-ideal circumstances.
"I can't tell you how many text messages or guys in passing today and yesterday saying, ‘You're going to play great – I know your nervous,'" Favre said. "I was like, ‘That's easy for you to say.' But they were right again. It's awfully stressful to feel that way every week. I'd like to feel more relaxed, but I'm also pleased with the way I've played in these big games."
In the end, what mattered was that, for the second time this season, Favre showed up big in the biggest of divisional games. He has led the team to a 7-1 record, a two-and-a-half game lead in the NFC North and a sweep over Green Bay. There isn't much more that needs to be said, according to teammate Jared Allen
"It's Brett Favre – that's all I can say," Allen said. "The guy is amazing and we're blessed to have him."
The Vikings and Packers finished with almost identical offensive numbers Sunday. The Vikings had 355 yards (244 passing, 111 rushing), while Green Bay had 351 yards (261 passing, 90 rushing).
The Vikings and Packers were both able to finish off drives pretty effectively when they got in the red zone. The Vikings closed out four of five red zone opportunities with touchdowns, while the Packers made good on three touchdowns in five red zone chances.
Adrian Peterson fell just three yards short of his third 100-yard rushing day of the season. He had 25 carries for 97 yards and handily won his duel with Ryan Grant of the Packers, who had just 30 yards on 10 carries.
Aaron Rodgers not only threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns Sunday, but he was also the Packers' leading rushing, gaining 51 yards on five carries.
Percy Harvin had a huge day. Not only did he lead the Vikings with five catches for 84 yards as a receiver, he averaged 35 yards per return on five kickoffs. Throw in a 2-yard run, Harvin accounted for 261 total yards.
Chad Greenway had a big day, recording 11 tackles – 10 of them solo tackles.
The Vikings had six sacks of Rodgers Sunday, while the Packers didn't record any against Favre.
Jared Allen had three sacks Sunday, giving him 10.5 sacks for the season – 7.5 of those coming in the two games against the Packers. He said that the entire defense played well for much of the game – with the notable exception of a six-minute span of the third quarter and that the credit needs to be shared.
"We took advantage of opportunities today," Allen said. "For the majority of the game, we played lights-out. The third quarter got scary for a few minutes, but overall we were able to regroup and close the fourth quarter out in the last two drives."
Shiancoe had told his followers on Twitter that, if he scored a touchdown, he would do a Lambeau Leap. In the end, he didn't do it when he caught a second-quarter touchdown, but said the thought was on his mind.
"If I would have scored another touchdown, I probably would have done that Lambeau Leap," Shiancoe said. "I saw a little cluster of Vikings fans (in the end zone seats) and I could have jumped in there. Hopefully, they wouldn't have been wolves in sheep's clothing."
The big, quick comeback by the Packers in the third quarter caught the Vikings by surprise, but Kevin Williams said it was as much the Vikings doing as it was Green Bay putting plays together.
"We more hurt ourselves more than anything during that run," Williams said. "We had to settle down and get back to the game plan. We went away from it and it hurt us. (Rodgers) started scrambling more because we weren't getting the same pass rushes we did earlier in the game. In the first half, we were getting to him and he didn't have time to make those plays down the field. Once we got back to doing that in the fourth quarter, we took the game back over."
Rodgers had a 35-yard scramble in the fourth quarter, in which he got Benny Sapp out of position and rumbled down the sidelines for the longest rush of his career.
The Packers trailed 24-3 with nine minutes to play in the third quarter, but thanks to a furious comeback, Green Bay cut the Vikings lead to 24-20 in the span of six-and-a-half minutes.
On the touchdown drive that cut the lead to 24-20, Rodgers completed five straight passes to start the drive and finished the drive completing six of six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Favre dodged a bullet in the third quarter after the Packers had cut the deficit to 24-13. He had back-to-back passes to start the drive that could have been intercepted – one went off the hands of Peterson and popped into the air and, on the next play, Favre's arm was hit and the ball wobbled high in the air. Despite five Packers being around the ball, it fell to the ground without any further damage.
After being burned by Harvin on a kick return in the first half, the Packers employed a pooch kicking style that led to a Vikings fumble when Brian Robison tried to advance the short kick. Surprisingly, the Packers went back to kicking deep to Harvin and he made them pay with a critical 48-yard return that set up a score that gave the Vikings a 31-20 lead.
The partisan Packer crowd let their own team have it – booing them as they went to the locker room at halftime, as well as booing loudly on a second-down run in the third quarter in which they thought the Packers were being too conservative.
Green Bay safety Nick Collins suffered an ankle injury on the touchdown pass to Harvin in the third quarter and didn't return.
Bernard Berrian was injured on the first drive of second half, but returned to the game and caught Favre's final touchdown pass.
Steve Hutchinson was called for holding on the first drive of the second half, which was the first penalty of the game against the Vikings.
At halftime, the Vikings completely dominated the Packers statistically. The Vikings had 157 total yards (97 passing, 60 rushing) to just 47 for Green Bay (29 rushing, 18 passing).
Favre completed 11 of 15 passes in the first half for 97 yards and a touchdown, while Rodgers completed just five of 11 passes for 38 yards.
Peterson had 59 yards on 15 carries in the first half, while Grant had 15 yards on just six rushes.
Sidney Rice was the leading receiver in the first half for the Vikings with four catches for 40 yards. Donald Driver led Green Bay with two catches for 26 yards, while the rest of the team combined for just three catches for 12 yards.
The Vikings missed a chance to bury the Packers in the second quarter. With the ball on Green Bay 7, the Vikings had a chance to go for a field goal on a fourth-and-1 play or try for a touchdown that could have made the score 21-3. Instead, Peterson was stuffed on a fourth-down run to keep the score 14-3
On the first drive of the second quarter, Favre completed five of five passes to four different receivers, culminating in a 12-yard pass to Shiancoe for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 14-3 lead.
Packers linebacker Brandon Chillar was injured in the second quarter and went to the locker to get an X-ray of his injured hand.
In the first 16 minutes of the game, Ray Edwards had two sacks – tying his career high set last year against the Falcons.
Neither team generated a lot of offense in the first quarter, as the Packers outgained the Vikings 44-33. Green Bay had 29 yards passing and 15 yards rushing. The Vikings had 18 yards passing and 15 yards rushing. Neither team was effective on third down, either, as both converted on just one of four third-down opportunties.
Individually, Favre completed three of four passes for 18 yards in the first quarter. Chester Taylor had two of the receptions for 15 yards. Peterson had nine carries for 15 yards and a touchdown.
For the Packers, Rodgers completed four of eight passes for 32 yards. Grant had two of the catches for eight yards and Driver led the team in yardage with a 20-yard reception. Grant has four carries for 12 yards.
The Vikings showed a little bit of the gambling spirit on their touchdown drive in the first quarter. With a first-and-goal situation, the team ran Peterson three times to the 1-yard line. With the field goal team ready to come on the field, the decision was made to go for a touchdown and Peterson delivered with a dive over the top to give the Vikings a 7-3 lead.
Packers defensive tackle Johnny Jolly cost the Packers at least four points in the first quarter on a bonehead play that eventually led to a Vikings touchdown. After a 77-yard kickoff return by Percy Harvin – the longest return by a Viking in the storied history of the Vikings-Packers rivalry – the Vikings had the ball on the 14-yard line. The Packers stuffed the drive in its tracks, but on a third-down play, Jolly was trash talking with Chester Taylor and gave him a head butt. Instead of lining up for a 32-yard field goal, the penalty gave the Vikings a first down that led to the Vikings' first points of the game.
The first break of the game came in the first quarter when Favre attempted to let his offensive line know where the pressure was coming from while in the shotgun formation. As he walked toward the line, center John Sullivan snapped the ball and the Packers recovered on the Vikings 14-yard line. The Vikings defense stood tall on the ensuing possession and forced Green Bay to settle for a 37-yard field goal.
The Vikings nearly had a game-changing play in the first minute of the game. Grant took a carry up the middle and was stripped by Jared Allen and the Vikings recovered. However, the officials ruled his forward progress had been stopped. Brad Childress tried to challenge, but such plays aren't subject to review.
The Packer fans made their feelings about Favre known pretty early. Not only was he booed loudly when he came out for the pregame warmups, he was booed every time he took the field and between plays as well.
The Packers were without wide receiver Jordy Nelson, their primary kickoff returner. He was replaced by recently-signed veteran RB Ahman Green, who, even in heyday, wasn't known for his blazing speed.
Packers left tackle Chad Clifton wasn't among the inactives, but didn't start. Fourth-round rookie T.J. Lang got the nod.
It had to be strange for Packers fans to see the large numbers of Vikings fans. From the press box view, there was plenty of purple and gold visible in the crowd.
The game-time temperature was 46 degrees – not ideal football weather, but, considering the game was in Green Bay in November, is wasn't too shabby.
The paid attendance was 71,213 – a regular season record for Lambeau Field.