Sun, Dec 26, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Packers upset the Vikings

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE Green Bay clinched their third consecutive National Football Conference North title and got themselves a home playoff game

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTANY TIMES NEWS SERVICE, NEW YORK

Vikings running back Michael Bennett flees from Packers cornerback Al Harris, left, after catching a pass from Daunte Culpepper in the second quarter in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Friday. The 38-yard play resulted in a touchdown for Minnesota.

PHOTO: AP

Brett Favre orchestrated one of the most dramatic fourth-quarter comebacks of his career Friday, and he picked the perfect time to do it.

Favre led the Packers 76 yards on the game's final drive as Green Bay beat the Minnesota Vikings 34-31 on a game-ending field goal at the Metrodome. The Packers (9-6) clinched their third consecutive National Football Conference North title. Had the Vikings (8-7) won this meeting of rivals, they would have seized the division title.

"Right now it ranks No. 1," Favre said of the 11-play drive that set up Ryan Longwell's winning 29-yard field goal. "I'm going to have to let it soak in."

Favre, who has led the Packers to 34 fourth-quarter comebacks, threw a fourth-quarter interception that Chris Claiborne returned 15 yards for a touchdown to put the Vikings ahead 31-24. But Favre guided the Packers 80 yards for a tying score.

"I'm at a loss of words, I really am," Favre said. "I'm proud of this team."

Favre avoided a blitz and connected with Javon Walker on a 31-yard pass with 25 seconds left to put the Packers in scoring position again. With three seconds left, Favre handed the game over to Longwell, who drilled a field goal to beat the Vikings for the second time this season and was mobbed by teammates.

"It's jubilation," Longwell said. "There's something to be said about when everything's on the line and your body can come through in that situation. It's something a lot of people on this planet will never get to feel."

Longwell kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired Nov. 14 against the Vikings in Green Bay. The Packers also won that game 34-31.

"I thought it was pretty weird that it was the same score, but there's nothing routine about kicking a field goal in this league," Longwell said.

The Vikings hoped the Packers would foul up the snap on the field-goal attempt.

Last week, a botched snap on an extra-point attempt by the Detroit Lions allowed the Vikings to escape with a victory.

"The snap had to be good, the hold had to be good and the kick had to be good," Packers Coach Mike Sherman said. "So it's a three-man team when we kick a field goal, but Ryan is Mr. Dependable."

The Packers began the season 1-4, and they entered this game having lost two of their past three games.

"That drive right there is sort of what our season's been all about," Favre said. "Ups and downs, but find a way to endure at the end."

The Vikings still have an excellent chance of landing a wild-card berth, even if they lose Jan. 2 at Washington. If either Carolina or St. Louis loses or ties one of its final two games, the Vikings are in. Minnesota has not been to the playoffs since 2000, when it last won the division.

"If our season was over, I think I'd be a little more upset, because I'd be going home without a chance of playing in the postseason," said Vikings receiver Nate Burleson, who scored on a 68-yard pass play in the 38-point second quarter. "But we still have a chance."

The Packers trailed 31-24 late in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-goal from the 3, Sherman made his gutsiest call of the game and went for it. Favre delivered a bullet to Donald Driver, who made the catch while falling down.

Favre was 30 of 43 passing for 365 yards with three touchdowns and the interception. In the third quarter, he moved into third place on the NFL's career passing yardage list, overtaking Warren Moon. Favre finished the game with 49,538 yards.

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