The Green Bay Packers put a great big present under the tree for Cheeseheads this year by prevailing over the Minnesota Vikings on a rare Thursday night engagement at Lambeau by a score of 9 - 7. The Packers needed a game winning 44-yard field goal from Dave Rayner after Brett Favre pulled off his umpteenth come-from-behind drive in the waning moments of an otherwise error-plagued affair. Nonetheless, the series has been swept... how sweet.
This was a game the Packer defense dominated. For the third game in a row the Packer D has stepped up its play to the point where Cheeseheads are thinking this young group just could develop into something special. There were no explosion plays by the Vikings, who managed only three first downs and a meager 104 total yards on the night. All-pro Aaron Kampman had a monster game. Matched up against a rookie tackle, whom the Vikings inexplicably chose not to give much help, Kampman got the green light to pad his league-leading sack totals.
As good as the defense was, however, the Packers' offense sputtered badly, squandering many golden opportunities with fumbles and dropped passes. Bubba Franks had a particularly bad game. I have no idea what has happened to this once formidable player, but he has now become a liability and needs to be replaced this off season.
As predicted, the Packers came out throwing. Brett Favre had a relatively easy time of it as the Packer offensive line allowed him plenty of time to pick his targets. Favre threw the ball a record 33 attempts in the first half alone, but miscues and fumbles prevented any touchdowns.
In the second half rookie wide receiver Greg Jennings ran the wrong route and Favre threw an interception which was run back for a touchdown. At that point the Vikings took a 7 - 6 lead. Favre threw another interception on his very next pass and one sensed a change in the momentum. But the Vikings could not get anything done offensively. Between their numerous penalties and the swarming Packer defense, the stage was set for Favre to do his come-from-behind magic.
It wasn't the prettiest of drives but Favre managed to fire a 36-yard pass to Ruvell Martin which set up the game-winning field goal by Rayner. Yes... Cheeseheads can go have a nice Christmas now.
Barring a near-miracle which would allow the Packers to back into the playoff picture, the Packers will play their final game of the season next week against the Bears in Chicago. The Bears have already locked up home field advantage in the playoffs so it will be interesting to see if they will rest some of their players allowing the Packers a better chance of achieving their eighth win this season.
The smart money would have to go on the Bears next week, but it also will be fun to see if the Packers defense can continue their outstanding production of the past several weeks against what is arguably the best team in the NFC.