January 9, 2005
Green Bay, Wis. — (AP) The Minnesota Vikings got the last laugh on the Green Bay Packers, and Randy Moss stuck around for every sweet second of this one. Moss caught two touchdown passes, making good on his promise to atone for walking off the field last week while his teammates were trying to win their regular season finale, and the Vikings rolled to a 31-17 victory over the stunned Packers on Sunday.
The Vikings, joining St. Louis as the only 8-8 teams ever to win in the playoffs, will travel to Philadelphia on Sunday after dominating the first postseason meeting with their bitter border rivals.
Green Bay had swept the season series, including a last-second win at the Metrodome two weeks ago to clinch the NFC North crown and the home field for Sunday's showdown at Lambeau Field, where the Packers have lost two playoff games in the last three years.
Daunte Culpepper threw four touchdown passes - giving him 11 TD passes and no interceptions against Green Bay this season - and the Vikings picked off four Brett Favre passes after managing just 11 interceptions all season.
Minnesota scored on its first three possessions, jumping out to a 17-0 lead in avenging two 34-31 losses to the Packers, who entered the playoffs as the NFC's hottest team.
The Packers, who lost Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker to a shin injury in the first half and left tackle Chad Clifton in the third quarter, pulled to 24-17 on Najeh Davenport's 1-yard plunge with 13:37 left.
But penalty-prone rookie cornerback Ahmad Carroll committed two costly infractions that set up Culpepper's 34-yard touchdown toss to Moss that gave the Vikings a 14-point cushion with 10:18 remaining.
Cornerback Al Harris jumped the slant-and-go route and Moss, running on a gimpy ankle, hauled in the pass for the score. Packers safety Mark Roman confronted Carroll on the sideline and had to be held back.
Meanwhile Moss - whose reputation is still smarting for skulking off the field with 2 seconds left in a loss in Washington last week - pretended to pull down his pants and moon the crowd after scoring.
The Vikings stumbled into the playoffs by losing seven of their last 10, the worst record over the final 10 regular season games of any team in the 72-year history of the NFL playoffs.
And their dysfunction reached new depths last week with Moss's early exit and coach Mike Tice dubbing himself "Coach Collapse."
The Packers were feeling good after winning nine of their last 11 and drawing the Vikings, who had lost 20 of their last 22 games outside of domes.
You never would have guessed.
On the first series, linebacker Nick Barnett came up to stop Culpepper on third-and-short and left Moe Williams alone. Culpepper lofted the ball over Barnett and when safety Darren Sharper missed the tackle, Williams scampered 68 yards for a touchdown and Minnesota jumped to a 7-0 lead just 1:40 into the game.
After the Packers went three-and-out, the Vikings needed just four plays to make it 14-0 on Moss's 20-yard touchdown catch when Harris never saw the underthrown pass.
Favre threw an interception right into the gut of cornerback Antoine Winfield on the next possession, and Morten Andersen's 35-yard field goal made it 17-0.
The Packers pulled to 17-10 on Ryan Longwell's 43-yard field goal and Bubba Franks' 4-yard touchdown catch, and they appeared to catch a huge break when Andersen slipped on a 29-yard field goal attempt.
But Walker, who bruised his shin earlier in the second quarter, changed his deep route and safety Brian Russell had an easy interception. Two plays later, Nate Burleson burned Carroll for a 19-yard touchdown catch that made it 24-10.
The Packers drove to the Vikings' 8, but Favre was whistled for an illegal forward pass when he scrambled and flung the ball to Walker in the end zone when he could have slid for the first down at the 2 - even if he didn't make it, he'd have been close enough for the Packers to go for it on fourth down.
The 5-yard penalty and loss of down set up Longwell's chip-shot 28-yard field goal attempt, but he was wide left and the Vikings raced to the locker room with a two-touchdown lead.
Walker didn't play in the second half, and Green Bay's high-octane offense sputtered in trying to keep up with Culpepper & Co.