Packers claim NFC North - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Packers claim NFC North

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Posted: Saturday, December 25, 2004 5:32 am | Updated: 5:18 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

MINNEAPOLIS - Brett Favre bounced back from one of his familiar costly mistakes and rallied the Green Bay Packers to another big victory — and another division title.

Favre drove his team 76 yards to set up Ryan Longwell’s 29-yard field goal as time ran out, lifting the Packers to a 34-31 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday that clinched a third straight NFC North crown for Green Bay.

The Packers (9-6) trailed 31-24 with 8:18 left after Favre’s third-down throw from his end zone was intercepted by Chris Claiborne and returned 12 yards for a touchdown.

The Vikings (8-7), however, couldn’t get what they needed from a pass defense that has struggled all season long. Donald Driver — who had 11 receptions for 162 yards — made a nifty, falling-down catch of Favre’s pass on fourth-and-goal at the 3 to tie it at 31 with 3:34 remaining after an 80-yard drive.

Minnesota, which can clinch a wild card playoff spot with a loss by either Carolina or St. Louis this weekend, appeared on its way to retaking the lead.

But a holding penalty on Matt Birk — the Vikings were flagged nine times for 78 yards — wiped out a 16-yard run by Michael Bennett that would have given them the ball at the Green Bay 40 just before the 2-minute warning.

After a punt, Favre got the ball at his 13 with 1:35 left. Twelve plays later, Longwell’s kick sailed through the uprights — sending the Packers into celebration on their biggest rival’s home field.

Favre finished 30-for-43 for 365 yards, three touchdowns and the interception. Ahman Green, who left briefly with a head injury, carried 19 times for 64 yards and a score.

Daunte Culpepper went 16-for-23 for 285 yards, no turnovers and three touchdowns — on three consecutive passes in a wild second quarter in which 38 points were scored.

Nate Burleson, who had a career day against the Packers last month, caught two passes for 110 yards and a score.

Randy Moss had a touchdown among his two catches and 30 yards, and Michael Bennett finished with 159 total yards on 20 touches.

The Packers’ secondary has had problems all season, and tackling was a major firsthalf deficiency.

Burleson caught a short pass over the middle on thirdand-5, shed Darren Sharper and raced 42 yards to the Green Bay 26. Later on that drive, Moss caught a 12-yard scoring pass from Culpepper when Al Harris slipped and couldn’t stay with him near the edge of the end zone.

After Green bulled in for a tying touchdown on fourthand-goal at the 1, Burleson escaped from Ahmad Carroll’s arms near midfield following a catch and sprinted for a 68-yard score to make it 14-7.

That’s when the game really got crazy. After using their final timeout of the half — Green Bay coach Mike Sherman went 0-for-2 on challenges — the Packers tied it again when Favre found a wide-open Bubba Franks for a 22-yard touchdown with 1:23 left.

Kelly Campbell returned the kickoff 55 yards, and Culpepper promptly threw a screen pass to Bennett — who sidestepped Nick Barnett at the line of scrimmage and scampered for a 38-yard score to make it 21-14 with 1:08 remaining. Bennett blew by Carroll inside the 10 after the rookie cornerback made a shaky attempt at a tackle.

Antonio Chatman answered with a 59-yard kickoff return, giving Longwell a chance to make a 42-yard field goal as the half ended.

A livid Vikings coach Mike Tice chucked his clipboard and pencil to the turf when an official clock stoppage for measurement allowed Green Bay time to gather for the kick with 4 seconds left.

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