If you’re an ESPN executive, the most exciting sentence in the English language right now probably goes a little something like this:
Brett Favre takes on the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.
Combine a bitter rivalry with a hugely polarizing star, stick it in the most popular timeslot of the most popular sport in America, and what do you get?
Based on the outrageously exciting games we saw during the 2009 season between the Packers and the Vikings, we're compelled to look back at a handful of the classic Minnesota-Green Bay clashes that have paved the way.
Between Sept. 3, 1995 and Oct. 5, 1998, the Packers played 25 regular-season games at Lambeau.
They won all of them.
That's a three-year stretch of dominance that rivals the length of the average NFL career. In other words, a whole generation of players came and went without seeing the Packers lose at home.
Then Randy Moss made his way into the league, and everything changed.
Moss made an impact from Week One of his rookie campaign, but this game served as his coming-out party: Five catches, 190 yards, two touchdowns, and one shattered winning streak.
Randall Cunningham threw for 442 yards and four scores on the day. Favre tossed three picks before getting the hook in favor of Doug Pederson, and a young Ryan Longwell kicked a field goal and three PATs in a losing effort.
Some Packer fans will tell you this game was the beginning of the end of the Holmgren era. For Vikings fans getting caught up in the magical 1998 season, it was the beginning of something special.
If you read the box score, it looked simple: Antonio Freeman caught a 43-yard pass from Brett Favre to win the game.
If you remember the play that went down as "The Improbable Bobble," it was anything but.
On a messy night in Green Bay, Daunte Culpepper and the Vikings spent four quarters matching the Pack blow-for-blow. Both offenses were pass-happy, and neither moved the ball well in the rain.
The Vikings nearly won the game in regulation, but as Gary Anderson lined up for a 33-yard field goal with seven seconds to play, Mitch Berger muffed the snap, then chucked up an ill-advised pass attempt that was picked off to send the game into overtime.
On 3rd-and-4 during Green Bay's first possession of OT, Minnesota pressured Favre into a long lob to Antonio Freeman. Vikings corner Chris Dishman broke it up.
Or so he thought.
Dishman whacked the ball out of the air and off of his body. Freeman, face-down on the ground, somehow came up with the ricochet on the fly.
Dishman didn't notice that Freeman wasn't down, and Freeman waltzed Scot-free into the endzone for the win.
As Favre tells it, he mobbed Freeman during the ensuing celebration before asking in a whisper, "Did you catch it?"
Freeman's reply: "Hell yeah, I got it."
In many respects, Minnesota's 2004 season was an affair to forget.
The Vikings started 5-1 and finished 8-8. Mike Tice was nailed for running a Super Bowl ticket scalping operation a few months after the season ended. Randy Moss ruffled plenty of feathers when he headed to the locker room with a few seconds left on the clock at the end of a Week 17 loss in Washington.
But this particular night in Green Bay was one to remember.
The first and only playoff meeting between the Vikings and Packers was a tale of two quarterbacks. Culpepper racked up 284 yards passing and two touchdowns; Favre threw for 216 yards, a touchdown, and four interceptions.
Moss, allegedly nursing a hamstring injury, caught four balls for 70 yards and two scores. He punctuated his second trip to the end zone by giving Packer fans—notorious for mooning the visiting team's bus as it approaches and leaves the stadium—a little taste of their own medicine.
If you ask me, the league's $10,000 fine for the stunt was a small price to pay for making the ever-obnoxious Joe Buck freak out on the air about an act he deemed "disgusting." Evidently, Buck was unaware that Moss had in fact kept his pants on.
The Vikings went on to get pasted by the Eagles the following week, but if there was ever a win to validate a long, ugly season, this was it.
When Lovie Smith took over as the Bears head coach, his first stated goal was clear: Beat the Packers.
When Brad Childress took the Vikings job, he never went public with a similar intention. Considering Minnesota kicked off his tenure with an 0-5 skid against Green Bay, that's probably a good thing.
Heading into this game, Childress had plenty to worry about besides that streak. The Vikings were 4-4 and a tied for third place. In their last divisional game, they'd turned the ball over five times and given up 48 points in a loss to the Bears. The high-profile acquisitions they'd made in the offseason (Jared Allen, Bernard Berrian) hadn't vaulted them into contention.
In other words, they needed a win here.
To get one, Childress put the ball in the hands of Adrian Peterson.
As Sam Adams would say, always a good decision.
Peterson ripped off 192 yards rushing on 30 carries, including a 29-yard rumble for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to stop a 17-0 Green Bay run. The PAT gave the Vikings a one-point lead with a little more than two minutes to play.
Aaron Rodgers brought the Pack to the outskirts of field goal range, but Mason Crosby pushed the go-ahead kick a few feet wide of the upright from 52 yards out, giving Childress his first win over his biggest rival.
Vikings fans can only hope that it won't be his last.