After a crazy day of NFL action, Week 7 brought us the under-hyped game of the day between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings at the storied Lambeau Field on the Sunday Night Football finale: Aaron Rodgers was looking to lead his undermanned team to victory over the star-studded Vikings led by Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and the newly-acquired Randy Moss.
On a night when there were plenty of stars in the sky, there was also no shortage of stars on the field, the most important of which was the Old Gunslinger at his old home. The Packers came into the contest with a 3-3 record, riding the arm of their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had already thrown 10 TD passes on the year.
With no real running threat to speak of, the Packers had three players with more than 20 catches for more than 300 yards (WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, TE Jermichael Finley).
Unfortunately, Finley was lost for the season in the team's heartbreaking loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 6, but there were plenty of players ready to step up and take his place. The Packers' third-round pick in 2007, WR James Jones, has been on the brink of emerging as a star in the offense, and with the big pass catching TE gone, he looked to get his shot starting with this game.
On the other side of the field, the Vikings are loaded with star power. In addition to the three aforementioned Vikings players, they also have second year standout WR Percy Harvin, DE Jared Allen, and the Williams "brothers" clogging up the middle of the Vikings defensive line.
The Vikings came into the game with a record of 2-3 after getting a victory in a must-win game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. The Vikings had been off to a slow start to their 2010 campaign, but they looked to build on the momentum that they picked up in their previous contest. To do so, they would need the passing game to get a much needed spark from playmaker Randy Moss and the defensive line led by Jared Allen to get themselves back on the map by pressuring Aaron Rodgers.
Both of these teams had great expectations going into the 2010 season, but injuries and inconsistencies had all but derailed the postseason hopes of both franchises. With the NFC North leading Chicago Bears losing earlier in the day, this game gained great importance. The winner of the Sunday Night contest would be in the driver seat in the division chase as the Bears appear to be pretenders.
The game began at 8:30 p.m. with the Vikings receiving the opening kick, but they couldn't get anything going. Three plays and six yards later, the Vikings were punting the ball to the Packers.
On the Packers' first play of the game, Packers RB Brandon Jackson fumbled but recovered, sitting up a 16-yard screen on second. Next came Aaron Rodgers scrambling for 13 yards and another first down, and the game was officially underway.
Two plays later, the Packers were whistled for their first penalty of the night, a false start. The Packers have been plagued by penalties all year, even losing some games due to them. However, on the next play, WR James Jones made his first catch of the night on an extended play to pick up a first down.
Jones wouldn't be the only player who got a much needed quick start. On the very next play, Jared Allen got an interception on the line and the Vikings were back in control of the ball. It wouldn't last though, and another Vikings three-and-out gave the Packers the ball on their own 24-yard line after a Vikings' punt.
Rodgers found Greg Jennings over the middle for a gain of 25 and the Packers were near mid-field. Two plays later, Rodgers found Jones again, this time for a gain of 45, bringing the ball to the Vikings' two-yard line. On the Packers' second first-and-goal attempt, Brandon Jackson took the ball in for a TD from the one yard line, giving the Packers an early 7-0 lead with 5:11 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Percy Harvin carried the return to the Packers' 44-yard line, giving the Vikings their best field position of the night. Peterson carried the ball three straight times for 12 yards and the Vikings' first first down of the evening.
After yet another Peterson carry, Favre found Visanthe Shiancoe on two straight passes for a total of 19 yards. That set up the same guy who started off the drive with a big runback for a TD run to cap the drive. Percy Harvin carried the ball in from 17 yards out on a counter up the middle for a TD to tie things up at 7-7 with 1:16 remaining in the first.
The Packers would start their next drive on their own 21-yard line. Rodgers and Jones started off the drive right where they left off, hooking up for a gain of 32, followed by a 36-yard gain on an inside screen to Jackson.
The first quarter came to an end with the Packers sitting on 2nd-and-8 from the Vikings' 10-yard line, and on 3rd-and-8 Rodgers found TE Andrew Quarless for a nine-yard TD pass. That gave the Packers a 14-7 lead two plays into the second quarter. The Packers had 200 total yards offense in the first quarter, and kept it going right into the second.
The Vikings took over on their own 24-yard line after an average return from Harvin. Moss' first target resulted in an incompletion due to miscommunication between the two, but spell back Toby Gerhart picked up 12 yards setting up a big pass over the middle to Bernard Berian across midfield to the 35 yard line of the Packers.
Two plays later, Favre found Moss for a gain of 14 and another first down, and three plays after that Percy Harvin took a screen pass to the Packers' one yard line. Peterson would follow up the big play with a one-yard TD run, and the game was again tied up, 14-14.
Packers WR Lee returned the following kick to the Packers' 44-yard line, and the team went back to work. After picking up one more first down, Rodgers overthrew Jennings down the left sideline, then on the next play underthrew James Jones. On 4th-and-7, the Packers ran a trick play after breaking from the field goal formation that completely fooled the Packers, but backup QB Matt Flynn overthrew a wide open Andrew Quarless.
The Vikings took over on downs from their own 37-yard line. After two Peterson runs for seven yards, Favre again found Shiancoe for another first down. On the next play, Harvin picked up 12 yards on a draw and got 15 more yards on a personal foul penalty that took the Vikings all the way to the Packers' 17-yard line.
On the next play, Favre found Shiacoe on a beautiful pass to the end zone for what appeared to give the Vikings a TD and the lead, but after a Packers' challenge it was called back. The Vikings would have to settle for a field goal, going ahead 17-14 with 3:59 remaining in the first half.
The Packers' next drive started at their own 27-yard line. After a couple of short passes and a little help from the referees, the Packers crossed mid-field, but some of the shine looked to be rubbing off of Rodgers. He missed a couple of passes badly, but still was picking up conversions on third down.
On the first play after the two minute warning, Rodgers again threw a ball five yards behind his WR on first down. After a first down pass to a back, Jared Allen knocked down a Rodgers pass, bringing up second down. Allen again got into the backfield, causing Rodgers to throw an ill-advised deep ball that was tipped in the endzone and picked off by Vikings CB Madeua Williams.
After a 12-yard gain by Peterson, Favre went deep to moss down the right sideline for a long completion that was called off by the referees. One more Peterson run would bring the game to the half with the Vikings leading 17-14.
The total stat line at the half was pretty even for the most part, but the pieces were very different. The Packers outgained the Vikings 227-70 through the air, but the Vikings outgained the Packers 13-41 on the ground. The first 30 minutes brought us big play after big play, and everyone had to be excited to see what both teams would do for a second-half encore.
The Packers received the opening kick in the third quarter, and on first down, DT Kevin Williams almost picked off a Rodgers pass at the line of scrimmage. After an eight-yard gain from RB Brandon Jackson, the Packers faced a 3rd-and2-. Rodgers went deep to James Jones on play action down the left sideline, but the coverage was great and forced an incompletion and the first Green Bay punt of the night.
The Vikings' first drive of the third quarter began with a 20-yard gain up the middle. Two plays and six yards later, the Vikings faced a 3rd-and-4. Favre took a low hit and forced a throw over the middle that was picked by A.J. Hawk, and all of a sudden, things weren't looking good for the Vikings. Favre came up gimpy after the play, and the Packers took over from the Vikings 40-yard line.
The Packers would convert on 3rd-and-5 on a 16-yard pass to Jones, and they were again in the red zone. Rodgers would capitalize on the Favre pick and make the Vikings pay, going 41 yards on five plays for a TD that gave the Packers a 21-17 lead.
The Vikings took over on their own 20-yard line after a squib kick that was fallen on by one of the Vikings designated blockers. Favre came out for the drive, despite his ankle being noticeably bothersome. He refused medical attention on the sideline and went back to work, but threw a pick six on the second play of the drive, lengthening the Packers' lead to 28-17.
The Vikings suddenly found themselves in a two-score hole in a game where the Packers had punted only once. They had their work cut out for them, receiving the kickoff with 7:47 to go in the third quarter. In an effort to deny Percy Harvin a chance at a return, the Packers kicked short and the Vikings started from their own 42-yard line.
After two Peterson runs brought up a 3rd-and-1, Favre fooled everyone with a play action pass down the middle to Percy Harvin for a gain of 37 yards and a first down. On 3rd-and-2 from inside the 10-yard line, Favre finally hooked up with Moss for a TD on an easy pitch and catch across the middle, closing the gap to 28-24 with 4:12 still to play in the third.
The Packers would take over on their own 24-yard line. After moving the chains, Rodgers took a shot downfield but overthrew his intended receiver. Still, the Packers picked up 10 yards on the next Jackson run and moved the chains again. Three plays later, the Packers would gamble on a 4th-and-1 from their own 44-yard line, but it would pay off as they picked up the yard. Three plays later, the Packers went for it on another fourth and inches, but they would tempt fate one too many times and turned the ball over on downs.
The Brett Favre led Vikings took over on the Packers' 34-yard line, and were looking to take their first lead since the first drive of the second half. Peterson would pick up 25 yards on back to back runs, getting him over the 100-yard mark (107) for the day.
The VIkings were on the move with 10 minutes remaining in regulation, and they needed a score on this drive to stay in the game. Favre through another very risky pass that was nearly picked and brought up a 3rd-and-7. On the following play, Favre did throw a pick over the middle.
The game appeared to be all but over as the Packers once again took possession after a Brett Favre interception. The Packers would start at their own 23-yard line. After a stuffed run and a woefully underthrown ball, the Pack had a 3rd-and-11. The Vikings got pressure, but Rodgers found Jennings over the middle for a gain of 14 yards and a first down.
The Vikings forced yet another third down and three just shy of mid-field, but Rodgers threw a pass to no one and the Vikings would get new life after a Packers' punt. They would start at their own 17 with 6:20 left to play. It was do or die time for the Vikings. They needed a TD to win.
Four straight plays they ran with Peterson getting them to their own 36-yard line on 3rd-and-7. Toby Gerhart got six yards on a screen, but the Vikings were left with a fourth and inches and what would amount to a last chance to pick up the first down. Peterson would squirt across the line and past the marker, and the Vikings were still alive.
The Vikings ran Peterson again for a loss of two, and Harvin took a screen to mid-field right at the two minute warning. The VIkings had a third down coming up on the other side of the two minute warning, but it was now four down territory. Favre was looking to make what would possibly be his last trip to Lambeau Field a memorable one, but after a dropped pass on third down the Vikings had to pick up five yards on fourth down to keep the drive alive.
Favre found Moss over the middle for a gain of 14 yards and a first down to keep a little hope intact for Vikings fans, but on first down Favre took a sack for a six-yard loss. On top of that, he had to take a time out leaving the Vikings with only one.
On a screen pass to Peterson, the Vikings moved the ball all the way down to the Packers' 15-yard line, but a pair of penalties left the Vikings with a 1st-and-30 from the 35-yard line. On first down, Favre went deep to the back of the endzone and Vikings fans rejoiced as Harvin made an amazing TD grab—that wasn't. Harvin could only get one foot down in the endzone, so it was second down and 30.
A screen to Peterson picked up 15 yards, bringing up a 3rd-and-15 from the Packers' 20-yard line. Favre was chased from the pocket and forced to throw the ball away, and it came down to one last fourth down and 15 in Lambeau. Favre dropped back and slipped, falling to the ground. He managed to get back up to throw one last heave to the back of the end zone, but the ball was too high for even Randy Moss, and the game was over.
The Packers took a knee, and the last chapter was perhaps written in a story 20 years in the making: Brett Favre, the Legend At Lambeau. It was a tough loss, and in typical Favre fashion, he threw just too many interceptions to deserve a win. The final score was Packers 28, Vikings 24. The torch may have finally been passed to Favre's predecessor in Green Bay, QB Aaron Rodgers.
The final stats aren't nearly as important as the final outcome. Favre has a new home, and it's in Minnesota. The Packers fans cheered as loud as they ever have, and this time it was for a Favre loss. It seemed almost surreal. The Old Gunslinger will put away his .45 caliber arm after a game in Green Bay for the last time, and this time, he just missed his mark.