GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)—Randy Moss stuck around for every sweet second this time.
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 upset 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 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.
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.”
“Pretty much everybody said we couldn’t do it and we just pulled together,” Culpepper said. “We never bought into the negativity.”
Favre said he’ll spend some time now thinking about his future, but he wasn’t going to let this game play a role in his decision to retire or return for a 15th season.
“It would be easy to walk off the field after that game, and say, ‘I’ve had enough,”’ Favre said. “But I’m going to try to be as far to myself and my team as possible. I’ve had a lot of great games. This obviously was not one of them.”
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 lost Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker to a shin injury in the first half and left tackle Chad Clifton in the third quarter, but pulled to 24-17 on Najeh Davenport’s 1-yard plunge with 13:37 left.
Then penalty-prone rookie cornerback Ahmad Carroll committed two costly infractions that set up Culpepper’s 34-yard touchdown toss to Moss, giving 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. Harris said somebody blew the all-out blitz on the play but he wouldn’t name names.
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.
“Just having a little fun with the boys a little bit,” he told FOX. “I hope I don’t get in trouble by it, but if I do I’ll take the heat.”
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 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 with Harris in coverage.
“I expect a big game from Randy every single time we go out,” teammate Nate Burleson said. “It’s hard for him, because everybody gives him a lot of flak about certain things that he does, but really when it comes down to it that’s a guy that I know I would rather have than any other receiver in this league.”
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, 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.
Then, Longwell missed a chip-shot 28-yarder.
“He’s a great kicker. I’d like to think I’m a great quarterback,” Favre said. “And I’m kidding myself if I think great quarterbacks don’t have bad days. Bad throws. Bad reads. Or kickers don’t miss kicks. Or good corners don’t get beat. Or offensive linemen don’t hold from time to time. But it seemed like all those things happened today.”
Walker didn’t play in the second half, and Green Bay’s high-octane offense sputtered in trying to keep up with Culpepper & Co.
“When we put points up on the board, there’s not too many teams that can mess with us,” Burleson said.
The Packers finished 4-5 at Lambeau Field this season. Favre lost for just the third time—but second straight—in 41 cold-weather games at home. … Williams (sprained right ankle) was on crutches after the game.