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Vikings Go to Hurry-Up

Two TDs in Opening Minutes Lead to Dominating Win: Vikings 31, Packers 17

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2005; Page D01

GREEN BAY, Wis., Jan. 9 -- Brett Favre's postseason magic and the Green Bay Packers' home playoff mystique were no match for the inspired Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

With Favre throwing four interceptions and the Vikings jumping to an early 17-point advantage, Minnesota made amends for two three-point regular season losses to the Packers with a 31-17 victory to advance to the NFC semifinals. The Vikings will play at the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday.

Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss hauls in a touchdown pass against Packers cornerback Al Harris. Moss scored two touchdowns, the second of which led to a "disgusting" celebration. (Allen Fredrickson -- Reuters)

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A 34-yard pass from Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper to limping wide receiver Randy Moss gave the Vikings a 14-point lead with 10 minutes 18 seconds left in the game, and neither Favre nor his battered teammates could mount a comeback. It was the second home playoff loss in Green Bay history (14-2) and one of Favre's worst postseason performances in his storied career.

Favre (216 yards passing, 55.4 rating), who has thrown 15 interceptions in his last five playoff games, said he spoke with Coach Mike Sherman in the locker room after the game about whether he will be back next season.

Said Favre: "I can not base my decision on this game. I know I can still play, though I question that right now. We had a long talk, a good talk, and [Sherman] said, 'Don't make any decision off this game.' "

As for Culpepper, he and Coach Mike Tice emphasized getting off to a fast start, and the Vikings did just that. Culpepper threw two scoring passes within the first 5 1/2 minutes and finished 19 for 29 with 284 yards and no interceptions. He also was his team's leading rusher with 54 yards on six carries. "He put us on his shoulders today," Tice said of Culpepper.

"It's the first time this year we played in a game like we practiced all week," Tice said. "Why that is I have no earthly idea. . . . This whole damned season has been challenging. It hasn't been a lot of fun, but I'm going to enjoy that 40-minute plane ride home. I'm gonna' cherish the hell out of it."

Moss, who caused a firestorm of controversy last week when he walked off the field with two seconds left in a loss to the Redskins, was at it again Sunday. Following his second touchdown catch, he went to the back end of the end zone, pointed his rear end toward Packers fans and pantomimed pulling down his pants.

No flag was thrown, though Moss seems likely to face league disciplinary action later this week for an act Fox broadcaster Joe Buck described on the air as "disgusting." Still, Moss was a major contributor for the Vikings, who became the third team to win on the road in the four weekend first-round games, joining the New York Jets and St. Louis Rams. The Vikings became the second 8-8 team to advance past the first round. St. Louis was the first when it eliminated host Seattle on Saturday.

Moss declined to comment in the locker room after the game, but Vikings center Matt Birk, who had rebuked Moss to his face last week for his actions in the Washington game, said: "That's Randy. You take the good with the bad. He'll probably never be a model citizen."

The Vikings couldn't have dreamed of getting off to a better start, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions and opening a 14-0 lead with 9 minutes 50 seconds left in the first quarter. That stunned the Packers and silenced the capacity crowd of 71,075 expecting to see Green Bay sweep all three games this season.

Then after a scoreless third quarter and the Packers creeping to 24-17 following a nine-play, 78-yard touchdown march, Culpepper answered on the ensuing drive. An eight-yard pass to wide receiver Nate Burleson on third and six at midfield picked up a vital first down. Three plays later, the Vikings had a first down at the Green Bay 34.

The Vikings initially had called for a run, but Culpepper came to the line and read a blitz he had seen earlier in the game. He immediately audibled into a pass, giving a hand signal to Moss to go deep.

Playing on a sprained right ankle that has plagued him most of the season, Moss got cornerback Al Harris to believe he was running a five-yard route before bursting past him and making his second touchdown catch.

"We were able to fool No. 31 [Harris]," Culpepper said. "He jumped the route, and Randy just ran it perfectly . . . I just put it out there, and Randy made a great catch."

The Vikings also got another major lift from their much-maligned defense on the Packers' next series. On third and 10 at the Minnesota 43, defensive end Darrion Scott sacked Favre for a five-yard loss, forcing a punt with 8:29 to play.

The Vikings then began a ball-control drive that lasted nearly eight minutes before the Packers took over on downs at their 15 with 23 seconds left in the game.

"We went out there and just pounded the ball at them," Birk said. "That last drive was an offensive lineman's dream. We get four picks against Brett Favre in January at Lambeau. Hey, that's pretty good. Where else would you rather play, and for what? It was perfect. We come in here without any pressure on us. We're the sixth seed. It was a great situation for us, and a great win."

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