The Vikings and Paul Edinger did it again.
Recent history said when Minnesota and Green Bay meet it should be a three-point game, as each of the last three regular-season meetings have been decided by last-second field goals. Last year, Ryan Longwell kicked the Packers to two 34-31 wins.
This year, new Viking Paul Edinger had something else in store for the Packers, as he followed his last-second, game-winning, franchise-record 56-yard field goal on Oct. 23 for a 23-20 Minnesota win with a 27-yard field goal as time expired Monday night for a 20-17 Vikings win.
Just like Oct. 23 in the Metrodome, the Vikings defense also held Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers to three second-half points, allowing Minnesota to find an offensive rhythm in the second half and overcome a 14-7 halftime deficit.
They did it with Brad Johnson making good decisions, mixing in an occasional explosive pass play, and Mewelde Moore find running room to the outside in the second half. Johnson completed 18 of 30 passes for 196 yards with one interception, and Moore had a game-high 122 yards rushing – 90 of them in the second half.
Defensively, the Vikings held Favre to 227 yards passing – 47 in the second half – two touchdowns and two interceptions while limiting Green Bay to only 21 yards rushing.
The Vikings started the game with a proficient drive that saw them passing with effectiveness. Johnson picked up the initial first down with a 16-yard scramble to midfield, and passes of 5 yards to Moore and tight end Jermaine Wiggins put them in scoring position at the 35-yard line. But after a sack, a 10-yard pass to Wiggins gave them a shot at a field. While Edinger would eventually win the game, he once again started the outing with a miss, as his 49-yard attempt in cold weather came up short.
A 9-yard sack by former University of Wisconsin defensive end Erasmus James forced the Packers off the field in three plays, but the Vikings offense couldn’t respond either.
This time, Favre and Company got it done. It started when the quarterback avoided another pressure from James and threw across the field, finding Samkon Gado in stride for 30 yards. Completions of 8 and 9 yards to tight end Donald Lee put Green Bay inside the red zone, and Favre’s bullet to Donald Driver gave the Packers a 7-0 lead with a 15-yard touchdown with 2:16 left in the first quarter.
The Vikings continued to move the ball with the short passing game, but when Johnson finally went for an explosive play to Moore, safety Nick Collins caught the floater for an interception. However, the Packers couldn’t do anything with the ball and the teams exchanged six punts until just before the two-minute warning, when Green Bay set up its offense on its own 18-yard line.
Favre picked up one first down with a 15-yard pass to Antonio Chatman, but cornerback Dovonte Edwards jumped a pass intended for Andrae Thurman, intercepted it and returned it 51 yards for Minnesota’s only score of the half, tying the game 7-7 with 1:04 to play.
With that little time left, Favre still needed only three plays to assume the lead again. He started with underneath completions to Tony Fisher and Thurman for a combined 11 yards, but on the third play of the drive, Favre gunned for Driver, cornerback Antoine Winfield gambled and went for the ball and Driver outraced his pursuit for a 53-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead that the Packers took to the halftime locker room.
Minnesota avoided a deeper hole early in the third quarter when defensive end Aaron Kampman stripped the ball from Johnson in Vikings territory and Gbaja-Biamila recovered, but the Minnesota defense and two Packers penalties took Green Bay out of scoring position.
Despite receiving the punt on the 12-yard line, the Vikings made something out of bad field position and tied the game at 14 with a drive that featured eight first downs, 13 plays and used 8:33 of game time. Johnson started moving the chains with a 6-yard completion to Koren Robinson on third down, followed by a 14-yard pass to Wiggins. Moore picked up the next first down, followed by Wiggins, Moore and then an illegal contact penalty on safety Mark Roman, who bumped Wiggins at the end line. One play later, cornerback Jason Horton gave the Vikings another first down when he was flagged for pass interference while covering Koren Robinson in the end zone. Ciatrick Fason needed two plays to punch the ball into the end zone from 1 yard out, but the Vikings knotted the game with their first offensive touchdown in 138 minutes of play.
The defense continued to play well, forcing Green Bay off the field in short order for the third time in the second half, and Johnson continued to keep the offense rolling. This time, the Vikings were more explosive to start. Travis Taylor began the drive with a 25-yard reception from a pressured Johnson, and Moore took the ensuing handoff 24 yards to the Green Bay 19-yard line. When Moore ran for 9 more and Fason converted it into a first down, the Vikings had first-and-goal at the 8-yard line. After a 2-yard Fason run and two incompletions, Edinger was called upon again. This time, he nailed a 24-yard field goal to give the Vikings their first lead of the game, 17-14, with 10:13 remaining.
Instead of forcing a punt, the defense came up with another interception of Favre, but not before a 37-yard pass interference penalty on safety Corey Chavous in coverage on Driver. One play later, Favre went back to Driver and cornerback Brian Williams step in front of the pass for an interception.
While the Minnesota offense wasn’t able to create points off the turnover, it helped the field position and forced a sustained drive from Green Bay following the punt. Favre was erratic on the Packers’ final drive. He started with completions of 5 and 15 yards to Lee, picked up another first down on a defensive penalty and converted the final first down with a 9-yard completion to Thurman. However, he also mixed in five incompletions, including three in a row to force a 46-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Longwell. Longwell delivered, but the Vikings had one more opportunity left.
Johnson and Moore seized the night. Moore began the drive with three straight rushes inside three minutes for a combined 18 yards to get past midfield. After an 8-yard completion to Wiggins, Johnson found Koren Robinson in a cornerback-safety seam in the Green Bay defense and Johnson-to-Robinson produced a 35-yard pass play to the 6-yard line. The Packers were left to use all of their time outs while Johnson took a knee three straight times to set up Edinger’s 27-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
With the 20-17 win, the Vikings have crawled back to a .500 record (5-5) in the unlikeliest of ways. They have won two straight outdoor games and done it with just enough special teams, defense and now even a little offense. Minnesota still trails Chicago by two games in the division, but with a favorable schedule and Chicago in the Metrodome for the season closer, there is still hope for a playoff push after a 2-5 start and losing two Pro Bowl offensive players to injuries.