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Sports Then and Now

Classic Rewind: 1997 Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers

Posted on October 02, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Each week, Sports Then and Now picks one NFL matchup and looks through the history books to find an intriguing past meeting between the two teams. We recap the game and hopefully help reintroduce (or introduce for you younger readers) you to some of the greats (and in some cases not so greats) from the history of professional football.

The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers have played a lot of good and important games since the Vikings entered the NFL in 1960, but there may not have ever been a more anticipated meeting than the one this coming Monday night. Though the game is being played in Minnesota and Brett Favre will not make his return to Lambeau Field until November 1st, this game officially cements the divorce between Favre and the Packers.

When Favre steps on the field to face the Packers wearing the purple, gold and white of the Vikings, there is no turning back.

This is the game that Favre has been waiting to play since the Packers called his bluff and escorted him to New York more than a year ago. This is the game the Packer fans have been waiting for since Favre showed his true colors and intentions by orchestrating his release from the Jets and then signing with the Vikings.

In preparation, I thought it would be fun to look back at one of Favre’s better outings for the Packers against the Vikings. Indeed, the quarterback feasted on the Vikings throughout his career. In 31 games against the Vikings, Favre led the Packers to 17 wins while completing 62% of his passes for 7,379 yards and 54 touchdowns with 33 interceptions.

For our Classic Rewind, we go back to September 21, 1997 and a game in which Favre and the Packers lit up the scoreboard and then held on to defeat the Vikings.

The Matchup: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Series Record: The Vikings and Packers have met 95 times with Green Bay holding a slight 49-45-1 advantage. Before Minnesota edged the Packers 28-27 in their second meeting a year ago, the Packers had won five straight games to edge ahead in the all-time series.

The Game: September 21, 1997, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Team Records: Minnesota 2-1, Green Bay 2-1

Overview: The Packers were the defending Super Bowl Champions and the Vikings were coming off a 9-7 season, but both teams entered this pivotal NFC Central contest with a 2-1 record.

Coaches: Minnesota Vikings – Dennis Green (6th year); Green Bay Packers – Mike Holmgren (6th year)

Notable Vikings: Robert Smith (rb), Brad Johnson (qb), Jake Reed (wr), Cris Carter (wr), Randall McDaniel (ol), Jeff Christy (c), Korey Stringer (ol), Jerry Ball (dt), John Randle (dt), DeWayne Washington (db)

Notable Packers: Brett Favre (qb), Dorsey Levens (rb), William Henderson (fb), Robert Brooks (wr), Antonio Freeman (wr), Mark Chmura (te), Frank Winters (c), Reggie White (de), Gilbert Brown (dt), LeRoy Butler (ss), Eugene Robinson (fs),

Interesting Notes: Mike Holmgren and Dennis Green had been assistant coaches together with the San Francisco 49ers from 1986-88 with Green handling the running backs and Holmgren tutoring Montana, Young and the quarterbacks. Favre entered the game needing two touchdown passes to eclipse Bart Starr’s team record of 152 touchdown passes. It had taken Starr 16 seasons and 191 games to throw 152 touchdowns while Favre was playing only his 83rd game.

The Game: The Vikings jumped on the board first as Robert Smith scored from one-yard out to give the Vikings a 7-0 advantage.

It didn’t take long for Favre and the Packers to answer as Favre connected with Robert Brooks on a 19-yard scoring pass to tie the game.

With the second of his five touchdowns, Favre passed Bart Starr to become Green Bay's career leader in touchdown passes.

With the second of his five touchdowns, Favre passed Bart Starr to become Green Bay's career leader in touchdown passes.

Favre was just getting started as he continued driving the Packers down the field against a Minnesota defense that seemed helpless to stop him.

Consecutive touchdown passes to Antonio Freeman of 28 and 15 yards respectively put the Packers up 21-7 midway through the second period. The first touchdown to Freeman broke the Green Bay all-time record for touchdown passes.

Minnesota had few answers offensively as while the packers were moving the ball with ease, Brad Johnson and the Vikings were struggling against Reggie White and the Green Bay defense.

The Packers weren’t finished as Favre threw his fourth touchdown pass of the half to Terry Mickens. A late 34-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell capped the scoring and gave Green Bay an astounding 31-7 lead.

Considering the hard-fought nature of the rivalry, a 24-point halftime bulge for the Packers didn’t sit well with many Viking fans who were frustrated with the inability to stop Favre and the Packers.

Favre and Antonio Freeman connected on two touchdown passes against the Vikings.

Favre and Antonio Freeman connected on two touchdown passes against the Vikings.

After seemingly entering the witness protection program following Smith’s touchdown that had opened the game before the 31-point onslaught, the Vikings finally found their offense in the second half.

Smith broke free on a number of runs, including one of 50-yards, as Minnesota started to inch closer.

Johnson threw touchdown passes to Cris Carter and Jake Reed to make the score 31-22.

However, despite not being as sharp in the second half and throwing two interceptions, Favre was still able to keep the Packers moving. He connected with Mark Chmura on a two-yard touchdown toss to make the score 38-22.

It marked the second of three times that Favre would throw five touchdown passes in a game for the Packers. The first time had been against the Bears in 1995 and the third was against the Carolina Panthers in 1998. He threw six touchdown passes against the Arizona Cardinals while playing for the New York Jets in 2008.

Minnesota refused to fold and instead kept the pressure on the Packers. A 31-yard field goal by Greg Davis made the score 38-25 and Minnesota made it a one possession game when Johnson hit Reed on a 27-yard scoring pass.

However, it proved to be too-little-too-late as the Packers held on for the 38-32 victory. It was the highest scoring game in the series between the two teams.

Favre finished the game completing 18 of 31 passes for 266 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Dorsey Levens rushed for 79 yards, but the Packers gained only 93 total yards on the ground.

Freeman caught seven passes for 122 yards and two scores while Brooks added five receptions for 92 yards and a score.

Johnson recovered to have a solid game connecting on 19 of 34 passes for 217 yards, three touchdowns and two picks. Smith gained 132 yards on the ground and caught four passes for 38 yards.

Robert Smith was the bulk of the Minnesota offense with 132 yards rushing.

Robert Smith was the bulk of the Minnesota offense with 132 yards rushing.

Despite the presence of perennial All-Pro Cris Carter in the lineup, Jake Reed was the receiving star for the Vikings. He caught nine passes for 119 and two scores.

The Packers sacked Johnson three times while Leroy Butler had the two interceptions for Green Bay. Favre was sacked twice in the game.

Post Script: Both teams would go on to reach the playoffs. The Packers won the division with a 13-3 record while Minnesota earned a Wild Card spot with a 9-7 mark. Minnesota defeated the New York Giants 23-22, but then lost to the 49ers 38-22.

Green Bay defeated San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game and rolled into Super Bowl XXXII as the prohibitive favorites against John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

It proved to be one of the best Super Bowls in history, but Green Bay ultimately lost 31-24.

Holmgren coached one more season for Green Bay and left for Seattle following the 1998 campaign.

In 1998, Green led Minnesota to a 15-1 record, but the Atlanta Falcons ended their season with a dramatic overtime victory. Green ultimately was fired with one game remaining in the 2001 season, which was his only losing campaign in Minnesota.

Brett Favre won his third straight NFL MVP Award in 1997 as he threw 35 touchdown passes.

Brad Johnson lost his starting job with the Vikings in 1998 and left following the season for Washington. Following two seasons with the Redskins, he signed with Tampa Bay in 2001 and the following season led the Buccaneers to their only Super Bowl title.

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