The Green Bay Packers’ postseason push was muddled by nemesis
MILWAUKEE (AP) _ The Green Bay Packers’ postseason push was muddled by nemesis Jim McMahon, whose passing revived the Minnesota Vikings’ chances of repeating as NFC Central champions.
McMahon threw for three touchdowns - matching his season total entering the game - in leading the Vikings to a 21-17 victory Sunday over the Packers. It was his 10th consecutive winning start against Green Bay.
″This keeps our hopes alive,″ McMahon said. ″But if we lose, we’re done.″
Scottie Graham rushed 30 times for 139 yards - only 35 fewer than he had gained in his NFL career - as Minnesota (7-7) moved into a third-place tie with Chicago, one game behind co-leaders Green Bay and Detroit.
The Vikings host Kansas City next week and finish at Washington.
The Packers (8-6) had won six straight at County Stadium, including five under second-year coach Mike Holmgren. But Holmgren left the game with an 0-4 mark against Vikings coach Dennis Green.
″I really don’t get too wrapped up in these rivalries. It’s just frustrating not to win the game,″ said Holmgren, who sat next to Green in the San Francisco coaches box when both were 49ers assistants from 1986-88. ″I think we’re still in control of our own destiny. We still have a chance to meet our goals.″
The Packers, seeking their first playoff berth in a non-strike season since 1972, play host to the Los Angeles Raiders before finishing at Detroit.
Graham, working in a pharmacy a few months ago after the New York Jets cut him, became Minnesota’s starter because of injuries to Terry Allen and Robert Smith.
″Scottie spent five or six weeks on the practice squad and is in great physical condition; that’s why he can carry the ball 30 times,″ Green said. ″He looked good on the practice squad and that’s why we brought him up. He’s filled what we were looking for.″
McMahon also finally did what the Vikings expected when they signed him as a free agent in the offseason. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 207 yards in Minnesota’s first three-touchdown game of the season before leaving late with a foot injury he said wouldn’t keep him from starting next Sunday.
″This is Jim’s style, a running game with some passing,″ Green said. ″We’ve had to work hard to find the running game. This is the kind of game we envisioned when we brought Jim in here. Jim was accurate and had good control of the game.″
As well as McMahon played, Green Bay still had a chance to take the lead with 2 1/2 minutes left, when it had the ball at Minnesota’s 2-yard line. But the Vikings’ NFC-leading defense pushed the Pack back.
Darrell Thompson was tackled for a 5-yard loss by Bobby Abrams on first down, Carlos Jenkins stopped Sterling Sharpe for no gain on a second-down catch, Jack Del Rio batted away Brett Favre’s third-down pass, and Vencie Glenn knocked down Favre’s pass in the end zone with 1:14 left.
″On first-and-goal from the 2, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we would score,″ said Favre, 20 of 33 for 256 yards. ″The first play, we just tried to line up and play smash-mouth football and go after them. They won that one. They won the others, too.″
The Packers had one more shot, getting the ball at Minnesota’s 47 with 53 seconds left. But Glenn intercepted Favre’s pass on the first play of the possession.
Favre’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Sharpe gave the Packers a 10-7 halftime lead before McMahon directed the Vikings on successive 65-yard scoring drives to open the second half.
Graham had eight carries for 55 yards and the Vikings faced only one third down on the first drive. McMahon threw a 6-yard TD pass to Cris Carter on that play for a 14-10 lead.
″Jim stuck it to me,″ said Carter, who matched Sharpe with six catches for 106 yards. ″It was kind of a bang-bang play. There was a lot of traffic in there and he threw it where I could catch it.″
Green Bay drove to Minnesota’s 35 on its next possession, but Edgar Bennett was thrown for a 2-yard loss by Carl Lee on third-and-1. Favre was held to a 2-yard scramble on fourth down, giving the ball back to the Vikings.
McMahon then hit Carter with a 5-yard pass on third-and-4 and connected with Olanda Truitt for 10 yards on third-and-9, setting up McMahon’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Carter. He ran right past Terrell Buckley to catch McMahon’s perfectly thrown lob, putting the Vikings up 21-10.
The Packers made it close with 5:51 to go on Mark Clayton’s disputed 11- yard touchdown catch from Favre. The Vikings argued - and television replays indicated - that Clayton failed to get both feet in bounds.
In the second quarter, McMahon threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Quadry Ismail.