Packers Defeat Vikings 26-20, OT

Tuesday, November 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Forget the Lambeau Leap. Now the Green Bay Packers have the Freeman Fluke.

After Minnesota botched a game-winning 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation, Antonio Freeman's freakish 43-yard touchdown catch 3:39 into overtime gave the Packers a thrilling 26-20 victory over the Vikings on Monday night.

``I'm just so glad to catapult this team to a much needed victory,'' an exhausted Freeman said. ``We needed a lucky break.''

Brett Favre launched a deep pass to Freeman, who slipped on the wet grass as cornerback Chris Dishman deflected the ball at the 20-yard line.

The ball bounced off the back of Freeman's left shoulder as he rolled over, and he tipped it into his chest with his right hand before it hit the ground.

Freeman grabbed the ball, jumped up, juked safety Robert Griffith and rumbled into the end zone.

Both teams were already scattered across the field, some in prayer at midfield, when the officials finally announced the play stood as called.

It was the first time the Packers (4-5) had the lead all game against the stunned Vikings, who lost their second straight after starting 7-0.

``We wanted to show the world we weren't a 3-5 team,'' Freeman said.

Despite five turnovers to none for Green Bay and 11 penalties for 129 yards, the Vikings were in position to win it on Gary Anderson's 33-yard field goal attempt in a driving rain on the final play of the fourth quarter.

Holder Mitch Berger couldn't handle a poor snap by Mitch Palmer, and Tyrone Williams picked off Berger's desperation pass at the 5 as time expired.

The Vikings had moved into position thanks to curious play-calling by the Packers, who got conservative when they had the ball at their 20 with 1:40 left.

Ahman Green ran two straight draws, gaining three yards, and Vikings coach Dennis Green called timeout with 1:07 left. On third down, Favre badly misfired a pass deep downfield to Donald Driver.

Topping it off, Josh Bidwell punted only 25 yards, giving the Vikings the ball at the Green Bay 48 with 52 seconds and all three timeouts left.

Randy Moss, who had six catches for 130 yards, caught a 19-yard slant pass that gave the Vikings the ball at the 15 with eight seconds left.

Minnesota's Robert Smith rushed for 122 yards on 24 carries and caught two passes for 67 yards, including a 45-yard TD.

The Packers scored just three points off five turnovers, but took advantage of Daunte Culpepper's third interception to tie it at 13-all on Ryan Longwell's 31-yard field goal in the second half.

The teams scored touchdowns 28 seconds apart in the third quarter.

On third-and-17, Smith, who hadn't caught a TD pass since Oct. 5, 1998, also at Lambeau Field, took a short pass from Culpepper along the left sideline and blew past arm tackles by Tod McBride and LeRoy Butler for a 45-yard score and a 20-13 Vikings lead.

Allen Rossum returned the ensuing kickoff a career-high 90 yards before Kenny Wright caught him at the 2. Two plays later, Green ran over Wright for the game-tying touchdown.

Minnesota took a 13-10 halftime lead on Anderson's 47-yard field goal as time expired.

Darren Sharper picked off two of Culpepper's passes in the first half, including one in the end zone that was intended for Moss, who had 103 yards receiving by halftime.

The Packers failed to capitalize on Sharper's first pickoff when tight end Tyrone Davis dropped a perfect pass between the numbers at the 25 and Green dropped two more passes in the open field.

Green, starting in place of sure-handed halfback Dorsey Levens who missed his fourth game of the season with a knee injury, cradled a 5-yard under-handed touchdown pass from Favre in the second quarter.

As blitzing linebacker Ed McDaniel got Favre in his grasp and began tugging him down, the quarterback who last week said he was going to curtail his swashbuckling ways shoveled a perfect spiral to Green, who cradled it while diving across the goal line to tie it at 10.

After a 30-yard field goal by Anderson and a 23-yarder by Longwell, Cris Carter hauled in a pass from just outside the end zone and wrestled Mike McKenzie over the goal line for the 12-yard score.

That gave Minnesota a 10-3 lead just minutes after the Packers thought they had gone ahead 10-3.

At the beginning of Minnesota's 84-yard drive, Culpepper was sacked at his own 7 by Vonnie Holliday and fumbled the ball, which Russell Maryland recovered in the end zone. But an official had blown the play dead.

Notes: Holliday sprained both ankles but returned. ... Rossum's previous best kick return was an 89-yard TD for Philadelphia against Washington on Nov. 14, 1999. ... Packers WR Corey Bradford bruised his right knee in the fourth quarter and didn't return.