Packers look super in 34-0 win

GREEN BAY -- Eleven years ago, when the Green Bay Packers were kicking butt and taking names en route to Super Bowl glory, they spanked the playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings, 38-10, in a display of dominating football at Lambeau Field that still ca...

GREEN BAY -- Eleven years ago, when the Green Bay Packers were kicking butt and taking names en route to Super Bowl glory, they spanked the playoff-bound Minnesota Vikings, 38-10, in a display of dominating football at Lambeau Field that still can be remembered vividly for its utter ferocity.

Ever since then, the Vikings always showed up at Lambeau in a foul mood, often played over their heads against anyone wearing dark green and gold.

On Sunday, another Green Bay-Minnesota game was played in the National Football League's smallest city, where the home team once again has realistic Super Bowl aspirations. And this time, with eerie parallels to the game in 1996, the Packers buried the Vikings, 34-0.

As NFC contenders Detroit, the New York Giants and Washington were falling, the Packers responded with easily their finest performance of the season. For the first time, there's breathing space between Green Bay and Dallas, both 8-1, and the rest of the NFC, where just six teams have winning records.

One of the vanquished Vikings, safety Darren Sharper, wasn't around for the championship in 1996 but was the dime back on the Packers' runner-up team in '97. The Packers and Cowboys meet Nov. 29 in Dallas, and Sharper is picking Green Bay.


"Dallas is a beatable team," said Sharper, a Packer until 2004. "We showed that. If they can slow down Marion Barber ... man, that guy can play.

"If they (the Packers) get home field, I could see it happening. It all comes down to home field. They're going to be tough to stop. When it gets cold, you've got to give them games here as a lock. I could definitely see them 14-2."

His fellow safety, Dwight Smith, started for Tampa Bay in its Super Bowl title drive five years ago.

"The Packers looked like one (Super Bowl team) today because they were able to run the football," Smith said. "That was their Achilles' heel. That's the thing I thought was hindering them from being one of the best teams."

Smith also gives Green Bay the edge over Dallas, which was at home Oct. 21 in a 24-14 victory over Minnesota.

"I don't like Dallas' corners," Smith said. "Their D-line is good but I don't know if it's better than Green Bay's. Green Bay has rush ends, cover corners and linebackers who can run. That's all we had in Tampa."

Masterful coaching. Razor-sharp execution. Superior athleticism. Keener emotion.

The Packers had it all Sunday, extending their winning streak in the series to four games for the first time since 1987 and '88. Unlike predecessors Dennis Green and Mike Tice, Vikings coach Brad Childress can't even get his players up for this bitter border rivalry.


"It was Football 101," Childress said. "The tempo was set in the first half. We were not ready to play, and that is my fault."

What probably hurt the Vikings (3-6) more than anything was the shattering of their supposedly impregnable run defense. Operating behind an offensive line that had been upbraided all last week by Mike McCarthy and his staff, Ryan Grant pounded for 119 yards in 25 carries that drained the life from Minnesota defenders.

Yet, unlike San Diego a week ago -- which tried in vain running LaDainian Tomlinson into the A gaps and awaiting behemoths Pat Williams and Kevin Williams -- McCarthy actually came out throwing. Then, when the Vikings were sufficiently softened, he unleashed Grant on wide stretch plays, tosses and draws away from the big boys.

Over the last season and a half, the Vikings had allowed 64.5 yards per game and 2.83 yards per rush. In five games against Minnesota since the arrival of the immovable Pat Williams, the Packers had rushed for infinitesimal averages of 41.0 and 1.92.

Green Bay's rushing output of 120 yards failed to compare to the 233 that Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens ripped the Vikings for in the '96 regular-season finale. But it still was the third-highest rushing total against Minnesota in the last 25 games; Dallas had 128 last month, including 96 by Barber.

The beneficiary of rare offensive balance, Brett Favre annihilated a similar type of Cover 2 scheme that had unsettled him early in the season.

Favre smartly directed scoring drives of 82, 69, 75, 72, 69 and 96 yards, part of a 488-yard onslaught that took up 40 minutes 40 seconds.

Operating almost equally from underneath center and shotgun, Favre overcame some poor throws early and four dropped passes to forge a passer rating of 115.4. The Vikings sorely missed the injured Antoine Winfield, their best cover man. "He's kind of been MVP," Sharper said, referring to Favre. "He's being more patient, playing a lot smarter, than he was before. He's just being methodical down the field."


On defense, the Packers didn't have to deal with the full force of rookie sensation Adrian Peterson because the Vikings fell behind early and then Peterson went out with a sprained knee late in the third quarter. He finished with 45 yards in 11 carries.

Coordinator Bob Sanders brought safety Atari Bigby into the box on the first five plays before backing off and playing normal defense. His front four proved stout enough so that Sanders never had to compromise the integrity of his scheme by adding a fifth lineman or a ninth player to the box.

Not only were the Vikings down to their third quarterback in Brooks Bollinger but their most dangerous receiver, Sidney Rice, had to sit out with a hamstring pull. By the time Bollinger was able to complete his first pass to a wide receiver, 2 minutes remained in the third quarter and it was 27-0.

The Vikings were so inept that two fourth-down completions by Bollinger to Robert Ferguson in the final 4 minutes came up short of the marker.

"They're playing with confidence," said Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell, a Packer from 1997-2005. "The guys I still talk to, they love McCarthy. They really buy into his program.

"From the first time we played them (Sept. 30) until today, they definitely believe now that they should be 8-1. They're playing with confidence. They're playing really, really well."

-- Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune

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