MINNEAPOLIS After nearly costing Green Bay a crucial game with one of his familiar mistakes, Brett Favre rallied the Packers to victory and the NFC North title with one of his famous comebacks.
Favre led a 76-yard drive to set up Ryan Longwell's game-ending 29-yard field goal in the Packers' 34-31 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Friday.
''That drive right there it's sort of what our season's been all about,'' Favre said. ''We've had ups and downs, but we find a way to endure.''
The Packers (9-6) trailed 31-24 with 8:18 left after Favre's third-down throw from the end zone was intercepted by Chris Claiborne and returned 15 yards for a touchdown.
The Vikings (8-7), though, couldn't get what they needed from a pass defense that has struggled all season. Donald Driver who had 11 receptions for 162 yards made a nifty, falling-down catch of Favre's pass on fourth-and-goal from the 3 to tie it at 31 with 3:34 remaining after an 80-yard drive.
''We needed one more play somewhere, and we just didn't do it,'' Minnesota center Matt Birk said. ''It's a disappointing loss, but there is a tomorrow and we're still very much in the hunt.''
Minnesota, which can clinch a wild-card playoff spot with a loss by either Carolina or St. Louis this weekend, appeared on its way to retaking the lead. But a holding penalty on Birk the Vikings were flagged nine times for 78 yards wiped out a 16-yard run by Michael Bennett that would have given them the ball at the Green Bay 40 just before the 2-minute warning.
''When we watch film, we're going to kick ourselves,'' said Daunte Culpepper, who went 16-for-23 for 285 yards, no turnovers and three touchdowns on three consecutive passes in a wild second quarter in which 38 points were scored.
After a punt, Favre got the ball at his 13 with 1:35 left. Twelve plays later, Longwell's kick sailed through the uprights to give the Packers their third straight division title.
''We're always confident,'' Driver said. ''We knew we could score.''
Favre finished 30-for-43 for 365 yards, three touchdowns and the interception. Ahman Green, who left briefly with a head injury, carried 19 times for 64 yards and a score. Javon Walker and Bubba Franks also had receiving touchdowns.
Nate Burleson, who had a career day against the Packers last month, caught two passes for 110 yards and a score. Randy Moss had a touchdown among his two catches and 30 yards, and Bennett finished with a touchdown and 159 total yards on 20 touches.
The game got crazy late in the second quarter. After a 55-yard kickoff return by Kelly Campbell, Culpepper promptly threw a screen pass to Bennett for a 38-yard score to make it 21-14 with 1:08 remaining.
Antonio Chatman answered with a 59-yard kickoff return, giving Longwell a chance to make a 42-yard field goal as the half ended. A livid Vikings coach Mike Tice chucked his clipboard and pencil to the turf when an official clock stoppage for a measurement allowed Green Bay time to gather on fourth-and-1 for the kick with 4 seconds left.
Those three points proved to be the winning margin.
''I didn't quite understand the logic behind giving them a timeout for measurement when the clock was running, they were out of timeouts,'' Tice said. ''What were they measuring for? To go for a first down?''
If the Packers win at Chicago next week they're 5-2 on the road they'll secure the No. 3 seed for the playoffs. They're already guaranteed a first-round home game.
''At 1-4, I don't think many people thought we'd win the division,'' Favre said. ''This team has battled all year, and today was no different.''
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