Brilliant backup Randall Cunningham and his high-flying receivers proved Monday night who's No. 1 in the NFC.
For now, at least, it's the Minnesota Vikings.
Cunningham, out of football in 1996, threw for 442 yards and four touchdowns as the Vikings defeated the Packers 37-24 on the muddy turf of Lambeau Field, constantly beating the Green Bay defense with long passes that Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed took away from defenders.
It was the first loss for Green Bay after four victories and left the Vikings (5-0) with Denver and Jacksonville as the NFL's only unbeaten teams. And it ended a 25-game winning streak at Lambeau Field by the Packers, who last lost here on Sept. 10, 1995, to St. Louis.
"I love playing the game again," Cunningham said. "It's about times when things change and we have a little bit of control in our life. I'm around great people and great coaches and a great offensive line."
And, of course, tree great receivers, who dominated on a muddy field, as the Vikings rolled up 545 yards in intermittent rain and occasional showers against the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense.
Cunningham, the 34-year-old ex-Eagle who signed with Minnesota as a backup last season and is replacing the injured Brad Johnson, threw TD passes of 52 and 44 yards to Moss, 56 yards to Reed and 24 yards on a screen pass to Robert Smith. Three of the TDs came in the second quarter as the Vikings broke a 3-3 tie to lead 24-10 at halftime.
"Any team that plays the Vikings better get some pressure on the quarterback," said Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren, whose team didn't record a sack of Cunningham.
"Those big receivers are going to cause a problem unless you do and we didn't get any pressure tonight."
| Jake Reed pushes aside the Packers defensive back, much like teammate Randy Moss did all night as well. (AP) |
Cunningham, who was 20-of-32 as he gained the most passing yards ever against the Packers, has 10 TD passes without an interception since replacing Johnson, who broke his right ankle in the second game of the season.
Cunningham also had a 75-yard TD pass wiped out by a holding penalty and had what would have been a 66-yarder slip off the fingers of Moss, the rookie who dropped to 21st overall in the draft because of personal problems. Moss finished with five catches for 190 yards.
"They pay me to score touchdowns," said Moss, who kept asking Cunningham to throw to him. "I asked `Do you trust me enough to throw it up and catch the ball?' and he said, `Yes.'"
Cunningham and his receivers got help from a Minnesota defense that had allowed 59 points in two previous road games.
Robert Griffith had two interceptions of Brett Favre, Orlando Thomas had a third, and the only Green Bay touchdown until the game was decided came on a 101-yard kickoff return by Roell Preston. In one key sequence, the Minnesota defense made three consecutive stops on their own 35 when the Packers needed just 1 yard for a first down.
"That may have turned the game," Holmgren said.
So dominant were the Vikings that the Packers didn't punt until less than five minutes remained in the game.
Favre finished 13-of-23 for 114 yards with three interceptions.
"We didn't play very well on offense," Favre sid. "Sometime around the second or third quarter I knew we'd have to score every time we had the ball and we just couldn't do it."
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