Posted: Tuesday December 21, 1999 02:15 AM
MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Last season, Randy Moss and the Minnesota Vikings ended the Green Bay Packers' streak of NFC Central titles. This season, they may have knocked their rivals from the playoffs.
Moss caught two touchdown passes as the Vikings put themselves in control of their own destiny with a 24-20 victory over the slumping Packers.
Moss used his speed on a 57-yard touchdown reception that tied the score, 10-10, with 4:17 left in the second quarter. The 6-4 Moss also used his height advantage on a slant for a one-yard TD catch that gave Minnesota a 17-13 lead with 1:45 remaining in the third period. He finished with five receptions for 131 yards.
"I really wasn't in the game to be honest with you," Moss said. "I was just moping around and waiting for the game to come to me. I really wasn't as focused and that hyped as I was in the other game. I tried to be patient, I tried to stay focused and just try and let my game come to me."
Minnesota (8-6) moved into a tie with the Detroit Lions for the first wild card spot and also is one game behind Tampa Bay for the lead in the Central. The Vikings are the only one of last season's final four teams not yet eliminated from postseason contention.
"We feel real good about getting this win," Minnesota coach Dennis Green said. "We're 8-6 and one step closer to making the playoffs, which is our No. 1 objective. We're going to have to work hard to recuperate."
Jeff George completed 16-of-29 passes for 258 yards and two TDs for the Vikings. Jake Reed had five catches for 73 yards as Cris Carter sat out with a sprained ankle.
"That was just a play we worked on all week," George said of his bomb to Moss. "I saw that the corner was coming and the safety was cheating to the other side. We felt that with the play fake, if I just hold it a little longer, that Randy should be one-on-one deep with the safety. And I'll take that matchup any day."
The Packers drove to the Minnesota 27 in the final minute but Brett Favre's desperation pass was intercepted by safety Robert Griffith in the end zone as time expired.
"It hurt last week, it hurts this week," Favre said. "Everytime you lose, it hurts. If it doesn't, you shouldn't be in this game."
Green Bay (7-7), which had won three straight NFC Central titles before Minnesota went 15-1 last season, is in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1992. The Packers are tied with three other teams for the third and final wild card spot and visit Tampa Bay next week and host Arizona to end the season.
"Right now, I haven't even looked at (our playoff chances)," Packers coach Ray Rhodes said. "Bottom line is, we had an opportunity to win tonight and we didn't take advantage of it."
Favre was 22-of-39 for 229 yards and a pair of interceptions.
Matt Hasselbeck threw his first career touchdown pass on a fake field goal. Hasselbeck took the snap, stood up and found Jeff Thomason wide open for a nine-yard score that gave the Packers a 20-17 advantage 2:29 into the fourth quarter.
Minnesota answered immediately as George directed a seven-play, 64-yard drive. Moss had a 36-yard catch over the middle to the Green Bay 1 and Leroy Hoard plunged through the line on the next play to make it 24-20 with 8:58 left.
"They used Randy a little bit and we tried to go after him a little bit more this time," Green said. "We blitzed them a little too much at times. But we tried to go after them a little bit. Randy got some room and made some plays, a couple of them were big runs from missed tackles."
After a scoreless first quarter, Gary Anderson kicked a 42-yard field goal to give Minnesota the lead 64 seconds into the second period.
After missing the last two games with a cracked rib, Dorsey Levens had a one-yard TD run to cap a nine-play, 75-yard drive and give Green Bay a 7-3 lead with 8:14 left in the period.
Levens had 99 yards on 26 carries and 21 yards on four catches.
De'Mond Parker, who filled in at running back during Levens' absence, recovered a fumble by Robert Tate on the ensuing kickoff and six plays later Ryan Longwell booted a 26-yard field goal to give the Packers a 10-3 lead.
Longwell kicked a 22-yarder three seconds before halftime to give Green Bay a 13-10 advantage.
"This has been a situation all season long and we keep making excuses for ourselves," Green Bay wide receiver Antonio Freeman said. "We should have done this and we should have done that.
We didn't do it. I don't know (if we can rebound). This is a tough one. All the chips fell our way, every chip we could possibly wish for in this playoff hunt fell our way. We come in here, we're tentative and we don't get out of the gate fast."
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