Mike Holmgren has no more demons to exorcise. Neither does a Green Bay defense that two weeks ago gave up 41 points and 467 yards to the worst team in the NFL.
Holmgren’s Packers made it back to the playoffs by beating the Minnesota Vikings 27-11 Monday night as Dorsey Levens ran for two touchdowns, Brett Favre threw for another and Reggie White recorded 2-1/2 of the Packers’ six sacks.
It ensured Green Bay (10-3) of at least a wild-card berth and sent Minnesota (8-5) to its third straight loss. The Packers can clinch the NFC Central title and a first-round bye with a win next week in Tampa.
“We’re right where we want to be,” general manager Ron Wolf said. “We’re back in the playoffs. Now we have to win the division. We’re just taking it step by step.”
But it was as much an emotional victory as an important one for the Super Bowl champions.
It was the first win in six games the Packers have played under Holmgren in the Metrodome. It came eight days after his first victory in eight tries against Dallas, after which he said “I’ve exorcised one demon. Now I have to exorcise another.”
And Green Bay’s defense dominated for the second straight week after a 41-38 loss in Indianapolis two weeks ago. The Packers sacked Brad Johnson six times and held Minnesota to 144 yards of offense the first three quarters.
As they often do, the Packers started slowly, breaking a 3-3 tie on Favre’s 18-yard TD pass to Robert Brooks with 2:10 left in the first half, then scored again 3:36 into the second half on Levens’ 3-yard run.
Levens’ score was set up by Doug Evans’ interception of Johnson on the second play after intermission.
Green Bay also got the luck it hadn’t had in previous forays here, like Minnesota’s Corey Fuller dropping a sure interception in the end zone one play before Favre hit Brooks for the touchdown.
Unlike the first game - a 38-32 Packer win in Green Bay - there was little offense early. For almost 28 minutes, the only scores were field goals of 30 yards by Green Bay’s Ryan Longwell and 42 by Minnesota’s Eddie Murray.
But late in the half, Favre, who completed just 4 of his first 14 passes, hit 3 of 4 in moving the Packers 86 yards in 11 plays. He scrambled 12 yards on a third down to keep the drive alive and capped it with his TD pass to Brooks.
Levens’ first TD, from 3 yards out, made it 17-3 and then the defense took over.
Leroy Hoard’s 4-yard run with 3:30 left in the game and Randall Cunningham’s pass to Cris Carter for a 2-point conversion made it 20-11.
Levens, who rushed for 108 yards, capped the scoring with a 5-yard run with 1:43 remaining.