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Expect another nail-biter at Lambeau Field



Published: Fri, January 7, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Packers and Vikings have a history of close games, including two this season.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Ryan Longwell expects Sunday's showdown between the evenly matched Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers to come down to a last-second field goal.

And why not? Both times they played in the regular season, Green Bay won 34-31 on field goals by Longwell as time expired, capping impressive two-minute drives by Brett Favre.

Longwell nailed a 33-yarder on Nov. 14 at Lambeau Field and a 29-yarder on Christmas Eve at Minneapolis that gave the Packers their third straight NFC North crown.

The difference in Sunday's first-round playoff game could be a kicker's toe yet again.

"I think so," Longwell said. "You look at them, the talent is very equal. They had a tough stretch at the end, but we had a tough stretch at the beginning. So, you look at our seasons and they're very similar. I just think it sets up for an interesting game because you just don't know what you're going to get from a rivalry like this."

Despite their sweep, the Packers aren't overconfident about the matchup. They know they easily could have lost both times to Minnesota because the difference between the teams is so thin.

Mirror images

Both have prolific passing games, superior pass protection and multi-talented offensive backfields to keep opponents guessing. Each also sports a banged-up defense, a suspect secondary, a tendency to tackle poorly and a penchant for penalties.

Green Bay ranks first in the NFC in total offense and second in passing. Minnesota ranks first in the NFC in passing and second in total offense.

The Packers' defense was 25th in the NFL, the Vikings' 28th.

Of the eight teams playing this weekend, Green Bay and Minnesota have faced each other many more times than any other set of opponents. And no matchup features an all-time series as close as the Packers' 44-42-1 edge over the Vikings.

"We know those guys, they know us. We know what they do, they know what we do," Favre said.

Green Bay has momentum

The Packers became the ninth team in league history to reach the postseason after starting 1-4, and the Vikings made it despite finishing 3-7 -- so momentum is on Green Bay's side.

But the season sweep "really wouldn't matter a whole lot of we don't beat them in this game. They would have the last laugh," Favre said. "They can easily win the ball game just as well as we could. We just played. We know each other as well as you can know a team. There won't be a whole lot of tricks up either team's sleeves. It's your goods against their goods."

Vikings kicker Morten Andersen, who said he went ice fishing last week to prepare for the bitter cold, also expects a kicker to be lining up for another game-winner Sunday, and he hopes this time it's not Longwell.

"He's had enough, hasn't he?" Andersen said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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