Brett Favre had many big games in his Hall of Fame career but his five-touchdown performance against the Vikings on September 21, 1997, was one of his best. During the game, the Packers quarterback broke Bart Starr’s Packers record for most touchdowns in a career. Starr’s record was 152 and he took 16 seasons to set the mark. Favre was in his sixth season with the Packers when he set the record.
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“We throw the ball a lot more than Bart did back then,” Favre said after the game. “I don’t want to take anything away from him.”
The Vikings scored first on a one-yard run by Robert Smith on the game’s first drive. Minnesota went 70 yards on 16 plays and took 7:36 off the clock.
But the Packers answered back and dominated the rest of the half. Late in the first quarter, Favre found Robert Brooks on a 19-yard scoring play to tie the game 7-7. Early in the second quarter, a 39-yard punt return by Bill Schroeder set up a 28-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Antonio Freeman to give the Packers a lead they would never relinquish.
On the next Minnesota possession, LeRoy Butler intercepted Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson which gave the Packers the ball at the Vikings 26. One play later, Favre found Freeman for a 15-yard touchdown and the Packers led 21-7.
Late in the quarter, Favre struck again, tossing a two-yard touchdown toss to Terry Mickens to give the Packers a three score advantage with 1:09 left in the half.
But the Packers weren’t done. Butler picked off Johnson a second time and returned it to the Minnesota 10-yard line. Two penalties kept the Packers out of the end zone but a 34-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell made it 31-7 Packers at the half.
The Vikings rallied in the third quarter, scoring on touchdown passes form Johnson to Chris Carter and Jake Reed. A two-point conversion after the Reed score cut the Packers led to 31-22.
But Favre responded with a drive of his own late in the third quarter. He hit Freeman for 23 yards and then again one play later for 19 more. Then, fullback William Henderson picked up 21 yards on a short pass over the middle to set up a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Chmura. The Packers led 38-22.
The Vikings added a Greg Davis field goal and a touchdown pass to Jake Reed that made the score 38-32 with more than 11 minutes left in the game.
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The Vikings got one more chance to take the lead late in the game and reached their own 46 where they faced a 4th-and-10 situation. On that play, Reggie White beat Minnesota’s Korey Stringer and hit Johnson just as he released the ball. The pass misfired and landed on the turf, incomplete.
“Veterans have to make a play,” White said after the game. The future Hall of Famer did just that.
The Packers regained possession and ran out the clock. What was once a comfortable lead because a close and nerve-wracking win for the Green Bay.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t worried,” Favre admitted. “When we were up 31-7, everyone was kind of coasting. The next thing you know, it’s, ‘Man, we’d better get a first down or we ain’t playing nowhere.’ We’d never been in that situation before, to be up 31-7 at the half and fighting for your life at the end.”
Favre finished the game going 18-of-31 for 266 yards and five touchdowns. Freeman led all Packers receivers with seven catches for 122 yards and two scores. Butler had two interceptions while Dorsey Levens gained 101 total yards.
By the end of the game, Favre had 156 career touchdown passes as a Packer. He still holds the franchise record with 442. Aaron Rodgers is now closing in on Favre with 429 career touchdown passes.
The win improved the Packers record on the young season to 3-1 while the Vikings dropped to 2-2. The Packers finished the season 13-3 and returned to the Super Bowl for the second straight year while Favre won his third straight league MVP award.
This game was a magic moment for Favre and a reminder to the Packers that they can’t take their foot off the gas if they hope to defeat their division rivals.
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