GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) – Brett Favre pulled out a far-from-perfect victory in perhaps his last game at Lambeau Field, rallying the Green Bay Packers to a late field goal and a 9-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night.

Packers kicker Dave Rayner, who had missed two field goals earlier in the game, hit a 44-yarder with 1:34 remaining. It was the 36th game-winning comeback of Favre’s career, and it came after Favre nearly threw the game away.

The Packers (7-8) kept their faint playoff hopes alive. The Vikings (6-9) managed only three first downs all game, the lowest total in a game in team history.

Cornerback Fred Smoot returned Favre’s pass 47 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter, seemingly bailing out the Vikings’ struggling offense and giving Minnesota a 7-6 lead.

After throwing the interception to Smoot, Favre threw another interception to former teammate Darren Sharper on the Packers’ next offensive play.

Favre then rallied the Packers for a potential go-ahead drive early in the fourth, but tight end Bubba Franks fumbled near the goal line – the third time in the game the Packers drove deep into Vikings territory but came away empty-handed.

Favre drove the Packers right back into Vikings territory in the final three minutes with a 36-yard pass to wide receiver Ruvell Martin. The drive stalled on Packers penalties on back-to-back plays before Rayner delivered the winning kick.

Favre held the ball aloft at the final gun, then hugged Sharper and another former teammate, Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell.

Favre shook hands with several Vikings defenders before saluting his family in a Lambeau skybox, along with the fans surrounding the tunnel to the locker room.

Favre finished the game 26-for-50 for 285 yards with two interceptions. But he didn’t throw a touchdown for the second straight game, meaning he didn’t gain any ground on Dan Marino’s career touchdown pass record. Favre still needs eight more TD passes to break Dan Marino’s career record of 420.

Favre won ugly for the second week in a row – he threw three interceptions in a victory over Detroit last week – but he certainly outperformed Vikings rookie Tarvaris Jackson, who was making the first start of his career.

Jackson, a second-round draft pick out of Alabama State, was 10-for-20 for 50 yards and one interception.

And he nearly cost his team points when he threw a pass into the hands of Packers rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk deep in Vikings territory just before halftime. But Hawk dropped the ball.

Still, the Vikings took the lead on Smoot’s touchdown with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter and it seemed like Green Bay might make enough mistakes to lose.

Favre looked down the left sideline for rookie receiver Greg Jennings, but threw the ball directly into Smoot’s hands as Jennings continued running down the field. It was the first career interception return for a touchdown for Smoot, who tried to celebrate by doing a “Lambeau Leap” into the stands. He was pushed back onto the field by fans.

On the Packers’ next offensive play, Favre badly overthrew Jennings on a deep route and Sharper waited for the ball to float into his hands for the interception.

Favre rallied the Packers midway through the fourth quarter with help from a roughing the passer penalty on linebacker Napoleon Harris. Facing third-and-7 at the Vikings 9, Favre dumped the ball off to Franks, who ran toward to goal line and stretched out for the touchdown but fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Antoine Winfield.

But the Vikings couldn’t move the ball, and Favre got the ball back with 3:13 remaining. Favre’s 36-yard pass to Martin gave the Packers the ball at the Minnesota 28, but the drive stalled after a false start by rookie guard Daryn Colledge and a holding penalty on Franks.

It didn’t matter.

Rayner, after having one field goal blocked and banging another one off the upright in the first half, hit his final attempt perfectly for the game-winner.

AP-ES-12-21-06 2342EST


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