GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Brett Favre jogged out of the tunnel in a purple helmet. He might as well have been wearing a black hat.
No, Favre didn't seem to relish playing the villain in his return to Lambeau Field. But it was going to take more than a chorus of boos to throw him off his game.
For the second time in less than a month, Favre sliced up his former team and stuck it to the franchise that cast him aside as the Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers 38-26 at Lambeau on Sunday. Despite being jeered repeatedly by Packers fans who once cheered his every move, Favre completed 17 of 28 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
"Packer fans cheer for the Packers first," Favre said. "I know that. But I hope that everyone in the stadium watching tonight said, 'I sure hate those jokers on the other side, but he does play the way he's always played.' "
High-stakes, emotional drama aside, this much is clear: The Vikings (7-1) took a firm hold on the NFC North standings.
But given the raw tension between Favre, the Packers' front office and the fans who felt betrayed when their favorite player came out of retirement -- again -- to join their biggest rival, cornerback Charles Woodson acknowledged the game was significant beyond the division standings.
"I think it was disappointing for a lot of people," Woodson said. "It's just a loss, but I think a lot of people really wanted this one bad. We let a lot of people down today."
Under less dramatic circumstances, rookie receiver Percy Harvin would have been Sunday's star after catching five passes for 84 yards and a touchdown and returning five kicks for 175 yards.
But Harvin didn't mind yielding the spotlight to Favre.
"He's played this game a long time, he sees a lot of stuff that a lot of quarterbacks can't see," Harvin said. "And he can make a lot of throws that a lot of quarterbacks can't make. With us being explosive, to add him was like a blessing in disguise."
The Vikings' defense roughed up Favre's successor, Aaron Rodgers, sacking him six times.
But with the Packers (4-3) on the verge of getting routed, Rodgers rebounded with three second-half touchdowns.
A few of those crunching hits left Rodgers limping at times, but he said he'd be fine.
"I'll be OK in a couple of days," Rodgers said. "This one will hurt for a couple of days, though, physically and mentally."
But Rodgers -- who threw for only 38 yards in the first half but finished with 287 and 3 TDs -- wasn't hung up on outdueling Favre.
"I hate to losing to whoever's at quarterback for them," Rodgers said. "I hate losing to the Vikings."
The Packers now recognize that their chances of winning the division are fading, but still can compete for the wild card. And hey, they might even see the Vikings again in the playoffs.
"Hopefully, we'll have another crack at these guys down the road," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Already leading 17-3 at halftime, Favre temporarily reverted from game manager to gunslinger on the Vikings' first possession of the second half -- and even that worked. Favre threw into triple coverage under pressure and Harvin came down with the ball while Woodson, Atari Bigby and Nick Collins tumbled to the ground like extras in a slapstick comedy as the Vikings took a 24-3 lead.
But Rodgers answered by driving the Packers to three straight scores in the third quarter -- a field goal and a pair of touchdown passes to tight end Spencer Havner, a linebacker who switched positions in training camp.
Harvin then returned a kickoff 48 yards. Facing third down at the 2, Favre rolled right and threw to wide open tight end Jeff Dugan to put the Vikings up 31-20 early in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers wasn't finished, scrambling for 35 yards to set up a 10-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings. After a failed 2-point conversion attempt, the Packers trailed 31-26 with 10:26 remaining.
Driving with a chance to take the lead, the Packers stalled out and Mason Crosby missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.
Peterson then took a screen pass 44 yards down the left sideline to the 15. With the Vikings facing third-and-11, Favre threaded a ball through the secondary for a touchdown to Bernard Berrian.
Despite the final score, it was an awkward homecoming for Favre, whose standoff with the front office split the loyalties of Packers fans last summer.
There weren't many signs of a split on Sunday.
Fans booed Favre loudly -- first when he walked out of the tunnel for pregame warmups, then again when he ran out of the tunnel for the game, and on every snap during the Vikings' first few offensive possessions.
"Welcome back to Lambeau Field, Brent," one fan's sign read.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said Favre did a great job of staying "in body," not letting the charged atmosphere get the best of him.
"We talked a little bit about not doing too much," Childress said.
If Favre didn't realize the extent to which Packers fans have turned on him, he does now. But Favre says that doesn't diminish his accomplishments as a Packer -- in his mind, anyway.
"What I've done here speaks for itself," Favre said. "What I was part of was awesome. That will never change."
Vikings coach Brad Childress earned his first victory in Lambeau in four tries. ... Veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher were active for Green Bay on Sunday but did not play. ... Sunday's crowd was 71,213, the largest regular-season crowd in Lambeau Field history. ... Recently re-signed running back Ahman Green returned 7 kicks for 141 yards and caught a 12-yard pass for the Packers.
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