The 1995 Minnesota Vikings season didn't produce a lot of really memorable moments for the men in purple. They stumbled their way to an 8-8 record in the second and final season of the Warren Moon era in Minnesota, and generally played some pretty unexciting football. The one exception to this came in Week 10, when the 3-5 Vikings played host to the 5-3 Packers at the Metrodome. That game produced yet another of the most famous. . .or infamous, depending on which side of the border you fall on. . .moments in Packer/Viking history.
The game started off innocently enough with the teams trading first quarter touchdowns. The Packers scored on a 13-yard touchdown run by Edgar Bennett, and the Vikings answered with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Moon to tight end Andrew Jordan. A 36-yard Fuad Reveiz field goal gave the Vikings a 10-7 lead at the end of the first quarter of play.
Brett Favre completed 14 of his first 20 pass attempts against the Vikings' defense, and appeared to be on quite the significant roll until he suffered a pretty nasty ankle sprain in the second quarter of play. He was taken out of the game, and Packers' backup quarterback Ty Detmer took over in Favre's place. He didn't lead any touchdown drives, but the Packers did all of the second quarter scoring as Chris Jacke connected on field goals of 42, 50, and 46 yards to give Green Bay a 16-10 lead going into the locker room at halftime.
Favre attempted to come back after the halftime break, but clearly wasn't in any condition to get the job done, going 3 for 10 for only 21 yards and two costly interceptions. One interception set the Vikings up at Green Bay's 9-yard line, and the other came in the end zone when he overshot tight end Mark Chmura. The Vikings turned both turnovers into Warren Moon touchdown passes, one to Cris Carter from five yards out, and the other to Jake Reed from nine yards out to give Minnesota a 24-16 lead. Detmer responded by leading a drive downfield, and in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, he found Chmura from two yards out for a touchdown. Detmer and Chmura also connected on a two-point conversion play, and the score was tied 24-24.
Then, the craziness started.
On a third-and-seven play from the Minnesota 45, Detmer dropped back to pass and attempted to hit Edgar Bennett in the flat, but Vikings' defensive end Roy Barker stepped in and intercepted the pass. Detmer was heavily pressured on the play, and when he got hit by a Minnesota defender, he landed awkwardly and tore ligaments in his right thumb, an injury that would end his 1995 season. The Vikings couldn't do anything with the ball, and the subsequent punt resulted in a touchback. With Detmer out, and Favre too hurt to continue in a competent fashion. . .
Enter Theron Joseph Rubley. Or, as his friends call him, "T.J." Or, as Packer fans call him, "That f'ing guy."
Rubley was the Packers' third-string quarterback, and although he had started seven games in 1993 for the Los Angeles Rams. . .yes, Los Angeles did have football once upon a time. . .he spent his time in Green Bay running the scout team, and was unfamiliar with Packers' starting center Frank Winters. On Rubley's first exchange with Winters, he put the ball on the turf, and Minnesota recovered deep in Green Bay territory. The Vikings looked like they were setting themselves up for the go-ahead/game winning field goal. . .
. . .for exactly one play, until Packers' safety Leroy Butler stripped Minnesota rookie running back James Stewart and his partner at safety, George Teague, recovered for the Packers. So, the Packers took over with a little less than three minutes left on the clock, and completed four out of five passes, moving the Packers to the Minnesota 38-yard line. The Packers were looking at third and less than a yard when the inexplicable happened.
Packers' coach Mike Holmgren had called for a quarterback sneak out of a 4-wide receiver, no tight end formation. The Vikings walked a safety down into the box, and Rubley saw six Viking defenders matched up against five Green Bay blockers. So, he thought it would be a wonderful idea to audible to a pass play. Holmgren thought Rubley was nuts. . .Frank Winters thought Rubley was nuts. . .anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of the game of football thought that Rubley was nuts. But, he called the audible anyway.
Rubley took the snap and started rolling to his right. He couldn't see anybody open. . .so, rather than throwing the ball away and going on to fourth down, he kept rolling.
And kept rolling.
And kept rolling.
And then he thought he saw Antonio Freeman break free, so he threw the ball back across his body to Freeman, but the ball got tipped and floated into the arms of Vikings linebacker Jeff Brady at the Minnesota 28-yard line. It was the Packers' sixth turnover of the game. . .Favre also lost a fumble in addition to his two third-quarter interceptions. . .and their third in the final five minutes of play.
With very little time left on the clock, Moon moved the Vikings downfield and into field goal range in just two plays, as he hit Jake Reed on passes of 23 and 22 yards. That was enough for Fuad the Kicking God, as Reveiz connected from 39 yards out to give the Vikings a 27-24 victory, the third straight Packers/Vikings game at the Metrodome that had been won on a field goal by the only kicker I've ever seen get flagged for unnecessary roughness.
That was the only game that T.J. Rubley appeared in as a member of the Green Bay Packers. It was also the last game he appeared in as a National Football League quarterback. But T.J. Rubley will always have a place in the hearts of Viking fans everywhere for his performance on 5 November 1995.