Three years ago, Mark Murphy introduced Matt LaFleur as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. While Super Bowl aspirations are expected every year, he was given three goals each season: Beat the Bears, Beat the Lions, Beat the Vikings. Midway through his third season, he is 14-1 versus the NFC North. The only loss game came last year against the Vikings at Lambeau.
Today, the Packers looked to take revenge on the Vikings, who thought during the offseason the North was theirs. How sorely were they mistaken.
Rule number one when playing the Packers: if you win the coin toss, don’t let Aaron Rodgers get the first drive. The Vikings won the coin toss and deferred, then paid for it. Minnesota blew coverage on the first play and let Davante Adams run down the sideline for 37 yards. After stalling, Crosby kicks a 54-yard field goal that barely sneaks over the crossbar.
It seemed like he was holding back on power for accuracy. These misses are clearly getting to his head. Something to keep an eye on if we need a field goal at the end of this game.
Vikings return the favor on their first drive with the exact same play to Justin Jefferson. But just like the Packers, Minnesota stall thanks to Preston Smith getting a massive coverage sack. Greg Joseph gets a 50-yard field goal of his own, so we are tied 3-3 very early on in this game. But Kenny Clark was feasting that entire drive. Looks like he might have a great game against a backup center.
With Aaron Jones out this game, AJ Dillon gets the first start of his career. To kick off this drive, he gets four straight touches where he seems to always get three extra yards after contact. However, the Packers’ offense seems to be disjointed with Rodgers dealing with a toe injury. It might be something to watch not only this game but the rest of the season. He has very little mobility.
The Packers’ defense has been great all year, besides giving up the deep ball. They give up two this drive, one to Thielen, and a 55 yarded to Jefferson on a blown coverage by Amos.
Jefferson already has 100 yards before the end of the quarter. But he was just short of the goal line, so Cook scores an uncontested touchdown. Joseph misses the extra point, so the Packers are only down by six. Not the best start for the Green and Gold.
Packers 3 – Vikings 9
The game plan for the Packers has been obvious: beat the Vikings defense vertically with MVS. Rodgers had attempted four deep balls to MVS in the first quarter but was off on all of them. But he finally connected with Marquez for 39 yards. This has been “the game of big plays” so far. Rodgers continues to struggle in the red zone though, forcing a Crosby 32 yard attempt… That hits off the uprights.
There is 100% something going on, whether it’s the snap to holder exchange or just Crosby being off mentally. This awful Packers red zone offense plus the horror show of the special teams unit have combined for nightmare fuel for Packer fans.
Vikings immediately go to the deep ball to Jefferson, but Darnell Savage gets a PI called on him for 45 yards to get the Vikings near the red zone. On third down, Cousins throws a bad pass for an interception to Darnell Savage. However, Kinsley Keke gets a questionable roughing the passer called on him to negate the much-needed turnover. That gives the Vikings goal to go where Adam Thielen beats Kevin King to the endzone to make it 16-3.
Next drive, the Packers’ offense continues to struggle. Rodgers holds the ball in the pocket and refuses to take shots at open receivers. The Packers then run a draw on 3rd and 20 surrendering on the drive and punting.
I’m straight up not having a good time.
After a Vikings three and out, Rodgers starts to find his rhythm. The O-Line with AJ Dillon starts picking up the Zimmer blitz’s well while Rodgers gets two strikes down the middle of the field to EQ and Cobb. On a third and five, Rodgers rolls left out of the pocket and finds Josiah Deguara for a 25-yard touchdown.
This was classic backyard football, with Josiah running with Rodgers to the left and getting his first career touchdown. Rodgers does leave for the locker room early, so the toe must be a massive problem for him. After a rough first half, the Pack are still only a touchdown away from the lead. I’ll take it.
Packers 10 – Vikings 16
Minnesota starts using Dalvin Cook as their primary offense, featuring him to start this half. The Packer’s defense is trying their best, but you can only do so much against an elite running back like Cook. Cousins connected with Jefferson on a third and goal to make it a two-possession game. That was just textbook from the Vikings to start the half.
Green Bay has been great at avoiding penalties this season. This game? Not so much. Jenkins gets a holding call to start the drive, so the Pack has to overcome their third 1st and 20. With help from a 14-yard screen to AJ Dillon, they overcome another mistake from the O-Line. The offense drives all the way down the field and is surgical while doing it. Rodgers once again scrambles in the red zone and finds Davnate to make it a one-score game.
They must’ve done something to that toe at halftime, cuz Rodgers looks like himself again.
The Vikings’ offense starts to get their groove again. But once they cross midfield, Preston Smith shows up again. He gets pressure on first down, then on third forces a fumble that Minnestoa recovers. That man has had a great comeback season.
Packers get the ball to start the fourth down six.
It’s Rodgers time.
Packers 17 – Vikings 23
Backed up at their own six, the Packers need a 94-yard drive to take the lead. They get some room thanks to Dillon on two straight carries for 13 yards. But disaster then strikes. Elgton Jenkins seems to blow his knee on first down, where it could be a possible season-ending injury. He was eventually carted off the field.
But the offense keeps moving. Equaminious St. Brown once again catches a screen pass and runs for a big gain. On a third and one, the best play design of the season happens. Cobb gets the handoff as the full-back, then runs the option with Dillon and pitches it to him for a first down. That was a lot of fun.
On another third down, Rodgers tries to call a timeout, but the ball was already snapped. He struggles to hold the snap but finds Davante in the back of the endzone. One of the weirdest plays I’ve seen this season. Pack up one now thanks to that missed extra point in the first.
With seven minutes left, the Vikings drive down the field trying to take as much time off the clock as possible. Short passes and short runs get Minnesota. On third down, the Vikings go to Jefferson once again one on one versus Eric Stokes. Jefferson wins the matchup.
After the two-point conversion, Rodgers gets the ball with just over two minutes down seven. We have seen this one before right?
One play into a possible game-tying drive, Rodgers finally connected with MVS deep and score instantly for 75 yards?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING?!?
MVS is turning into a deep threat stud when healthy. What a game for him.
But Minnesota now gets just over two minutes to get a game-winning score. They once again go to Jefferson deep, but Darnell Savage finally gets to the ball for the interception. THIS GAME IS CRAZY!! The last three plays have been a Justin Jefferson red zone touchdown, an MVS 75 yard touchdown, and a Darnell Savage Interception. All before the 2-minute warning!
Except, Savage didn’t complete the catch, apparently. It looked like the ball was under his hand the whole time, but the ref’s rule it incomplete at review, and the Vikings get a first down before the 2-minute warning… FINALLY!
Adam Thielen catches the ball on the sideline and runs down the field to the red zone where the Vikings can now milk the clock. They will get a chance to kick a game-winning field goal.
Greg Joseph puts it through and the Packers lose for the first time in Minnesota since 2018. It was a tale of two halves for the Packers, but the Vikings played a great game offensively. The Packers are very much banged up right now, and they add Elgton Jenkins to that. It looks like it will be a torn ACL for him, but he will be tested tomorrow.
They will have the game of the year against the LA Rams next Sunday for the number one spot in the NFC. That will be a fun one to watch, assuming the Packers are healthy.
Packers Offensive MVP: Aaron Rodgers
To start off this game, Rodgers looked about as bad as you could’ve imagined. He seemed off on every deep ball and couldn’t move. They must’ve given him something at halftime for that toe because he looked stellar in the second half.
He threw four touchdowns to Deguara, two to Adams, and MVS. He controlled the entire offense and was surgical on every throw. Even with all the penalties in the second half, the Packers were still able to move the ball down the field. Three drives, three touchdowns in the second half. Just not enough.
Packers Defensive MVP: Preston Smith
With Rashan Gary being inactive for this game, the pass rush was a big question mark for the Packers. But we all forgot about Preston Smith. Yes, he has two sacks, but he was constantly pressuring Kirk Cousins the entire game. He was beating each tackle, not allowing Cousins to get out of the pocket once.
He even helped contain Dalvin Cook to under 100 yards, which seems like a first versus the Packers. When Zadrius and Gary return, I’m not sure we will see much of Preston, but he has been a big impact player for them all year.