Since Sunday afternoon's game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers was arguably the best game of the season, why don't we do it again next week? Thanks to a 29-yard field goal by Blair Walsh, the Vikings are going to the playoffs following their 37-34 win over their division rivals.
Adrian Peterson didn't break the single-season rushing record, but put in a magnificent performance, comfortably breaking 2,000 yards rushing and coming within nine yards of Eric Dickerson's record. He sealed the win for his team in the fourth quarter, pulling the Vikings from the edge of field goal range to within 29 yards to make Walsh's job easy. His performance, a 34-carry, 199 yard masterpiece which also featured a receiving touchdown, was incredible to watch.
Aaron Rodgers was no slouch on the day either. He did everything he could to haul the Packers back into the game after a poor start, and kept them in the game until the very end. He finished with 365 yards and four touchdown passes, but did have one very costly fumble.
The Vikings got off to a fast start, notching the first three scores of the game. Walsh hit his first of four field goals in their first drive, making from 54 yards. Peterson scored his only rushing touchdown in the first quarter as well, and another Walsh field goal at the beginning of the second quarter made it 13-0 Vikings early.
Rodgers and the Packers offense struck back with a great late touchdown drive, capped off by a pass to Greg Jennings, but the Packers defense allowed Minnesota to march down the field quickly and steal a touchdown right back. The one major positive to come out of the first half was at the very end, when Mason Crosby hit a perfect 51-yard field goal right down the middle to close the half, and send the Packers into the break down 20-10.
On their first drive of the second half, some fantastic work from Rodgers and his receivers brought the Packers within a field goal. Antoine Winfield picked up an injury in the first half, and without him on the field, Minnesota's defense looked clueless to start the third quarter. James Jones had a huge 45-yard play to set up an eventual Jennings touchdown, which he needed to redeem himself after a bad drop a couple of plays earlier.
Peterson went over 2,000 yards on their next drive, though the Vikings didn't go anywhere. The momentum was very much in Green Bay's favor until Rodgers was caught from behind while attempting to throw the ball away on the Packers' next drive, resulting in a fumble. Minnesota made the most of their opportunity and scored on a play-action passback to Peterson, extending their lead to 27-17.
Things got a bit crazy just before the end of the quarter, on a controversial play that eventually resulted in a touchdown. Following an incredible 73-yard pass to Jordy Nelson, Rodgers found James Jones by the goal line. He lost control of the ball, but was very clearly down near the goal line when the ball came out. Mike Carey and his crew -- who had a very shaky game -- called that the play had resulted in a fumble. An incensed Mike McCarthy temporarily forgot the rules and threw a challenge flag, but unlike a similar incident in Detroit earlier this year, the review went forward because the replay official buzzed Carey before McCarthy threw the flag. Though the Packers were charged with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the review went through and the play was ruled a touchdown.
Crosby nailed another field goal on Green Bay's next drive to tie the game, but the Packers' defense couldn't hold up their end of the bargain. They came up with a stop on 3rd and goal on the next Vikings possession, but a penalty by Tramon Williams -- who didn't have a better day than Carey's crew -- gifted the Vikings another shot. Christian Ponder connected with Michael Jenkins a few plays later, putting Minnesota ahead 34-27,
Rodgers and the Packers answered with a spectacular touchdown drive. A sack put the Packers in a tough 3rd and 20 position, but Jermichael Finley came up huge with a 19-yard reception to set up a manageable 4th and 1. McCarthy took a risk with a passing play, and Jarrett Boykin made a stellar catch to prep the drive. A big play by Jennings and a drawn pass interference by Nelson set up a short back-shoulder touchdown pass to Nelson, tying the game.
But once again, the Packers' defense wasn't good enough. A blown coverage on 3rd and 11 left Jenkins wide open for a conversion to get the Vikings on the edge of field goal range. Peterson's brilliant 26-yard run made the kick a gimme, and Walsh converted to set up a rematch.