It was a day of ups and downs for the Packers. Once again, the Packers were forced to make a quarterback change. However, this one appeared to work. Similarly, Eddie Lacy put on another show against Minnesota, but he ended the day injured and on the sideline. Each served as an appropriate metaphor for the way Green Bay performed on Sunday.
The opening drive started out about as poorly as possible. After Johnathan Franklin nearly fumbled away the kickoff return, quarterback Scott Tolzien endured a quick sack on what could have been a deep passing play. Eddie Lacy didn't fare much better, struggling again to make it to the line of scrimmage untouched. Tolzien nearly threw on the next play, leading to a three an out.
The Vikings' offense struggled early as well. After a ten yard run from Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota offensive line gave up consecutive sacks followed by an ill-fated screen play.
The ground game continued to struggle on the Packers' second drive. Defenders met Lacy in the backfield again, leaving little rushing room for Green Bay's leading rusher. Tolzien connected with James Jones for a first down, the Packers' first of the game. A few plays later, Tolzien found Kuhn in the flat for an even longer gain, bringing the ball near midfield. A deep completion to Jordy Nelson soon followed, setting up Tolzien to literally dance into the end zone on a broken play.
The Vikings started off with great field position after a long Cordarrelle Patterson runback. After a few easy first downs, the Packers defense stiffened, ending the drive on a Clay Matthews/coverage sack. Blair Walsh knocked in the field goal to bring the score to 7-3 Packers.
Eddie Lacy began the next drive with perhaps his most impressive run as a professional. After appearing bottled up at the line of scrimmage by three defenders, Lacy broke free, bowling over two other would-be tackles on the way to a nine-yard gain. Two plays later, the Packers' offensive line opened up a huge hole in the B gap that allowed Lacy to scamper for an even longer gain. Unfortunately for Green Bay, Tolzien ran into a sack a few plays later, ending the drive.
The Vikings followed up with another poor possession. After a couple good runs from Peterson, quarterback Christian Ponder tossed up a gimme interception that was dropped by Davon House. The Packers made up for the missed turnover with an A.J. Hawk forced fumble a few plays later, giving the ball to the offense near midfield.
The Packers couldn't make much with the possession, however. Two ineffective runs were followed by an underthrown deep pass to Jarrett Boykin, resulting in another three-and-out and a punt.
Adrian Peterson was in vintage form for the Vikings. A dead play turned into a jaw-dropping 22-yard gain to the outside. A few plays later, Ponder connected with Jerome Simpson on a deep pass to the sideline, victimizing Tramon Williams. However, the Packers defense once again stiffened as the Vikings approached the red zone. Brad Jones sacked Ponder for a three-yard loss, and pressure from Matthews forced a near interception the following play. The Vikings settled for a field goal, bringing the score to 7-6 Packers.
The Packers endured another three-and-out after Xavier Rhodes made back-to-back great plays to break up Tolzien passes. Minnesota fared a bit better as Ponder hit his stride on several good throws to Simpson and Chase Ford. Three plays later, Adrian Peterson ran in the easy score to put the Vikings ahead 13-7.
To end the half, the Packers opened up the passing game with good completions to Brandon Bostick, Kuhn, and Nelson. Yet there just wasn't enough time on the clock to finish the drive, and the half ended on a 19-yard Tolzien scramble.
The second half began frustratingly for the Packers, as Mason Crosby kicked the ball out of bounds for an illegal procedure penalty. However, Minnesota failed to capitalize on the good field position, and punted the ball back to Green Bay. Another Green Bay three-and-out gave the ball back to Minnesota near midfield. Ponder responded with big completions to John Carlson and Greg Jennings followed by a touchdown toss to Rhett Ellison to put the Vikings up 20-7.
Matt Flynn replaced Tolzien on the Packers following drive. He began with a quick play action toss to Andrew Quarless for nine yards and then audibled into a James Starks run that went for 34 yards. The drive stalled out shortly after, and the Packers punted away.
Starting near their own goal line, Minnesota put together a slow, methodical drive. Ponder dinked and dunked for a few first downs while Toby Gerhart (yes, him) strung together multiple explosive runs to bring the ball deep into Packer territory. Green Bay's defense stalled Minnesota at that point, but another field goal put the Vikings up 23-7.
Aided largely by a defensive pass interference penalty, Flynn moved the Packers into the red zone. Once there, Bostick dropped consecutive passes including a would-be touchdown before an illegal hands to the face penalty put the ball inside the five yard line. Lacy punched the ball into the end zone to give Green Bay it's second score of the day. Mike McCarthy elected to try the two-point conversion, but it was picked off by Marcus Sherels. The Packers now trailed 23-13.
After a needed defensive stop, the Packers marched down the field behind several more punishing runs by Lacy. Flynn managed what Tolzien couldn't by throwing a dart to Boykin for the score. With the extra point, the Packers reduced Minnesota's lead to 23-20.
On cue, the Packers defense delivered another valuable stop. With a little over two minutes left, Green Bay positioned themselves to win the game at the final whistle.
A few big plays followed the change of possession. Eddie Lacy continued his torrid pace with multiple big gains setting up a critical fourth and six. McCarthy elected to go for it, and after a Vikings defender jumped offsides, Flynn delivered a strike to James Jones for a 28-yard gain. The drive resulted in a field goal for Crosby, tying the game at 23.
Minnesota couldn't get into Packer territory on their final possession, and after a punt and kneel down, the game went to overtime.
OT belonged to Matt Flynn. After the Vikings gave Green Bay new life with a defensive holding penalty, Flynn threw a deep pass to Nelson to keep the drive alive. He followed with a strike to James Jones to set up perhaps the biggest play of the game, a 34-yard sideline bomb to Jarrett Boykin. The momentum stalled, but the Packers knocked in a field goal to give them a 26-23 lead.
Minnesota wasn't done. On third and six, Peterson extended the drive on draw play, and Gerhart returned with several big runs to set the Vikings up in the red zone. A dropped touchdown by Patterson would have ended the game, but instead Minnesota had to settle for a field goal.
The rest of overtime was forgettable. Green Bay and Minnesota exchanged short drives to run out the clock, ending the game 26-26. If there's a silver lining for either squad, both the Bears and Lions lost today, keeping the division race close.