Across SB Nation, this week is Rivalry Week. Here at Acme Packing Company, we will be examining the Green Bay Packers’ greatest historical rivalries and those against their current divisional rivals. Today we begin with a look at the team’s “newest” rival, the Minnesota Vikings.
In almost every broadcast of something resembling a true rivalry game, the color commentator will make some remark along the lines of “these teams just flat out don’t like each other.” And even if the Minnesota Vikings are relative youngsters compared to the Green Bay Packers’ other divisional rivals, the Packers sure seem to dislike them as much as the Bears or Lions — if not more.
Since they joined the NFL in 1960, the Vikings have given the Packers all manner of trouble. Whether it was Bud Grant hassling Vince Lombardi’s teams in the 1960s, the house of horrors that was the Metrodome in the 1990s, or current Vikings’ fans obsession with replaying Anthony Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers in 2017, there’s been plenty of nastiness to go around when these two teams get together.
Overall series history
Regular season: Packers lead 61-53-2
Postseason: Tied 1-1
Longest streak: Vikings W7, 1975-78
1960s: Vikings make Packers work for early wins
The Vikings played the Packers pretty tough early in their shared history. Though the Packers took the decade (winning 11 of 18 meetings), the Vikings certainly didn’t make it easy for them. Two of the Packers’ wins were by five points or less, and in the Vikings’ seven victories, the Packers only broke 20 points once as Bud Grant and his strong defenses put the clamps on the Lombardi and Company. In fact, the Vikings handed the Packers one of just two losses during their march to Super Bowl I, a 20-17 slugfest in which the Vikings rallied to put up 10 points in the fourth quarter on a 31-degree day at Lambeau Field.
1970s: Vikings’ high-water mark corresponds with Packers’ “Gory Years”
You may not have heard, but the 1970s were not exactly kind to the Packers. Vince Lombardi was gone, as were most of the big names from his era. Bart Starr stuck around for a couple of seasons, but was a shell of himself. He returned as head coach, but didn’t fare much better. All in all, the ‘70s were a bad time to be a Packers fan.
The Vikings, meanwhile, made all four of their Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s. They’d lose all four, but they seem to have taken out their angst on the Packers. In 20 meetings, the Packers came out victorious just four times and only managed to break 20 points twice.
Playing the Vikings was a team-wide exercise in futility, and there was no better representation of that futility than Terdell Middleton’s 39 carry, 110 yard, one touchdown performance for the Packers against the Vikings in 1978. Despite Middleton’s heroic slog through the Vikings’ defense, the best the Packers could do was a 10-10 tie.
1980s: Packers dominate back end of Bud Grant era
After a downturn in the 1970s, the Packers roared back in the 80s, at least as far as their rivalry with the Vikings is concerned. The Packers went 14-5 against their purple counterparts in the 80s, including season sweeps in 1980, 1984, 1985, 1987, and 1988. The decade also featured some of the most lopsided games in Packers/Vikings history. The Vikings handed the Packers losses of 42-7 and 32-6, while the Packers responded with wins of 45-17, 38-14, and 34-14. The Packers’ 45-17 win is especially noteworthy, as it was tied at 17 at one point in the third quarter before erupting into a rout.
1990s: The decade belongs to the Packers, but the Vikings take the rivalry
The Vikings won 12 of their 20 games with the Packers in the 1990s for two simple reasons: the Metrodome and Randy Moss.
For starters, even at their mid-90s peak, the Packers simply could not win in Minnesota. Mike Holmgren didn’t get his first win in the Metrodome until 1997, and the Packers only won there twice in the entire decade.
Randy Moss’s arrival in 1998 didn’t make things any easier. Moss announced himself with a five-catch, 190-yard, two-touchdown performance in his first appearance in the rivalry, the first of many times he’d torture the Packers.
2000s: Big moments and bad blood
The first decade of the new millennium featured some of the biggest moments in the Packers/Vikings rivalry. And were it not for one of the more noteworthy unretirements in football history, the very first game between these two teams post-Y2k might have been the most exciting. In a wet, sloppy overtime contest during the 2000 season, Antonio Freeman’s “he did what” catch gave the Packers an iconic 26-20 win over the Vikings, and somewhere Chris Dishman is still wondering exactly what happened on that play.
The Packers took the middle portion of the decade in the regular season, including a pair of last-second 34-31 wins during the regular season in 2004. However, the Vikings also handed the Packers a significant defeat. In the wild card round of the 2003 playoffs, the Vikings steamrolled the Packers at Lambeau Field. Randy Moss scored two touchdowns in the 31-17 whipping that wasn’t nearly as close as it looks on paper, punctuating his second score with what Joe Buck would describe as “a disgusting act”: faux mooning the Lambeau Field crowd.
Brett Favre defined the late portion of the decade on both sides of the rivalry. In 2007, making what would be his last visit to the Metrodome as a member of the Packers, Favre broke Dan Marino’s record for career passing touchdowns with a 16-yard strike to Greg Jennings.
After Favre’s first retirement, he unretired and spent the 2008 season with the Jets. While he was there, Aaron Rodgers won his first-ever start for the Packers, a 24-19 victory over the Vikings to open the 2008 season. The Vikings won the second matchup against the Packers in 2008, narrowly squeaking out a 28-27 win thanks to a Mason Crosby miss on a 52-yard field goal as time expired.
Then there was 2009.
Finally landing in his preferred post-Packers environment, Brett Favre won both games against his former team, including a 38-26 effort at Lambeau Field.
2010s: Packers avenge Favre in purple, playoff loss in a weird decade
If the 2000s represented this rivalry’s high point, the 2010s were its weird encore.
To wit: the decade includes two ties, the most lopsided game in the rivalry’s history (a 45-7 Packers win in 2011), a shutout Vikings win (16-0 in 2017), Joe Webb starting a playoff game, and more.
The Packers opened the decade about as well as they could have hoped, avenging their losses to Favre with two wins, including a 31-3 romp that all but ended Brad Childress’ time as the Vikings’ head coach. The Packers mostly dominated the rivalry through 2014, with only a last-second loss in 2012 and a tie in 2013 (sans Aaron Rodgers) marring their record.
The Packers’ early dominance this decade also includes the figurative and literal demolition of the Metrodome. In their last visit before the dome would be demolished for the bird-killing sandcrawler that is U.S. Bank Stadium, the Packers smoked the Vikings 44-31, scoring on every drive except one that began with four seconds left in the first half and another that ended the game.
The Vikings’ fortunes have turned a bit since the final week of the 2015 regular season, though. They scored a win in the de facto NFC North title game in Week 17 that year, beating the Packers 20-13 at Lambeau Field. Counting that game and the first matchup of the 2015 season, the Packers are just 4-5-1 against the Vikings over the last half of the decade.
That includes three losses at the Vikings’ new stadium, one of which featured the infamous Barr/Rodgers hit. Barr landing on Rodgers in part precipitated the “body weight” rule change, which played a key role in the Packers’ tie with the Vikings in 2018. Clay Matthews landed on Kirk Cousins and was flagged, nullifying what should have been a game-sealing interception by Jaire Alexander.
The Packers rebounded in 2019, winning both games against the Vikings, including an NFC North-clinching victory in Week 16.
Looking ahead to 2020s
Both the Packers and Vikings made significant, future-altering changes this offseason. The Packers drafted the would-be successor to Aaron Rodgers in the first round this spring, selecting Jordan Love, who will hopefully lead the Packers to an even wider lead in the series standings. The Vikings, meanwhile, turned over a good portion of their defense, one that has consistently bothered the Packers under head coach Mike Zimmer.
Even if the biggest names involved turn out to be different, one thing’s for sure: there’s no reason to think these teams will start liking each other any time soon.