For much of the season, the story for the Green Bay Packers has been the ascension of the defense, which ranks as one of the best units in the NFL. Unfortunately, injuries and an underrated Minnesota offense finally caught up with them today. The Green Bay secondary had no answers for Justin Jefferson who finished with 8 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns, and converted several key third downs. Adam Thielen chipped in 82 yards and a touchdown for good measure, including a key 4th quarter 3rd-down conversion.
Even without Rashan Gary, the Packers did a nice job pressuring Cousins with Preston Smith recording two sacks, but Cousins was excellent in getting the ball out under pressure and the Vikings were able to turn several near-sacks into big plays. The big story in the secondary was several near-interceptions, any of which would have swung the game to Green Bay. Darnell Savage just barely missed a game-sealing pick on the Vikings' game winning drive, which was overturned to an incompletion on replay. A few plays later, Rasul Douglas took a gamble, going for the pick on a Cousins’ pass to Adam Thielen. Douglas missed and Thielen gained 26 yards, which was enough to put the Vikings in position for an easy game-winning field goal.
The offense struggled early as Aaron Rodgers’ deep passing touch deserted him once again, possibly due to a toe injury which has plagued him for at least the past week and cost him valuable practice time. Rodgers also couldn’t help himself from taking ill-advised gambles on 3rd down, and that, combined with yet another missed field goal by Mason Crosby, allowed the Vikings the luxury of playing with a lead. Green Bay got back into it in the middle of the second quarter when Rodgers hit Josiah Deguara for a 25-yard score on a well-designed play, but the Vikings scored to open the second half on a nine-yard pass to Justin Jefferson, pushing the lead back to 13.
That lead almost wasn’t enough for Minnesota as Aaron Rodgers seemed like an entirely different person in the second half, and the Packers would score touchdowns on all three of their second half possessions. Davante Adams matched the dominance of Jefferson with seven catches for 115 yards and two scores, and the Packers would briefly complete their rally, coming all the way back to take a 24-23 lead on an 18-yard touchdown to Adams at the start of the fourth quarter. But Justin Jefferson and the Vikings would strike right back with a 23-yard score, converting the two-point conversion to push the lead to seven.
But on the very next play, Rodgers finally found his deep ball, hitting Marquez Valdes-Scantling for an electric 75-yard score, and tying the game at 31 just before the two minute warning. However, the quick score left the Vikings with too much time, and they were able to overcome the near-turnover for the game-winning field goal.
Adding injury to insult, the Packers also lost Elgton Jenkins for the game, and possibly for the season, as his knee buckled late in the game. Early reports indicate that the Packers fear a torn ACL for Jenkins, but his injury will be confirmed in the coming hours or days.
It’s a costly loss for the Packers, who still have hopes of winning the one seed in the NFC, but now find themselves looking up at Dallas and Arizona. The Packers have the Rams next week before getting some much-needed rest during their bye.