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Packers drub Vikings 37-10 in week 17 to clinch top seed in NFC playoffs

With some help from the Cardinals, Green Bay has locked up the #1 seed for the second straight year, doing so with a big win over a divisional rival.

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers have officially locked up home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs this January. Matt LaFleur’s team won its 13th regular season game for the third time in his three seasons as head coach, defeating the Minnesota Vikings 37-10, and with some help earlier in the day the team locked up the NFC’s top seed with a full week of games still yet to go.

The Arizona Cardinals delivered the help the Packers needed in the afternoon, beating the Dallas Cowboys 25-22. That gave Green Bay the opportunity to clinch home-field and the conference’s only playoff bye with a win on Sunday Night Football, and the team delivered a solid performance in all three phases of the game.

One of the few frustrating parts of this game for Green Bay was the Packer offense’s performance in the red zone. The group went 3-for-7 scoring touchdowns inside the 20 with the starters on the field, and they started 0-for-3 on the night. Still, the Green Bay offense racked up nearly 500 yards, while the defense allowed just over 200 to Minnesota, and the special teams had no notable mistakes on the evening.

In this game, Davante Adams broke his own team record for receptions in a single season, as he dominated the Vikings’ defensive backs for much of the game. He would finish with 11 receptions on 14 targets, racking up 136 yards and a touchdown as he pulled his season total up to 117 grabs for 1,498 yards and 11 scores. Aaron Rodgers had another excellent night, throwing for 288 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-38 passing.

On defense, the Packers got drive-killing sacks from Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, while the unit held Dalvin Cook to a season-low 13 rushing yards. Sean Mannion, starting in place of COVID-positive Kirk Cousins, threw for just 151 yards and one score.

The Packers will travel to Detroit in week 18, but with a first-round bye locked up, Green Bay will have nothing meaningful to play for until they take the field in the divisional round of the playoffs in three weeks.

The Packers received the opening kickoff and the Rodgers-to-Adams connection got underway early. Rodgers hit Adams up the right sideline for a 19-yard gain, then lofted a perfect ball to 17 on a slot fade to the left sideline for 30. A drop in the end zone from Josiah Deguara set up an opening-drive field goal from Mason Crosby to give Green Bay an early 3-0 lead. That kick was not without its hiccup, however, as Corey Bojorquez appeared to bobble the snap before getting it in position just in time for Crosby to boot through the 35-yard attempt.

After a 30-yard kickoff return, the Vikings came out throwing, rolling Sean Mannion out on the first play to hit tight end Tyler Conklin for a gain of about 12 yards. The play originally went for 23, as Conklin went down but was ruled to be untouched, but an early Matt LaFleur challenge brought it back as review showed that Preston Smith got a hand on Conklin as he was heading to the ground. A few plays later, the Vikings would keep the offense on the field for a 4th-and-3 opportunity just inside Packers territory, but Smith broke up Mannion’s pass to fullback C.J. Ham and the Packers took over.

The Aaron Jones/AJ Dillon combination kicked in on the Packers’ second drive, with the two accounting for six straight touches. Jones caught a pair of passes and broke off a 27-yard carry, but the Packers went for a 4th-and-3 of their own and were likewise turned away. Rodgers tried to throw to Adams in the front left corner of the end zone, but Mackenzie Alexander had good coverage and forced an incompletion.

A quick three-and-out by the Vikings led to a punt, and new return man David Moore appeared to take a hit when getting ready to field the punt. However, the referees — a crew that lost their umpire early in the game and were working with six people — ruled that the Vikings player was blocked into Moore, a questionable call at best. The Packers would go three-and-out as well, and Bojorquez provided perhaps his worst punt of the season, a 22-yard shank.

Another punt by the Vikings gave the Packers the ball again and they reached the red zone for the third time in the game, but once again they failed to find the end zone, with Crosby cleanly hitting a 36-yard field goal to extend the lead to 6-0. Jones ripped off another long run, this time for 28 yards, but a blown block by Equanimeous St. Brown on a tight end screen and an incomplete pass to Davante Adams led to the field goal.

A Rashan Gary sack on the next possession gave him 9.5 on the season and helped force another Vikings three-and-out, and the Packers finally converted in the red zone. Green Bay ran run-pass options repeatedly on the ensuing series, as Rodgers hit Adams for 15 and Allen Lazard for 17, then lofted a jump ball to Lazard for a 20-yard touchdown.

The score was Lazard’s sixth of the season and his third in the past four games. It did not officially go down as a red zone touchdown because the ball was just outside the 20-yard line, but it allowed Packers fans to let out a deep exhale as the team finally found the end zone and took a 13-0 lead.

Another quick punt from the Vikings resulted from a Preston Smith sack on third down, and with time winding down in the first half, the Packers got on the board once again. Rodgers found Davante Adams three times for 49 yards on the ensuing series, culminating in one of the easiest 11-yard touchdown passes you’ll ever see. That gave Adams 8 catches for 118 yards in the first half as the Packers took a 20-0 lead, but the Vikings would add a 51-yard field goal just before the break to make the score 20-3 heading into halftime.

Out of the half, however, it was more of the same for the Vikings’ offense, as Kenny Clark stuffed Dalvin Cook for no gain and the Packers forced yet another three-and-out. That was the fifth drive of the game without a first down for Minnesota, and David Moore returned a punt for 22 yards. That was the Packers’ longest punt return of the season and the team added on an extra 15 yards for a late hit out of bounds as well.

With the Packers already holding a three-possession lead early in the second half, AJ Dillon took over. He ran the ball five times on the ensuing drive, picking up 25 yards and punching in a four-yard touchdown, his fourth of the season. Mason Crosby would add another field goal before the Vikings would finally reach the end zone on the last play of the third quarter to send Green Bay into the final frame up 30-10. Sean Mannion delivered a strong throw to KJ Osborn over the middle of the field for a 14-yard score to keep the game close enough to keep Rodgers, Adams, and company on the field for another drive.

The most entertaining play of the game came on the Vikings’ touchdown drive. Mannion threw to Conklin over the middle, but Adrian Amos laid a massive hit on the tight end right as the ball arrived. The football flew several feet in the air and traveled back towards the line of scrimmage, where center Garrett Bradbury caught it and rumbled forward for 21 yards — the Vikings’ longest pass completion of the game to that point.

The Packers would eat up 6:19 of clock on their next series, boosting their lead back up to 27 points once again. The 11-play, 70-yard drive would culminate in AJ Dillon’s second touchdown of the game as he pounded through the defense for a 7-yard score.

That would bring the backups on for for both teams, starting with Minnesota bringing Kellen Mond on for Mannion and Alexander Mattison on for Dalvin Cook. A quick three and out gave way to Jordan Love taking over from Rodgers for the Packers as well as the two teams gradually ran out the clock.

At 13-3, the Packers pulled Matt LaFleur’s career record up to 39-9 in the regular season, setting a new NFL record for most wins in a coach’s first three seasons. They also ensured their third straight first-round playoff bye and second straight #1 playoff seed. Minnesota is now officially eliminated from the playoffs and will finish with a losing record for the second straight year.