If the 2023 Green Bay Packers have an identity, it appears to largely consist of mental mistakes. On Sunday at Lambeau Field, the team posted its fifth straight game without a touchdown in the first half, spotting the Minnesota Vikings a 24-3 lead and falling much too far behind to come back, particularly as the team continued to inflict problems upon itself.
The Packers committed 11 penalties for 99 yards in the game, and although at least a handful of them were questionable — a hit to the shoulder by Jonathan Owens being flagged as a hit to the head and a tough-to-swallow roughing the passer penalty on Rashan Gary among them — they formed a consistent trend. Meanwhile, Green Bay’s offense displayed its usual incompetence in the first half, replete with dropped passes and missed blocks up front.
For their part, the defense managed to keep the game close in the first half, but the signs of problems were there. They had trouble getting off the field on 3rd and 4th downs, with Minnesota still gaining chunks of yardage before slowing down in the red zone. The dam broke in the third quarter, when the Vikings scored touchdowns on consecutive offensive plays around a Jordan Love interception to stretch their lead out to 21 points. The Packers managed just one touchdown after that point, despite multiple opportunities inside the 20-yard line, as Minnesota held on for a 24-10 win.
The Vikings’ win was a bit of a pyrrhic victory, however, thanks to the injury to Kirk Cousins. The starting quarterback suffered a non-contact ankle injury in the second half and was immediately taken to the locker room. Early speculation is that it may be a torn Achilles tendon for Cousins, an injury that would end his season.
Ultimately, the Vikings improved to 4-4 on the season with their third straight win, while the Packers now own one of the NFL’s longest losing streaks, having extended it now to four straight games.
The Packers’ first four drives of this game were consistent lessons in terrible self-inflicted mistakes. From penalties to blown blocks to multiple dropped passes, the offense gained just 26 yards and no first downs. Green Bay committed eight penalties in the first half and scored only three points, making it the fifth consecutive game without a touchdown in the first 30 minutes.
The Vikings, meanwhile, moved the ball and took a double-digit lead early in the second quarter.
On the other hand, Minnesota’s opening drive lasted 11 plays as they worked methodically down the field. But after a nine-yard catch from T.J. Hockenson on 3rd and 10, Kevin O’Connell brought out Greg Joseph for a 42-yard field goal attempt instead of trying to pick up a half-yard on 4th down. The Vikings were rightfully punished for their decision, as Joseph pushed the kick wide right. Minnesota’s second drive benefitted from a pair of personal foul penalties on Green Bay — one terrible call on Jonathan Owens for a supposed hit to the head and another for roughing the passer — and Akers punched it in from six yards out for an early Vikings lead.
Minnesota extended their lead with a field goal in the second quarter after a nine-play drive that saw the Vikings picking up chunk plays through the air. They had gains of 21, 20, and 18 on three consecutive plays, but a pass breakup by Keisean Nixon in the end zone forced them to settle for three points instead. The Vikings’ fourth drive was the first one that did not reach Packers territory, as Nixon again broke up a pass on third down.
By the time the Packers got their first first down of the game — with less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter — they had already accrued 59 penalty yards and benched their left tackle. Rasheed Walker was sat down in the second quarter after allowing an embarrassing sack and committing a penalty, giving Yosh Nijman his first significant playing time of the season.
That initial first down came on a pass to Christian Watson in the left flat, an 11-yard gain on 3rd-and-6. Watson would later commit an offensive pass interference penalty, turning a 1st-and-5 (after the Vikings were flagged for not running players off the field quickly enough) into a 1st-and-15. They dug out of that hole, eventually reaching the Vikings’ 17-yard line with 12 seconds left in the first half. Love was pressured on their one shot at the end zone, bringing Anders Carlson out for a 35-yard field goal. Carlson hit the right upright on the attempt, but the Vikings were lined up offside, giving him another shot from 30 yards out. He hit this one, getting the Packers on the board just before halftime.
Minnesota scored again on the first drive of the second half, however, with Kirk Cousins hooking up with K.J. Osborn for multiple third down conversions. After getting a push from behind to convert a 4th-and-short in the red zone, Cousins eventually found T.J. Hockenson for a short touchdown to extend their lead to two touchdowns. Four plays later, it was a 24-3 game, as Jayden Reed got stripped of the football up the seam for an interception and Cousins hit Jordan Addison immediately for a 20-yard touchdown pass.
The Packers’ first play of more than 20 yards on offense finally arrived afterwards, with Love finding Reed for a gain of 31 up the hash marks. Using AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones both through the air and on the ground, the Packers got into the red zone, then Reed drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone. But even set up at the one-yard line, it took the Packers four tries to finally get into the end zone; Dillon got stuffed twice, but Love finally found Doubs wide open on a rub route for the team’s first touchdown of the day.
Green Bay’s defense and special teams managed to keep the game within two touchdowns with a huge play early in the fourth quarter. After back-to-back sacks from Preston Smith and Kenny Clark, Karl Brooks blocked a field goal attempt and Jonathan Owens returned it out to near midfield.
The Clark sack came on a play that saw Kirk Cousins suffer a non-contact injury — potentially a torn Achilles tendon. Cousins was unable to put any weight on his right leg and was immediately ruled out and taken to the locker room on a cart.
Love tried to lead the Packers back to within a touchdown, working well to get inside the red zone, but Camryn Bynum knocked down his 4th-down pass over the middle to keep the Vikings’ lead at 14. Rookie Jaren Hall came on in relief of Cousins for the remainder of the game, and the Packers got to him quickly. Preston Smith sacked Hall and forced a fumble, and Devonte Wyatt fell on it to give the Packers possession at the Vikings’ 15-yard line. But again, the Packers could not punch it in; a sack set up the offense in a 3rd-and-long, then Love had to scramble on 4th down and came up a yard short of the sticks. One final drive saw another long pass to Reed to reach midfield, but the Packers again failed on 4th down, finishing 1-for-4 on that down and allowing the Vikings to kneel out the clock.
Jordan Love finished the game with 229 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception, while also leading the team with 34 rushing yards on 4 attempts. Reed was the team’s leader in receiving yards with 83.