The Green Bay Packers’ playoff dreams are still very much alive. A dominating 33-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football in week 17 pushed the Packers up to 8-8 on the season and back into the 7th spot in the NFC playoff picture, giving them a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a victory next week against the Chicago Bears.
That game will take place in the late afternoon next Sunday, kicking off at 3:25 PM Central Time at Lambeau Field and broadcast on CBS.
The Packers controlled this Sunday’s game from start to finish, opening up a 23-3 lead before halftime. Jordan Love had another excellent game, accounting for four total touchdowns and posting a passer rating of over 120 for the third time this season. Love got a career day from Bo Melton, who caught six passes for 105 yards and his first career touchdown — and became the first 100-yard receiver of the year for Green Bay. The Packers also got a second straight 120-yard rushing game from a healthy Aaron Jones and a great game from receiver Jayden Reed, who caught two touchdown passes and led the Packers with 89 receiving yards.
Meanwhile, the Green Bay defense did its job, keeping Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison under 100 total yards combined. They got a turnover from rookie quarterback Jaren Hall early then dealt with Nick Mullens in the first half, getting a total of four sacks in the game. It surely was not enough to save Barry’s job, given the Packers’ recent performances and the Vikings’ quarterback issues, but it was at least an encouraging performance as Green Bay tries to gain some momentum towards a potential playoff berth.
The Packers won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff on Sunday night, but their opening drive went nowhere, ending in a three-and-out. Green Bay’s defense returned the favor to the Vikings, forcing a three-and-out of their own, and Jordan Love got points on the board on the Packers’ second series.
Love moved the chains with passes to Romeo Doubs, Tucker Kraft, and Bo Melton, and a big run from Aaron Jones got Green Bay into the red zone. Love had to escape pressure on third down, missing Malik Heath on the run, but Anders Carlson gave the Packers an early 3-0 lead with a 34-yard field goal.
The Vikings had benched Nick Mullens for Jaren Hall in this game amid Mullens’ turnover issues, but Hall delivered a giveaway on Minnesota’s second series. He threw behind tight end Johnny Mundt over the middle, and after Mundt tipped the football up in the air, Corey Ballentine came down with an interception at the Vikings’ 33. Two plays later, Love delivered a lightning strike to Jayden Reed behind the Minnesota secondary for a 33-yard score. Check out this magnificent throw from Love:
Joe Barry’s defense forced another punt on the Vikings’ third series after allowing just one first down, but the Packers could not take advantage despite driving into field goal range. They got there with an 11-yard run from AJ Dillon and a 28-yard completion to Bo Melton with Love falling away. But on 3rd-and-1, the Packers tried a QB sneak and Love could not get the line to gain, then Melton failed to bring in a Love throw off play-action on 4th-and-1, yielding a turnover on downs.
Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison each made their first catches on the next series, picking up first downs on back-to-back plays. Colby Wooden and Isaiah McDuffie split a sack of Hall near midfield to slow the Vikings, but McDuffie was injured on the play, seemingly suffering a concussion after colliding with Wooden and Lukas Van Ness on the tackle. That sack forced Minnesota into a 3rd-and-16, and a gain of 9 yards brought out Greg Joseph for a 54-yard field goal. Joseph hit, pulling the Vikings back to within a touchdown.
The Packers kept their offensive production cruising after that, as Love connected with Kraft twice and Jayden Reed again for first downs. Aaron Jones then picked up back-to-back first downs, the second coming inside the five-yard line. On second-and-goal, Love ran off the left end, extending the football over the goal line for a touchdown, his fourth rushing score of the season.
Another Vikings drive was scuttled by a sack, this time from Quay Walker on second down. Minnesota punted away just inside the two-minute warning. The Packers were unable to pick up a first down, but after their own punt, Preston Smith sacked Hall, forcing a fumble that Karl Brooks recovered at the Vikings’ 37. Three plays later, with just a handful of seconds left on the clock, Love hit Reed on a crossing route over the middle, and he cut upfield, splitting through tacklers for a thrilling 25-yard touchdown.
That score was his second of the game and tenth of the season, and although Anders Carlson missed the PAT (his fifth of the year), the Packers took a 23-3 lead into the halftime break.
Coming out of the first half, the Vikings made a move at quarterback, bringing Nick Mullens back out to start the third quarter. Mullens helped by delivering a few short passes and screens, but an illegal man downfield call and a sack by Keisean Nixon on a blitz from the slot set the Vikings up with a 2nd-and-28. Mullens found Mundt for a gain of 14 to get half of the needed yardage and reach the edge of field goal range, then found Jefferson for 21 yards and a first down at the Packers’ 15. Finally, they managed to get a stop, forcing a failed fourth down attempt as pressure affected Mullens’ throw to Jefferson in the end zone.
Aaron Jones ripped off a 26-yard run to start Green Bay’s next drive, then Love hit Malik Heath and Kraft for first-down completions and added another on a dump-off to Jones. Love finished off the drive with his third touchdown pass of the day, dropping back and throwing a fadeaway to a wide-open Melton — giving the receiver his first NFL score and extending the Packers’ dominant lead to 30-3.
The Vikings flipped the field after a three-and-out, getting a turnover from the Packers’ special teams. With Jayden Reed ruled out for the game, Samori Toure was back returning the punt and he muffed it, and NaJee Thompson recovered it, giving Minnesota the ball inside the Packers’ 10. Mullens found Mundt for a touchdown two plays later for the Vikings’ first touchdown of the game.
Jones helped the Packers run off some clock in the fourth quarter, going over 120 yards for the second straight game. Green Bay drained 7:55 off the clock on a 13-play drive, finishing off with a field goal from Carlson with just over six minutes remaining in the game.
Minnesota dinked and dunked their way down the field. as the Packers allowed them underneath throws to run off some clock. But finally after they got near the end zone, Keisean Nixon broke up Mullens’ fourth-down pass, allowing Green Bay to run out the clock after Sean Clifford’s 37-yard rainbow to Melton to get a final first down.
Although the Packers won the game, they suffered a number of notable injuries. McDuffie suffered an apparent concussion, and Jayden Reed left the game around halftime. Josh Myers also left the game late with a leg injury, and those injuries will all be worth monitoring during the week.