GREEN BAY, WIS. – The Green Bay Packers fail to win the NFC North Championship after starting 6-0, as they lost to the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field Sunday night in the final game of the regular season. The Vikings will go into the playoffs with a home game as the third seed while the Packers will be a fifth seed on the road.
If it was a game of stats it would appear that the Packers won on both sides of the ball as Vikings’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater only had 99 yards passing and superstar running back Adrian Peterson had only 67 yards rushing with a touchdown. On the Packers side Aaron Rodgers finished the game with 291 yards passing and a touchdown but it was their inability to convert on third downs throughout the game and the offensive line’s lack of protection of Rodgers which has been Green Bay’s biggest weakness during the second half of the season. Also on a cold January night game, Eddie Lacy completed the game with only 34 yards rushing which any team will lose with that lack of a ground attack.
Minnesota began the game with the ball first and immediately utilized the league’s rushing title winner Peterson who took it down the middle for 10 yards. What appeared to be a Vikings’ punt on fourth down turned into a 41-yard run by receiver Adam Thielen on the fake to get Minnesota in field goal range. The Packers’ defense held on and forced a 39 yard Blair Walsh field goal to give the Vikings the 3-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Packers would answer back, opening it up with an 11-yard run by Lacy. After 4 rushes by Lacy that got a total of 17 yards and an 18-yard reception by tight end Richard Rodgers, Green Bay was in field goal range. Much like the Packers defense, the Vikings would hold on forcing a 28-yard Mason Crosby field goal to tie the game at 3-3.
After back and forth punts midway through the second quarter the Vikings went on a long drive with Bridgewater completing two passes to his receiver Thielen and his running back Jerick McKinnon combining for 31 yards. A third down sack by Clay Matthews forced Minnesota to settle on another field goal to give them a 6-3 lead to end the first half.
After a three-and-out for the Packers to begin the second half the Vikings again had a scoring drive beginning with an 11 yard reception by receiver Jarius Wright. Thielen also had a 26 yard reception to get Minnesota in the red zone. Peterson would cap off the drive with a three yard touchdown to lengthen the Vikings lead 13-3. On the ensuing drive Rodgers was sacked by Everson Griffen and in the act Rodgers threw the ball backwards which the Vikings Captain Munnerlyn returned it 55 yards for the touchdown, elevating Minnesota’s lead 20-3.
Green Bay finally got things going at the end of the third quarter as Rodgers completed a 32-yard pass to receiver James Jones and scrambled 11 yards himself to get the Packers into the red zone. They would get their first touchdown of the game when Rodgers completed a 16-yard pass to Rodgers to cut Green Bay’s deficit to ten. After the Vikings were forced to punt the Packers again went on another scoring drive. Rodgers would complete a 17-yard pass to his receiver Davante Adams and a 25-yard pass to Jones but the drive was stopped when Rodgers was sacked again by Griffen on third down to force a 43-yard field goal to cut the Packers deficit by seven.
On the ensuing kickoff it appeared that Vikings returner Cordarelle Patterson would take it back for a touchdown but Crosby forced a fumble and Micah Hyde recovered it for the Packers. Again Rodgers took the offense down the field after completing a 37-yard pass to Jones and a 13-yard screen to fullback John Kuhn. Minnesota’s defense would not allow them to go any further as Rodgers would throw an interception to cornerback Xavier Rhodes on fourth down. With under a minute left, the Packers were still in the game forcing the Vikings to punt but they ran out of time after a last second Hail Mary attempt was batted down by linebacker Anthony Barr to secure the Vikings victory.
The Packers will begin their hopeful playoff run on the road as they travel to the nation’s capital to take on the Washington Redskins. Minnesota will be at home when they take on the Seattle Seahawks.