And then the third quarter started.
The Green Bay Packers recovered from a 17-13 halftime deficit in explosive fashion and improved to 7-0 at the bye by beating the Vikings 33-27 on Sunday afternoon. The victory was a franchise-record 13th in a row and improved coach Mike McCarthy's record at Mall of America Field to 4-2.
On the second play of the third quarter, Greg Jennings got behind the Vikings' secondary by at least 20 yards and literally jogged the final 45 yards for a 79-yard touchdown from Aaron Rodgers. After the Vikings went three-and-out, Randall Cobb's 42-yard punt return set up the offense at Minnesota's 32. Rodgers hit James Jones for 27 yards and, one play later, rolled to his right and hit Jermichael Finley for a 2-yard touchdown.
In four-and-a-half minutes, the Packers had pulled ahead 27-17. At that point, Rodgers was 20-of-23 for 305 yards with three touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
The Packers tacked on field goals after a pair of interceptions by Charles Woodson. Mason Crosby continued his record-setting day with a team-record 58-yard field goal that moved the advantage to 33-17.
The Vikings made a game of it, though, with Ponder's 24-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins drawing them within 33-27 with 7:49 remaining in the game. And it got really interesting when Rodgers missed Jennings on third-and-6 to force a punt. Tim Masthay almost got it blocked but hit a beauty, with the bouncing ball saved by Jarrett Bush and downed by Pat Lee at the 2 with 5:26 to go.
Ponder converted two third downs but not a third, and with three timeouts, the Vikings punted, with Green Bay taking over at its 20 with 2:30 remaining.
The Vikings needed a stop but James Starks ran for 15 yards on the first play, forcing the Vikings to use their first timeout. After a false start and a 4-yard run by Starks, Starks took an inside handoff out of a shotgun formation and followed blocks by Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton for what was essentially a clinching 20-yard run. He added a 15-yarder on third-and-7 to put the game away.
The Packers won despite allowing Peterson to rumble for 175 yards. Minnesota outgained the Packers 435-421 and dominated on third down, but a 2-1 edge in turnovers was the key.
Oh, and Rodgers was a key, too. He completed 24-of-30 passes for 335 yards. His passer rating of 146.5 extended his NFL record of season-opening games with ratings of 110-plus to seven.
The Packers trailed at halftime, even though Rodgers' three incompletions consisted of two drops and a clock-killing spike. A prohibitive underdog, the Vikings (1-6) entered the game needing some big plays to stay in the game against the undefeated Packers, and that's exactly what they got.
On the first snap, Ponder faked the handoff to Peterson and rolled to his left. Cornerback Tramon Williams either blew the coverage or expected help from safety Charlie Peprah. Either way, Michael Jenkins was wide open up the left sideline and he scored what appeared to be a 73-yard touchdown. The score was overturned by replay, but one play later, Ponder booted again and hit tight end Visanthe Shiancoe for a 1-yard touchdown pass against Morgan Burnett.
The Packers answered immediately, with Rodgers completing 6-of-6 passes. The sixth player to catch a pass on the drive, fullback John Kuhn, scored from 2 yards to tie the game.
The Packers appeared to have weathered the storm but Cobb muffed a punt, giving the Vikings the ball at the 50. Peterson started the drive with an incredible 11-yard run, added a 9-yarder on first-and-goal at the 10 and scored on the next play to make it 14-10.
Green Bay answered with a field goal – Crosby's team-record 18th in a row. But an impressive drive was doomed by Allen's second sack of the game and Cobb's drop on third-and-16, which might have gained a first down given the open-field space in front of him.
The teams exchanged field goals late in the half, with Ryan Longwell hitting from 52 with 55 seconds remaining in the half, and Rodgers negotiating a hurry-up drive to set up Crosby's 45-yarder as time expired.
Extra points: WR Greg Jennings exited the locker room with a bag of ice wrapped around his right hand, the byproduct of a hit he took on the first series of the game. He'll have X-rays upon his arrival in Green Bay. He missed the rest of the drive but returned to catch seven passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. … RB Alex Green sustained a knee injury on the kickoff return following the Vikings' touchdown. He'll be examined on Monday. … The Lions' home loss to Atlanta means the Packers have a two-game lead in the NFC North. … Left guard T.J. Lang was kicked in the groin by the Vikings' Brian Robison on a second-quarter field goal. "Definitely cheap shot, I don't think it takes a genius to figure that out. I'm glad I didn't respond in a dumb way by getting a penalty and getting ejected."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.