Matt Flynn replaced ineffective Scott Tolzien and led the Packers to a touchdown, touchdown and field goal on three consecutive possessions to force overtime, and the Packers and Vikings battled to a 26-26 tie on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The tie, the team's first since 1987, snapped the Packers' three-game losing streak. At 5-5-1, they're still alive in the NFC North after Detroit lost at home to Tampa Bay and Chicago was trounced at St. Louis. The Lions and Bears are 6-5; the Lions host the Packers on Thanksgiving.
It might very well be the Packers' last gasp of the season, and it might be in the hands of a quarterback who wasn't on the roster just a couple weeks ago.
Green Bay won the overtime toss and looked headed to a three-and-out punt when Flynn was sacked on third-and-9 but safety Robert Blanton was flagged for holding. One play later, Flynn hit Jordy Nelson for 15. Flynn then went deep to Jarrett Boykin, who made a leaping catch against cornerback Chris Cook for 34 to the Vikings' 7.
The Packers settled for a field goal, however, when Eddie Lacy gained 5 yards on two carries and Flynn couldn't hit Nelson in the end zone against Blanton. Mason Crosby's 20-yard field goal gave Green Bay a 26-23 lead.
Minnesota's defensive stand meant its offense would get a chance. On third-and-9, Adrian Peterson ran for 15. From their 49, Christian Ponder hit tight end John Carlson for 10 on a bootleg and Toby Gerhart ran for 12 on 11 to the Packers' 13. Outside linebacker Mike Neal stuffed Peterson's second-down run for a loss of 5. On third-and-14, Ponder threw the ball over cornerback Davon House to receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. House got a finger on the ball and Patterson bobbled the ball and caught ball well out of bounds. Blair Walsh kicked a 38-yard field goal to tie the game with 3:49 to play.
Green Bay, however, went three-and-out. Middle linebacker Audie Cole got pressure on a pair of blitzes, including leveling Flynn on third-and-9. The Vikings couldn't do anything, either, with Greg Jennings unable to haul in Ponder's third-and-5 pass.
That gave the Packers the ball at their 10 with 1:59 to go but three penalties doomed any chance at winning the game.
Minnesota (2-8-1) got 146 rushing yards from Peterson and 91 from Toby Gerhart, and its defense held Green Bay to 3-of-16 on third down.
Flynn rallied the Packers with back-to-back touchdowns to get within 23-20 with 3:30 remaining, and Green Bay's defense forced a three-and-out after Mike Neal's third-down sack with 2:37 to play.
Starting at the 31-yard line with 2:27 remaining, Flynn hit Jones for 9 and Lacy for 16 to the Vikings' 44 with 1:55 to go. On third-and-6 from the 40, defensive end Brian Robison beat right tackle Marshall Newhouse and hit Flynn to force an incompletion. On fourth down, Flynn coaxed the Vikings offside and floated a ball as he got hit by linebacker Audie Cole. The ball fluttered down to Jones at the 14 in front of cornerback Marcus Sherels, and he got tackled at the 12.
The Vikings' defense, however, stiffened. They stuffed Lacy on first down, Letroy Guion batted down Flynn's pass on second down and a third-down pass to Jarrett Boykin gained just 3. Mason Crosby hit a 26-yard field goal to tie the game at 23 with 46 seconds remaining.
The Vikings got one first down on the ensuing possession but the drive stalled and the game went to overtime.
The Vikings fell behind 7-0 but scored 23 consecutive points to seize control. They did it behind Adrian Peterson, who broke 100 rushing yards for the 41st time in 100 career games, and a strong defensive performance that frustrated Tolzien.
A month ago, Rodgers sliced and diced the Vikings' defense as the Packers rolled to a 44-31 victory at Minnesota. Since then, the Packers have churned through four quarterbacks after an almost unprecedented run of quarterbacking stability with Rodgers and Brett Favre.
With the Packers sitting atop the NFC North at 5-2, Rodgers sustained a broken collarbone on the first series against Chicago. Rodgers was replaced by Seneca Wallace, who lasted just one series when he started against Philadelphia on Nov. 11. Tolzien put up big numbers but threw three interceptions in a loss at the Giants on Nov. 18. Tolzien started against the Vikings but was benched in favor of Matt Flynn in the third quarter with Green Bay trailing 20-7.
Sensing the season slipping away, Packers coach Mike McCarthy brought in Flynn. A 34-yard run by James Starks gave the Packers a spark but the drive stalled when defensive end Jared Allen pressured Flynn on third-and-8.
The Vikings started the ensuing possession at their 4 but Gerhart had runs of 15, 26 and 11 yards to set up Blair Walsh's 29-yard field goal that extended their lead to 23-7 early in the fourth quarter.
Two defensive penalties helped the Packers get back into the game. Sherels was penalized 35 yards on a long pass to James Jones, and illegal hands to the face on a third-and-10 scramble by Flynn gave the Packers a first-and-goal at the 3. Lacy scored on the next play, but safety Jamarca Sanford picked off the two-point attempt.
The Packers forced a punt and Flynn and Lacy got the Packers into the end zone again. Lacy had a run for 17 and catch for 13, and Flynn completed three passes to Jarrett Boykin – including a 6-yard touchdown on third-and-goal with 3:30 that cut the deficit to 23-20.
The Packers, who never led in losses to the Eagles and Giants, struck first. Tolzien completed passes of 20 yards to fullback John Kuhn on third-and-9 and 34 yards to Jordy Nelson on another third-and-9. Lacy's spinning 10-yard run made it first-and-goal at the 6 before Tolzien pump-faked defensive end Brian Robison, scrambled to his left, spun away from Guion and beat linebacker Chad Greenway to the goal line for the touchdown.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.