Notebook: Minnesota Vikings team win a ‘dream come true’

The Vikings needed a lot of different big plays to beat the Packers and grab the NFC North title. Players were thrilled and the game was filled with interesting statistics.

On a night when the Minnesota Vikings finally got over the hump and slayed their personal dragon – the four-time defending division champion Green Bay Packers – it was truly a group effort that got the job done in a 20-13 win.

On a night when Teddy Bridgewater didn’t throw for 100 yards and Adrian Peterson was held to just 67 yards on 19 carries, it was the team that brought home the victory for the Vikings.

“It was a group effort,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “We just won the game. It was a group effort. We tried hard and I’m excited right now. We talked about this from Day One of training camp and all our dreams came true. It was a team win. The offense played great. The defense played great and we went out there and fought for four quarters.”

Things got started early for the Vikings, getting different players involved in the big-play parade as they did something they have done only a couple of times in the last 20 years – call a fake on a punt or a field goal.

On the first drive of the game, the Vikings got bogged down on their own 38-yard line and were forced to punt. But they executed a direct snap to Adam Thielen, who broke loose for a 41-yard run down to the Green Bay 21-yard line. The Vikings wouldn’t score a touchdown on the drive, but it led to a 39-yard field goal from Blair Walsh to give the Vikings a 3-0 lead – an advantage they would never relinquish.

After the Packers put together a 15-play drive in the first quarter to tie the game at 3-3, the Vikings defense was stifling.

In their next six drives in the second and third quarters, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense managed just 53 yards on 23 plays. Rodgers was sacked by Harrison Smith and Tom Johnson to kill one drive. Anthony Barr blew up a screen to Eddie Lacy for a 7-yard loss to kill another. Eric Kendricks blew up a third pass to Richard Rodgers in the open field to stop another drive. Terence Newman and Andrew Sendejo combined to stop Randall Cobb from picking up a first down on a crossing route that seemed destined to break for a big gain when he caught it.

But the biggest play was provided with five minutes to go in the third quarter when the Vikings defense became offensive.

Griffen made one of the most impressive individual plays of the season, blowing past Josh Sitton on an edge rush, hitting Rodgers’ arm and he wound up to pass and forcing a fumble that was scooped up by Captain Munnerlyn and returned 55 yards for a touchdown that gave the Vikings a 20-3 lead.

While Rodgers would rally the troops to get the Packers back in the game, the Vikings defense shut him down in his final two drives, with Xavier Rhodes intercepting a pass in the end zone with 2:09 to play and Barr swatting away a Hail Mary pass as time expired.

It was a game that looked to be over with 20 minutes to play, but still up for grabs when the clock hit :00. In the end, the Vikings exorcised their Lambeau demons and became NFC North champs, leaving even their franchise faceplate giving thanks.

“It’s means so much,” Peterson said. “At the beginning of this season, we talked about winning the NFC North and this week we were able to realize that opportunity was right in front of us. To come out here at Lambeau and leave with a victory, I give all glory to God.”

GAME-NIGHT NOTES

  • Peterson won his third career rushing title, rushing for 67 yards and a touchdown Sunday night and finishing with 1,485 yards.
  • Peterson said he didn’t know prior to the game that he had won the rushing title. Second-place Doug Martin of the Buccaneers had run for just 48 yards earlier in the day, which had come up 11 yards short prior to the Vikings’ game starting.
  • Peterson went back to the locker room in the third quarter with pain in his lower back. He would return for the final offensive drive and said following the game he isn’t concerned about it hampering him next week against Seattle.
  • In a game in which Peterson and Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy were under the spotlight given their history against their opponent Sunday night, it was Adam Thielen who stole the show. Lacy ran 13 times for just 34 yards (2.6 yards a carry) and Peterson didn’t do much better – 19 carries for 67 yards (a 3.5-yard average with a long run of 10 yards. Thielen had just two carries, one on a gutsy, almost unprecedented fake punt by the Vikings that gained 41 yards and a jet sweep for 26 yards in the third quarter that led to the Vikings’ only offensive touchdown. He finished tied with Peterson for 67 rushing yards and he did it on just two touches.
  • Thanks in large part to a fourth quarter in which he piled up yardage, Rodgers completed 28 of 44 passes for 291 yards with one touchdown and one interception. In the fourth quarter he completed 13 of 21 passes for 166 yards. In the first three quarters, he completed 15 of 23 passes for just 125 yards.
  • Rodgers had a passer rating of 80.8, dropping his season passer rating to 92.7 – the worst of his career. In 2008, his first year as a starter following the Brett Favre trade, his passer rating was 93.8. Since then, Rodgers had six straight seasons with passer ratings over 100 – 103.2, 101.2, 122.5, 108.0, 104.9 and 112.2.
  • Bridgewater had one of his worst games statistically of the season, completing 10 of 19 passes for 99 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 45.7.
  • His 45.7 passer rating was the worst of any game this season for Bridgewater, as were his 99 yards.
  • Seven different Vikings caught passes, but only two caught more than one – Jarius Wright with two catches for 21 yards and Jerick McKinnon with three catches for 33 yards.
  • Stefon Diggs caught just one pass for eight yards, but finished leading the team with 52 catches for 720 yards.
  • Diggs won the in-house reception title for 2015 because tight end Kyle Rudolph finished with 49 receptions. He was targeted just once Sunday and didn’t have any receptions.
  • When forced to pass, the Packers wide receivers stepped up. In the first half, Rodgers completed 10 passes. Only two of them went to wide receivers – one to Davante Adams, one to James Jones and none to Randall Cobb. In the second half, he completed 18 passes – six to Cobb, three to Jones and three to Adams.
  • Rhodes picked off Rodgers in the fourth quarter, his first interception on the season and the second of his career.
  • Munnerlyn was razzed by teammates last week when he brought an interception back and got pushed out of bounds right before the end zone, which would have been the sixth Pick-6 of his career. He got on the scoreboard Sunday, scoring his sixth career TD and first on a fumble recovery for a score.
  • Although his return ended with a disaster that could have turned the game around, Cordarrelle Patterson ended up leading the NFL in kickoff return yardage. His 70-yard return that ended with a fumble put his season average at 31.8 yards. He entered play behind Detroit’s Ameer Abdullah, but ended up winning the category by more than two yards per return.
  • Both teams were hideous on third down. Green Bay converted just two of 15 third downs. The Vikings weren’t much better, making good on just two of 11 attempts.
  • Through 15 games, Green Bay had only run 15 fourth-down plays on offense, converting on eight of them. On Sunday, they attempted six fourth-down plays on offense, converting on three of them.
  • Thanks to a lopsided fourth quarter, Green Bay ran 75 plays, as opposed to just 49 by the Vikings.
  • The Vikings ran just 19 plays in the second half. Green Bay ran 47 plays.
  • Minnesota’s defense sacked Rodgers five times – two by Everson Griffen, one each by Sharrif Floyd and Anthony Barr and a shared sack by Harrison Smith and Tom Johnson.
  • Green Bay got into the red zone four times, but came away with just one touchdown and two field goals.
  • The Vikings have allowed two touchdowns or fewer in 15 games this season. The only exception was their opponent on Sunday – the Seattle Seahawks.
  • Green Bay held the ball for 35:42 of the game’s 60 minutes.
  • Sendejo had 13 tackles Sunday, including eight solo tackles, to lead all defensive players.
  • With Griffen’s two sacks, he finished with 10½ sacks, the second straight season with double-digit sacks.
  • Rhett Ellison left the game with a right knee injury in the second half and it didn’t look good. He left the locker room with a brace on the knee and on crutches.
  • Teddy Bridgewater’s left-handed interception would have been a much bigger moment had it not been followed up with Rodgers’ Fumble-6 immediately afterward.
  • Thielen injured his right shoulder and will likely be a day-to-day equation heading into the playoffs.
  • Coming into the game, Rodgers had a passer rating of 115.5 against the Vikings – the highest among any QB in NFL history with more than 250 attempts against any team in the league.
  • The Packers were without left tackle David Bakhtiari, which forced left guard Josh Sitton to make his first career start at left tackle and third-year pro Lane Taylor to make his first start at left guard.
  • The game-time temperature was frozen tundra-like 26 degrees at kickoff and there was a wind chill of 16 degrees, not exactly the Ice Bowl.


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