Aaron Rodgers said a week ago that if you can play, and deal with pain, you should be out on the field. He backed that up again Sunday afternoon — with the aid of a brace on his left knee. But the Packers were given a gift of Vikings’ sloppiness to walk away without a loss in a 29-29 final at Lambeau Field.
Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson missed three field goals — including two in overtime — allowing the Packers to swallow Mason Crosby’s own missed game-winner at the end of regulation.
Games between good teams are decided by the smallest things and individual miscues by the Vikings on offense, defense and special teams led to big things for the Packers.
Of the Vikings’ 13 offensive possessions, eight featured either penalty, a blocked punt, missed field goals, drops or a sack. Their four “clean” possessions led to touchdowns in regulation.
Defensively, allowing Aaron Rodgers to run for seven yards on a 3rd-and-7 led to a touchdown. Two roughing calls, an offsides and a hold all helped lead to Packers field goals. If the Vikings played it clean, they forced a Packers punt.
Here are five quick takeaways:
To rush or not to rush
The Packers fell victim to the new rules protecting hits on the quarterback, costing Mike Daniels a sack and, perhaps, a victory in regulation when Clay Matthews was flagged for unnecessarily roughing Kirk Cousins in the fourth quarter.
Early in the game Daniels didn’t take Cousins down thinking he got rid of the ball, only to see the quarterback scamper away. It wasn’t costly, as the Packers forced a punt. But at the end of regulation, Matthews hit Cousins in the midsection and drove him to the ground. The ball wound up in Jaire Alexander’s hands. While the team celebrated, a flag was thrown. Unlike last week, the Vikings took advantage and moved 60 yards downfield for a touchdown and two-point conversion to force overtime.
Packers throw away time
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted Kirk Cousins and returned it 21 yards to the Vikings’ 13-yard line with 2:05 to go. After a Jamaal Williams run for no gain took it down to two minutes the Packers tossed an incompletion (six seconds), took a delay of game and tossed another incompletion (five seconds). While it’s true the Packers kicked a field goal to go up 29-21, they didn’t force Minnesota to use its remaining timeouts, which the Vikings did use on their ensuing game-tying drive.
Protection, secondary wore down
It was unlikely the Packers were going to keep the Vikings from hitting Rodgers on Sunday, but they were able to do that until the game lengthened on a hot afternoon. Minnesota finally dented the protection bit in the second half with some QB hits and there were inopportune penalties on Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari, but they held up against a strong Vikings front through regulation. But, in overtime, with a chance to get into field goal range and win the game Everson Griffen sacked Rodgers to force a punt.
The Packers coverage group, when healthy and together, allowed one touchdown. But after Kevin King went out with a groin injury Davon House was picked on for a 75-yard touchdown in the second half. Cousins had just 132 passing yards in the first half — he finished with 425 as he found more free runners in the secondary.
Rodgers was (almost) Rodgers
Aside from the bulky brace on his left leg, there were subtle hints that Rodgers was affected by his injury. Namely, the mere inches he was off on some throws that slid off the fingertips of Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Jimmy Graham. But that just shows how perfect Rodgers is, that such throws are generally expected to be completed. Had they been converted, those would have been some of the longer throws in the air and perhaps led to more points. Rodgers averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt. He also lost the handle on a play fake in overtime on 2nd-and-4.
Special teams up and down
The Packers special teams unit scored a touchdown on a blocked punt and rookie punter JK Scott flipped field position with booming punts of 63 and 59 yards early in the game. Let’s not forget up-man Lucas Patrick expertly fielding a short punt on the run and returning it eight yards.
And while Mason Crosby was perfect when called upon the first five times in regulation, he missed his sixth attempt — a 52-yarder that would have won the game at the buzzer.
Scott hit a great punt in overtime that landed at around the Vikings’ three, but the coverage unit did not get down in time to attempt to down it, and it tumbled into the end zone to give Cousins more breathing room. The extra yards gave the Vikings time to attempt another game-winning field goal in overtime.
There was a coverage breakdown that allowed Mike Hughes a 46-yard return that set up the Vikings’ lone first half score, but the Packers’ group was more than solid.