As Green Bay Packers fans emptied out of Lambeau Field on the chilly Wisconsin night, their chants of “Go Pack Go”
on the hall walls. Echoes of the Minnesota Vikings game a year ago, when the Packers blasted the Purple 37-10, amplified the cacophony. Green Bay may have entered the game 7-8 with its playoff life on the line. But they crushed the Vikings 41-17, moving Minnesota into the No. 3 seed while remaining in the power bubble. playoffs.
The Pack is back pic.twitter.com/6bo2tOz0vU— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) January 2, 2023
The Vikings leave Lambeau at 12-4 with a minus 20 point differential. They’ve notched up 11 one-score wins this year, but when they stumble, they fall hard. Minnesota has appeared in five games as an underdog, including Sunday’s game. The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys eliminated them, and the Detroit Lions beat them by two points. Their only underdog victory? A miracle in Buffalo.
“It just comes down to the fact that when we lost lopsided games, we directly contributed to those,” Kevin O’Connell said. “Scoring can get out of hand quickly when you turn it over for touchdowns the other way, give up a kick return from 100 yards, don’t score when you’ve blocked a punt and find yourself on the their yard-line and walk away with three.
The warning signs of a blowout loomed over Minnesota’s head from the start of the game. They went to three on the first disc. Then Josh Metellus blocked Pat O’Donnell’s punt and the Vikings got the ball back on the 1-yard line, but they had to settle for a field goal. Keisean Nixon returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Minnesota responded by throwing a punt, throwing a six pick, missing a field goal, throwing an interception, and missing another field goal.
Green Bay led 27-3 at halftime. They led 41-3 with 9:25 left in the game, but the Vikings scored two touchdowns in the time limit to avoid becoming
12-win team in the Super Bowl era only to lose two games by more than 30 points.
If the Vikings lose this game by 30+ points (the deficit is 38 at the moment), they'll become the second team in the Super Bowl era to win 12+ games while also losing multiple games by 30+ points. The other was the 1991 Detroit Lions, per @ESPNStatsInfo.— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) January 1, 2023
“This game is a momentum-based game,” O’Connell said. “When you turn the football around and don’t keep up the attacking drives, it’s ultimately too much for your team to overcome. This is where we have to find ways in all phases of our team to do everything we can to limit the momentum being that avalanche that tends to happen when a few of these games have gotten away from us.
Justin Jefferson entered the game with 209 yards to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season record. The Green Bay Packers limited him to one catch for 15 yards on five targets.
“They just played a lot of high coverage,” Jefferson said. “They had safety on my side the majority of the game, they played a lot [two-deep man coverage]. I mean, they did a good job.
The pitch conditions weren’t good, but they changed cleats at halftime. The Packers gave them opportunities, but they didn’t take advantage of them. In the end, the team that has dominated the NFC North since 2011 defeated the Vikings.
Minnesota had the opportunity to come full circle. A year after the Packers put them out of their misery, they could have knocked out a Packers team hovering around .500. However, he should have replicated a combination of their victory over the Buffalo Bills and their historic comeback over the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, Green Bay gave them a stark reminder: They’re still here.
“We know they’re a good football team,” said Adam Thielen. “We knew Week 1; that’s why we felt so good about this victory. Because even though they had a tough start to the season, you know they’re a good football team, and they’re going to find ways to win.
“They’re going to find ways to adapt and overcome, and they’ll still be here in December and January, playing their best football.”
The Packers have shown signs of decline, but Minnesota can’t claim to be the king of the NFC North just yet. Aaron Rodgers, 39, is showing his age. But assuming he returns, he’s still one of the best quarterbacks in the league. And after a year of playing with Christian Watson and Roméo Doubs, he has chemistry with two dynamic young receivers. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are a talented running back duo. The defense could improve significantly if coach Matt LaFleur decides to move on from defensive coordinator Joe Barry in the offseason.
Minnesota’s narrow wins don’t take away from what O’Connell’s regime accomplished in its first season. The Vikings had been a sub-.500 team for the past two years, and they were on the hunt for the NFC’s No. 1 seed until the final week of the season. They didn’t lose hope against the Bills and Colts and beat the New England Patriots in a short week. All three are significant achievements. Yet they must recognize what they are. They have the second-worst point differential in the NFC North.
. Green Bay hit the Vikings with a dose reality