Monday, September 16, 2019

Vikings Play from Behind in Loss to Packers

By Eric Goska

Lambeau Field hours before the Packers and Vikings renewed their rivalry there.
Being a frontrunner is not for the easily rattled.

Green Bay assumed that position early in its 21-16 squeaker over the Vikings. Now, by virtue of that win, the team sits alone in first place in the NFC North Division.

If they didn’t figure it out Sunday, the Packers will in the days ahead: the team out front always draws fire.

Matt LaFleur’s regular-season debut at Lambeau Field was notable for a number of reasons. In addition to knocking off a division rival, Green Bay accomplished two other feats worthy of mention.

One was a rarity. The other was a first in this long-standing series that dates to 1961.

Green Bay’s offense scored touchdowns the first three times it had the ball. The team had never done that in 115 previous regular-season clashes with the Vikings.

Green Bay’s early haul put Minnesota squarely behind the eight ball. For just the sixth time in the history of the series, the Vikings trailed on the scoreboard every time they snapped the ball.

This type of opening was what the experts had said the Packers needed to do in order to win: get a lead early and force Minnesota to abandon its formidable running game.

Bart Starr was honored by the Packers at halftime.
But Mike Zimmer’s Vikings refused to back down. Instead of folding, Minnesota spent the better part of three quarters chipping away at the Packers’ advantage before running out of time.

In a turnabout from the opener, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense clicked. Instead of minus-12 yards as it earned in Chicago, the unit posted 167 first-quarter yards against Minnesota.

The Packers used 19 plays to travel 75, 63 and 33 yards their first three times out. Thirteen of the plays gained six or more yards.

Rodgers was nearly perfect, completing 10 of 11 passes for 141 yards. He connected with running back Jamaal Williams and receiver Geronimo Allison on touchdown passes.

Aaron Jones plowed in from two yards out for the third score as Green Bay went up 21-0 with just 44 seconds elapsed in the second quarter.

Minnesota had never fallen behind by that many points so quickly in a game against the Packers.

The Packers had twice before scored touchdowns on their first two drives against the Vikings. Paul Hornung and Ron Kramer did it in a 28-10 win in 1961. Elijah Pitts and Jim Taylor got there in a 28-16 triumph in 1966.

But in those games, at least, Minnesota ran a few plays while not trailing on the scoreboard. Sunday, every time Garrett Bradbury centered the ball (60 offensive snaps), the Vikings were in arrears.

That’s a lot of time spent playing catch-up.

Points! Points! Curly Lambeau always points!
The Vikings found themselves in such a situation five times previously against the Packers. They lost each time.

Four of those contests occurred more than 35 years ago. The fifth was more recent, and it, too, was decided by five points.

On Dec. 17, 2000, Green Bay and Minnesota combined for more than 800 yards. The Packers got out front 10-0, then withstood everything the Vikings threw at them. They escaped with a 33-28 decision.

Minnesota’s moxie was on display again Sunday as well. Dalvin Cook reeled off a 75-yard touchdown run and piled up 154 yards on the ground. Kirk Cousins fired passes of 61 and 45 yards, respectively, to receivers Chad Beebe and Stefon Diggs. The latter resulted in a touchdown that cut Green Bay’s lead to five points in the third quarter.

Defensive end Danielle Hunter and defensive tackle Linval Joseph each sacked Rodgers once in the second half. Rodgers was twice forced to throw the ball away on a three-and-out drive late in the second quarter.

After gaining 176 yards in the opening 16 minutes, Green Bay managed just 159 in the closing 44. Minnesota, which picked up 53 yards in the first 16 minutes, helped itself to 368 down the stretch.

In the end, Cousins could not deliver. He completed four of eight fourth-quarter passes for 35 yards and one first down. His throw from the Packers’ 8-yard line with five minutes, 10 seconds to go was intercepted by cornerback Kevin King in the corner of the end zone.

Cousins’ last offering went to Adam Thielen who lateraled to Diggs. Diggs tried to do the same, but his effort hit the turf and was recovered by Green Bay’s Tramon Williams.

That was the 60th and final play in Minnesota’s futile attempt to catch the front-running Packers.

Behind the Eight Ball

The six regular-season Packers-Vikings games in which Minnesota trailed on the scoreboard every time it ran an offensive play.

  Plays      Yards       Date                      Outcome
    57          177         Sept. 16, 1962       GB 34, Vikings 7
    51          306         Oct. 14, 1962        GB 48, Vikings 21
    57          338         Oct. 13, 1963        GB 37, Vikings 28
    68          347         Nov. 11, 1979       GB 19, Vikings 7
    56          400        Dec. 17, 2000        GB 33, Vikings 28
    60          421         Sept. 15, 2019       GB 21, Vikings 16

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