Head coach Mike Zimmer wanted the Minnesota Vikings offense to be more aggressive, specifically quarterback Kirk Cousins in the vertical passing game.
In a thrilling finish broadcast on FOX 25/48 that will go down as one of the best in the storied rivalry of the Packers-Vikings, kicker Greg Joseph booted a 29-yard walk-off field goal to give Minnesota a come-from-behind 34-31 victory and tighten the NFC North Division race.
It was a game Minnesota had to win to keep its postseason hopes alive and evened the Vikings record at 5-5. Green Bay, now 8-3, fell out of the No. 1 seed as the Arizona Cardinals won Sunday to improve to 9-2.
“It’s an emotional roller-coaster the entire game,” head coach Matt LaFleur said in his postgame press conference.
“Obviously disappointed. I thought our guys played hard. . . We knew it was going to be a tough game, a four-quarter battle. And you have to give the Vikings a lot of credit. They made more plays today than we did.”
For the Packers defense, this was a game of missed opportunities, as several chances to pick off quarterback Cousins resulted in dropped balls, along with one interception negated by a roughing the passer penalty.
No drop was bigger than the first play of Minnesota’s final drive, when Cousins errant pass intended for Justin Jefferson appeared to be intercepted by safety Darnell Savage. Video review determined that Savage did not make the catch, though in his press conference LaFleur Monday afternoon was still looking for clarification from the league office on the play.
Jefferson is a special talent, a player that head coach Mike Zimmer said lives for big games. And Jefferson’s biggest contribution Sunday may have been a ball he didn’t catch, but he helped prevent Savage from making the play by battling for the ball while basically becoming a defender on the play.
Jefferson torched the Green Bay secondary throughout the game with eight receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 21.1 yards per catch and snared a 9-yard touchdown pass from Cousins midway through the third quarter and a 23-yarder on third down against Erick Stokes with 2:17 left in the game.
“I love this rivalry,” Jefferson said. “I live for big games like this.”
The Packers’ defense had their hands full with an explosive Vikings offense featuring the duo of Jefferson and Alan Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook, who rushed 22 times for 86 yards and caught three passes for another 29 yards.
Cousins and Aaron Rodgers dueled in an aerial battle, with Rodgers throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns and Cousins amassing 341 yards and three touchdowns.
Davante Adams caught seven passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns and Marquez Valdes-Scantling grabbed four for 123 yards and a touchdown, including a magnificent 75-yarder with 2:08 left in the game to tie the score at 31. Cousin then led the game-winning drive and Joseph kicked the game-winner as the Vikings ran out the clock.