GREEN BAY, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – In the season-opener at quiet U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings had no answer for the Davante Adams and the Packers passing attack.
On Sunday afternoon at wind-blown Lambeau Field, Green Bay had no answer for running back Dalvin Cook and the Vikings rushing attack.
Coming off a bye week, head coach Mike Zimmer wisely took the ball out of error-prone quarterback Kirk Cousins’ hands and into Cook’s. Talk about carrying a team on your back.
With the 1-5 Vikings season on the line, their biggest star delivered in spectacular fashion on the road. The fifth-year back from Florida State ran through, around, and over the Packers defense for 163 yards in an astounding 30 carries and three touchdowns. Cook averaged 5.4 yards per carry and also had two receptions for another 63 yards, including a magnificent 50-yard touchdown jaunt on a perfectly executed screen pass.
To recap: in the first quarter, he ran 21 yards off right tackle untouched to tie the game at 7. In the second stanza, Cook scored from a yard out to knot the contest at 14 just before halftime. In the decisive third quarter, he again scored from a yard out to give Minnesota a 21-14 lead. And with 5:52 left in the stanza, Cook made it 28-14 on the screen pass by patiently following his blockers, then cutting inside and simply outrunning the Packers secondary for the game-winning score.
Cook is the first player in Lambeau Field history to score four touchdowns and total more than 200 yards from scrimmage. He is just the fifth player to score four touchdowns in the historic stadium.
“I thought this was a really good team win,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “We fought like crazy today. . . defensively, we played the run a lot better in the second half which was a big key to it. And then, you know, we kind of ran out of DBs there in the third and fourth quarter. We were just trying to manufacture some ways to get these guys covered.”
The Vikings defense proved resilient in the blustery conditions that quarterback Aaron Rodgers said his team “didn’t handle well,” making it an extremely difficult environment to throw the football.
The relief was evident as the final gun sounded and Vikings defenders celebrated as they walked off the field to the visitors tunnel in the south end zone.
Despite being down several starting cornerbacks and working through several in-game injuries, the Minnesota defense rose up in the second half to shut out Rodgers and the potent Green Bay offense in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Vikings offense and Cook took command of the game with two touchdowns for a 28-14 lead. Minnesota twice stopped the Packers on fourth down, once in the third quarter and once in the fourth, and created a turnover to dash any hopes of a last-minute comeback.
On Green Bay’s final drive, defensive end D.J. Wonnum sacked Rodgers as he attempted to launch a Hail Mary from 45 yards with 12 seconds left. The fumble was recovered by linebacker Eric Wilson at the Vikings 24-yard line and returned four yards as time expired.
Head coach Matt LaFleur pointed to a failure to stop the run and penalties (9 for 85 yards) as major reasons for the Packers’ second loss—the first in his tenure to an NFC North Division opponent.
“You’ve got to give Minnesota a lot of credit,” LaFleur said. “We knew that in order to win this football game a couple things had to happen. We knew we had to stop the run. That didn’t happen. We knew we had to play penalty-free. That didn’t happen. Penalties were a big part of it. And when you do that, you’re going to get beat and that’s exactly what happened today.”
Green Bay started fast, taking the opening kickoff and driving 72 yards in 15 plays, culminating in Rodgers’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Adams, who easily beat cornerback Jeff Gladney on a quick out route. Adams had 7 receptions for just 53 yards on the day, but three went for touchdowns.
Minnesota answered with a 73-yard, 10-play drive, tying the game on Cook’s 21-yard burst untouched off right guard.
Mixing the pass and the run, Rodgers engineered a 15-play, 72-yard march to take a 14-7 lead with 6:53 left in the second quarter.
The Vikings double-dipped on the Packers, scoring right before the half to tie the game 14-14 at intermission and then scoring on the first possession of the second half.
Cook made a statement on the opening play of the second half, racing 37 yards through a gaping hole on the right side and finally being run out of punts by safety Adrian Amos.
Nine plays later, Cook scored his third touchdown of the game on a 1-yard plunge and Minnesota took the lead for the first time, 21-14.
The Vikings defense then made the stop of the game. After Rodgers hit a wide-open Robert Tonyan for a 45-yard gain to the Minnesota 37-yard line, the maligned secondary forced four straight incompletions. Equanimeous St. Brown dropped a pass on third down and then Rodgers threw a deep 50/50 ball in the end zone that Brown couldn’t come down with over safety Harrison Smith.
The dagger was delivered on the ensuing series by Cook, this time through the air. On 3rd-and-9 from midfield, Cook took a screen pass in the left flat from Cousins and raced 50 yards behind stellar blocking by Minnesota’s offensive line.
Green Bay had a promising next drive derailed by two straight holding penalties by guard Elgton Jenkins and tight end Marcedes Lewis.
On the first punt of the game, JK Scott’s 38-yard Aussie kick rolled out of bounds and pinned the Vikings at their 6-yard line.
The Green Bay defense forced Minnesota to punt after seven plays, and Rodgers and the Packers offense took over at their own 36-yard line after a 35-yard punt into the wind.
After driving to the Vikings 32-yard line, the Minnesota defense again rose up, forcing three straight incompletions. On 4th-down-and-9, Rodgers pass intended for Tonyan was broken up by free safety Anthony Harris. Initially, Harris was flagged for pass interference, but after discussion, the officials ruled there was no infraction on the play.
Green Bay, without rookie running back A.J. Dillion due to a positive COVID-19 after the Vikings game, takes on the 49ers in California on Thursday Night Football. The game and FOX NFL pregame show will be televised exclusively in Western Wisconsin on FOX 25/48.