Green Bay, Wis. (WLAX/WEAU) – There were two subdued locker rooms at Lambeau Field Sunday afternoon after the Minnesota Vikings decisive 24-10 victory over the reeling Packers.
The Vikings’ celebration was low-key due to the loss of their leader and quarterback Kirk Cousins, who fashioned a magnificent performance with 274 yards and two touchdowns (122.2 QBR). The 12-year veteran was carted from the Vikings bench area in the fourth quarter after tearing his right Achilles without contact on a pass play, and then hopping on one leg to the sideline.
The Vikings issued a statement late Monday afternoon and confirmed Cousins is out for the season with a torn Achilles.
In his postgame press conference, head coach Kevin O’Connell was proud of the team’s impressive performance on the road and that the 4-4 Vikings had reset their season. But his thoughts and heart were with his quarterback.
“Very excited about team’s performance,” O’Connell said. “We made it a point at the start of this month knowing that we could have five opportunities in the month of October to reset our season. We have done that. We are 2-0 in the NFC North.
“There is a lot of good football out in front of this team, but I do want to first start out and say thinking about quarterback. . . every single player in our locker room is thinking about our leader, our guy right now. I’m so proud of him. Proud of the way he has played all season long. . . and ultimately what he has meant to me and our organization. . . it is not an easy place to come get a road victory in the NFC North at Lambeau Field.”
It was a painful defeat for the Packers as they fell to 2-5 on the season, and players searched for answers on how to stop the slow starts, penalties, and inconsistent play that has plagued them on their four-game losing streak.
The frustration was apparent in the Packers locker room.
“When your back’s against the wall, got nothing to lose, who’s gonna come out fighting, and who’s gonna tuck their tails?” asked Aaron Jones, who had seven rushes for 29 yards and caught four passes for 33 more. “You find out a lot about people and their character.”
Christian Watson, when asked about the receiver’s corps drops in the contest, focused on his own play. “Have to fight harder on the contested balls and make plays. . .,” he said.
Rasual Douglas said he was focused on finding new ways to be a leader and addressing issues —now a moot point after the team traded him to Buffalo on Tuesday.
“That’s the only way you can fix it, first you have to admit there is a problem,” Douglas said. “Say how you feel, how they feel and then you patch it up. Well, there’s a lot of problems and until we say the real problem and not the sugar-coated problem, it’s never gonna get fixed.”
Green Bay fell behind 10-0 and didn’t muster a first down until its final drive of the first half when Anders Carlson’s 30-yard field goal closed the gap to 10-3 as time expired. Minnesota took control of the game in the third quarter, marching 75 yards in 13 plays and widening the margin to 17-3 on Cousins’ 2-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Hockenson.
On the ensuing possession, Josh Metellus outfought Jaylen Reed for a deep ball and returned it 43 yards to the Packers 20. On the next play, the lead was 24-3 after Cousins’s perfect strike to Jordan Addison, who combined with K.J. Osborn to burn the Green Bay secondary for 15 receptions for 181 yards.
The Packers finally put together a drive, going 81 yards in 14 plays to close within 24-10 with 2:39 left in the third quarter on Love’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Romeo Doubs on fourth down. Green Bay then blew two opportunities in the final stanza to make it a one-score game.
On back-to-back drives—one after a blocked field goal by Karl Brooks, the next after a strip-sack by Preston Smith—the offense came away with no points and turned the ball over on downs. Two potential touchdown passes were dropped by Watson in the end zone and Dontayvion Wicks inside the 5-yard line.
Head coach Matt LaFleur was honest in his assessment of his team, which for a fifth straight game did not score a touchdown in the first half.
“Well, that was obviously tough to watch,” La Fleur said. “Way too many mistakes. Penalties. Drops. Not being able to convert on third down, conversely, not getting off the grass on third down. Struggles in the redzone. Starting the game out with, I want to say, four three-and-outs, it’s hard to get into a rhythm offensively.
“And then when we get a stop or whatever, we weren’t able to do that. Although I do think that our defense and special teams did provide some opportunities for us when it was 24-10 to have an opportunity to come back in that game, which, you have to capitalize then on those opportunities, and we have not been able to do that. So, extremely disappointed and we’ll find out what everybody in that locker room, what we’re all made of.”
Returning to Lambeau Field against the Vikings was supposed to be an opportunity for the Packers to step up against a division rival in the first of a three-out-of-four-game stretch at home.
Instead, the same scenario unfolded for a fourth straight time: slow start, fall behind by two scores, abandon game plan, scrambled back in second half to within one score, lose game in fourth quarter when failing to take advantage of opportunities to make big plays.
La Fleur was direct and honest in his assessment of his team, which was penalized a season-high 11 times for a season-high 99 yards.
On what he sees in his team at this time: “I see a lot of mistakes, quite frankly. We’ve killed ourselves with penalties, drops, we have opportunities to make plays on the defensive side, and some we make and some we don’t. Certainly, third down was a problem today. I do see a group of men that continues to fight, so if there’s anything to hang your hat on, we have to continue to fight and scratch and claw and try to find ways to improve. I know everybody’s frustrated. I’m frustrated. It’s certainly not for a lack of effort, but ultimately in this game, that only gets you so far. You have to go out there and execute and give yourself an opportunity to win games. It’s disappointing, especially being back in Lambeau, to not be able to find a way to win.”
Green Bay hasn’t experienced the thrill of victory since the comeback win over New Orleans in Week 3. September 24th to be exact.
On if inexperience leads to the miscues: “We’re not even talking that game with young guys. We’re focused on whoever is out there, the expectation is the same. We’ve played seven games now; I’m not interested in that. I think that’s an excuse. We’ll never do that. We’re just going to continue to find ways to try to keep improving, and it starts in practice. Get a good week of practice, then you go out and play well. I do think that the practices have been competitive and such like that, but we’re obviously not getting results that anybody wants.”
On how you address all the issues: “Certainly the lack of discipline play, that’s paramount because it doesn’t matter what you’re doing if we’re getting called for things. We have to clean it up. We have holding penalties or whatever it is, false start penalties, it backs us up. We already know the ‘get back on track’ situations have been very tough for us. Defensively, there were a couple penalties. I know one was on a critical third down where we got called for roughing the passer. It’s never one person, it’s never one guy, it’s just collectively as a whole. We’ve got to look each other in the eye, and we’ve got to demand better, and we need to get better.”
On struggles in the red zone: “I know that we had a critical drop going in with an opportunity to cut it to a one-possession game. If we get down there to the one-yard line, we try to run it in and that wasn’t working. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board, and I’ve got to take a look at the tape and try to find out some better answers for our guys because whatever we’re doing is not working.”
On Love’s performance: “There’s going to be a couple plays that you want back, but also we’ve got to make some plays for him, too. I think we had like six dropped balls. That’s going to be tough to overcome. We’ve got to throw it better, we have to catch it better, we have to block better and we have to stop having penalties that knock us back and put us in these obvious pass situations. We have to find a way to convert a third down early in the game so you can run your offense. We’re running two-minute offense for half the game, so you don’t even get into what you work on all week and what you plan for. You can’t even get into your normal rhythm because you’re not moving the chains. That’s what’s disappointing. You put all this time and effort into something and come up with a plan and you don’t even give yourself a chance to go execute it. We were playing two-minute ball the whole second half.”
On his message to the team: “Keep working.”
Green Bay has a week of practice to work on its issues before the Packers host the Los Angeles Rams at 12 noon on Sunday.