The Packers were favorites in their Week 17 divisional showdown against the Vikings. That game was much less critical to the Vikings, who only played for playoff seeding after clinching the NFC North a few weeks ago in the comeback win against the Colts.
However, they still would’ve liked to win the game, as it will be tough to beat both Philadelphia and San Franciso in the postseason. San Francisco has surpassed the Vikings in the standings and is the number two seed for now. The game was a playoff game for Green Bay because it had to win to keep the postseason hopes alive, and they did just that with a dominant 41-17 outcome.
A lot went wrong for the Vikings right after the kickoff. The Vikings started the border battle with a three-and-out and had to punt the ball away. After the defense stopped the Packers offense just as fast, Josh Metellus blocked the subsequent punt, and the Vikings’ offense started the drive at the one-yard line.
From then on, everything went wrong. The final play of a drive should not be a field goal when the drive starts just one yard away from a touchdown.
It still felt like the Vikings gained some momentum, but that quickly changed after Keisean Nixon returned a kick return for 105 yards and put the Packers on the scoreboard with a 7-3 lead. That score was followed by the second Vikings three-and-out of the day. Minnesota continued the dreadful day with penalties, turnovers on offense, and overall bad defensive play.
Justin Jefferson went into the game with a possibility to break the all-time single-season record for receiving yards. He needed 209 yards, a high-but-also-possible number for the superstar wideout. Jaire Alexander articulated some trash talk in Jefferson’s direction, but he followed it up with tremendous play.
He started the game in press coverage against the Vikings on most plays and regularly jammed him at the line of scrimmage. That legal push, combined with a slippery field, was a nightmare for Jefferson, who recorded only 15 yards. He couldn’t get any separation, and Alexander dominated the matchup, with occasional safety help over the top. Taking Justin Jefferson away is the best way to beat the Vikings, as the Eagles did the same thing with Darius Slay and a safety. The Cowboys contained Jefferson by getting to Cousins with their elite pass rush.
Burn the Tape
Another huge problem was the offensive line. Backup center Austin Schlottmann (who played because Garrett Bradbury is dealing with a back injury) fractured his fibula early in the game, and the Vikings had to insert Chris Reed. The 2022 free agent signing is a veteran guard who struggled badly at center. Reed had problems, especially with the snap counts, and was responsible for various penalties.
In addition to Schlottmann’s injury, the Vikings lost their 2021 Pro Bowl right tackle Brian O’Neill. He is one of the league’s top offensive tackles, and his backup, Oli Udoh, couldn’t replace him seamlessly. The offensive line was a problem in the passing and running game. Cousins was the leading runner after scrambling a few times until Mattison recorded one more yard late in the game in garbage time. That’s not a winning formula.
Cousins was under heavy pressure in the passing game but missed some reads. T.J. Hockenson had some crucial drops early on the day. Overall, neither the line nor the receivers helped Cousins to lead a productive offense.
The defense didn’t look much better than the offense. Like almost every week, the Vikings allow struggling opponents to have monster days. Green Bay had 315 total yards, a totally acceptable number. However, the Vikings couldn’t get off the field on third down, had virtually no pass rush, and couldn’t stop the run.
Days like these can happen, and usually, teams don’t even spend a lot of time re-watching and evaluating the game, as simply every possible thing went wrong. However, the Vikings should remember that it was the second such game in just over a month, as the game against the Cowboys felt awfully similar on November 20, and even the game even reminded some folks of the Colts game.
The Vikings need to stop letting negative plays spiral into more negative play. That is clearly not a recipe for success. The team did not look like the resilient one they have been all season that has dealt with adversity and responded well.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt