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Vikings Outlast Packers, Claim NFC North Division Title

The last time the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings met, it was a dominant day on both sides of the ball for the Packers up in U.S. Bank Stadium. Adrian Peterson was shut down and the Vikings couldn’t get anything going on the offensive side of the ball. Minnesota also struggled to stop a Green Bay team that had been struggling mightily heading into that game. The Packers came away victorious giving them sole possession of first place in the North that would last all the way into the final week of play.

Tonight, in the season finale, the Packers and Vikings engaged in a competitive battle to determine the NFC North champion. Green Bay had four straight division titles on the line, and Minnesota was determined to dethrone the Packers as the superior team in the North. There were also playoff implications with this game, as the two NFC wild-card matchups to be played next week still needed to be set.

The Seattle Seahawks won earlier today, routing the Arizona Cardinals 36-6 in Arizona. With that result finalized prior to kickoff in Lambeau, the scenarios were simple. A Green Bay loss would have them en route to Washington as a wild card team to face the Redskins. If the Packers beat the Vikings, they would have a rematch with Minnesota in the Wild Card round next week right back in Lambeau field.

The first half of this game was a defensive battle. A total of nine points were put up on the board in the first half with the Vikings taking a 6-3 lead into the locker room. The first drive for Green Bay was the most successful one of the entire first half, as they drove down and were able to come away with a Mason Crosby field goal to even the score at 3-3.

The Packers would not come even remotely close to scoring again, punting the ball away three times and turning it over on downs once.

The second half was not any better initially as the Packers first drive after receiving the second half kickoff resulted in a punt and the ensuing Vikings drive would watch them march down the field and conclude with an Adrian Peterson touchdown to put Minnesota up 13-3. The downtrend would continue for Green Bay as the offensive struggles wore on. On a third down and twelve in Vikings territory, Aaron Rodgers was a hit from behind causing a fumble and would be returned for a score by Captain Munnerlyn that put the Vikings up 20-3.

With The Packers looking as close to dead as possible, they began to show signs of life. With about 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Rodgers found tight end Richard Rodgers on a crossing route for a score that would cut the Minnesota lead to 20-10. Not only did this reduce the lead, but it also got the Lambeau Field crowd into the game for the first time all night.

The Packers would ride this wave of momentum for most of the fourth quarter, a wave of momentum in which the defense seemed to have all night. The Packers defense had kept them in many a game this season, and tonight was another example of that. The defense would force a punt on the ensuing Vikings possession and this would lead to another successful offensive drive resulting in a Crosby field goal to make the score 20-13 in favor of Minnesota.

Things would get interesting on the following Green Bay kickoff as Vikings return man Cordarrelle Patterson would break free for a huge return deep into Packers territory only to fumble the ball after be tackled by Mason Crosby, a fumble recovered by Micah Hyde with about five minutes left. Hyde also had an interception on the night.

Once again Green Bay would drive down the field but this time were unable to come away with any points. In four down territory, on fourth and 13 from the 13 yard line, Rodgers would have his pass intercepted by Xavier Rhodes in the end zone with a little over 2 minutes remaining. The Packers were down to only one timeout due to poor clock management throughout the second half but caught a break when Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater fumbled the snap on a hand off to Adrian Peterson who had just re-entered the game after being banged up a bit. Peterson would recover the fumble.

The Packers defense was able to force a punt and would get Rodgers and company the ball back with a little under a minute with no timeouts. After being able to pick up one forth down, the hope for another miracle comeback would end as with less than a second left on fourth down and two from the Minnesota 38 yard line, Rodgers’ hail mary attempt into the end zone would be broken up sealing the win and the division for the Vikings.
Final Score Vikings 20 Packers 13

The Vikings come into Lambeau and end the Packers streak of 4 straight division titles, and claim their first division crown since 2009. As for the playoffs, the Vikings head home and will host a home playoff game and welcome in Seattle. As for the Packers, they now travel as a wild card team to Washington to face off against the NFC East champion Redskins. Green Bay/Washington is set for 4:40 ET on Sunday, January 10th.



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James Alexander
RSEN Packers and Heat beat writer

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