Minnesota returned to U.S. Bank Stadium looking to shock the world against the 8-2 Green Bay Packers. A strong start for the Purple was eventually wiped away and a late game shootout ensued. The Vikings and Packers went touchdown for touchdown leading into the game’s final drive.
For what seems like the hundredth time this season, Kirk Cousins took his team down the field with very little time on the clock and set things up for his kicker, Greg Joseph, to atone for a missed extra point by drilling a game-winning 29-yard kick.
Here are five numbers that tell the story of the Vikings’ win over the Green Bay Packers.
Justin Jefferson was the best wide receiver on either team on Sunday, finishing with 169 yards. Fans were frustrated earlier in the season because the play calling was not being geared towards Jefferson. Now, it looks like rookie offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak is starting to get the second-year wideout more involved.
Jefferson put together one of the most complete performances from a wideout we have seen in some time, as he was able to win on short, intermediate, and deep routes through the entire game. One of the plays that stands out is the touchdown that put the Vikings up by seven. Kirk Cousins was drilled by an incoming Packers defender as he lofted the ball up to Jefferson, who was able to adjust his body to make the catch. Cousins was rewarded for putting his faith in Jefferson in crucial situations.
With the Vikings looking to climb back into the Wild Card race, the offense will have to perform like they did today, and Jefferson will be an integral part of the game plan from now on.
Dalvin Cook had to make the most of his minimal blocking and recorded 66 of his 86 rushing yards after contact. While Cook’s average of 3.0 yards per carry might look unimpressive, the threat he posed out of the backfield kept the Packers honest and didn’t allow them to drop more players into coverage.
The run blocking got off to a poor start on the Vikings’ first play on offense. Kenny Clark pushed Vikings center Mason Cole into the backfield and dropped Cook a yard behind the line of scrimmage. Despite the poor run blocking, the commitment that the Vikings had to the run game paid off. Cook was able to wear the Green Bay’s front seven down and became an integral part of the final drive that ended the game.
After the Vikings’ defense held Rodgers to a subpar first half, the reigning MVP was able to dissect Minnesota’s secondary to the tune of 10 of 11 completions for 197 yards and 2 scores.
You really can’t shut down players of Rodgers’ caliber. Instead, you have to hope to contain them. The Vikings were successful in doing that in the first half. They manufactured pressures and rushed Rodgers into passes with their double-A gap looks and Harrison Smith threatening to blitz. The second half was a different story. Rodgers was able to connect with Davante Adams and carve up the Vikings’ secondary.
While the Vikings defensive backfield got a significant boost with the return of Patrick Peterson and Smith, they still need to do a better job at adjusting to teams after halftime.
After giving up 118 penalty yards in Los Angeles, the Vikings could minimize their mistakes and only rack up three flags for 25 yards. Minnesota has shot itself in the foot multiple times when it comes to flags this year. But on Sunday, their ability to make few mistakes against a great Packers team kept them from being on the other side of this result.
Not only were the Vikings able to avoid making mistakes, but they were able to capitalize on the mistakes that the Packers made. A roughing the passer call early in the game negated a Savage interception in the red zone and allowed the Vikings to put points on the board that they wouldn’t have had.
If the Vikings can continue to play clean football like they did Sunday, they can put themselves in these favorable situations more often.
The Vikings are 5-0 in games where Jefferson has seven-plus. This stat might feel a bit cherry-picked because the Vikings could have beaten the Cardinals if Joseph didn’t miss the game-winning kick, and Jefferson only had six catches in that game. But it is interesting to see that when Jefferson is involved in the game plan, the Vikings put themselves in the best position to win.
When Jefferson is more involved, we see Adam Thielen also put up better numbers and take advantage of opposing defenses in-game adjustments to put more attention Jefferson’s way. With Jefferson finding his groove as he sees more targets, we can also expect more production from Thielen as a complementary weapon.