Vikings vs. Packers: Takeaways from Minnesota's 26-26 Tie with Green Bay
Perhaps this was the best way for the Minnesota Vikings' game against the Green Bay Packers to end. In a game that saw both teams rattle off a string of points, it was clear that neither team played well enough for the win.
Both teams had multiple chances to put this game away. The Vikings scored 23 straight points from the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the fourth quarter. It gave the Vikings a 16-point lead with 14:22 left in the game.
Behind Matt Flynn, who took over in the third quarter for Scott Tolzien, the Packers scored 16 straight-points to tie the game at the end of regulation.
A key play in the game was when the Vikings were able to stop the Packers on a two-point conversion following their first touchdown of the fourth quarter. It made the score 23-13 with 11:42 left in the game. If the Packers kick the PAT, then perhaps this game never goes to overtime, and the Packers find themselves in a three-way tie for the NFC North division.
The Vikings looked like two teams in this game—the one that was able to stop the Packers with Tolzien at quarterback, and the one that almost lost to Flynn.
Even though it wasn't a win, there were some noteworthy performances in the game. Here are my takeaways for the game.
Adrian Peterson Loves to Run Against the Packers
Last season, Adrian Peterson rushed for 508 yards in three games against the Green Bay Packers.
In the Wild Card playoff game, the Packers limited Peterson to only 99 yards.
In a bit of an aberration, the Packers limited Peterson to only 60 yards on 13 carries in Week 8.
Heading into this game, Peterson was listed as questionable due to him nursing a sore groin. That didn't slow him down any, as he finished with 146 yards on 32 carries—both season highs for Peterson.
That gives him 206 yards on 45 combined carries against the Packers. While it's not as good as this 508 yards on 77 carries in three games last season against Green Bay, the Vikings would accept that kind of performance from Peterson, who is challenging for the NFL rushing title.
So Does Toby Gerhart
Toby Gerhart only had eight carries in the game against the Green Bay Packers, but he made the most of them. He finished with 91 yards running in place of Adrian Peterson. He did not have his first carry until there was only 4:21 left in the third quarter.
Over the past two games, Gerhart has 158 yards on 15 carries—that's an incredible 10.5 yards per carry.
Christian Ponder Had His Best Game of the Season, and Still Couldn't Get a Win
Making his eighth start of the season, Christian Ponder bounced back from his three-turnover game against the Seahawks.
It was his best game of the season, as he finished 21-of-30 passing for 233 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, he did not turn over the ball in the game. His passer rating of 103.9 was his second highest of the season. He finished with a 113.1 rating in his win over the Redskins two weeks ago.
There were still a few passes that sailed over the head of some wide open receivers, and his pocket presence was off at times, as he was sacked six times in the game.
In overtime, he had a pass right in the arms of Cordarrelle Patterson that Patterson dropped in the back of the end zone. If that catch is made, the Vikings win the game.
The Vikings Defense Was Good Enough Against the 3rd-String Quarterback
The Minnesota Vikings were beaten once this season by a third-string quarterback—they were not going to let it happen again.
On the Packers' second drive of the game, Tolzien led the offense on an 11-play touchdown drive that covered 87 yards. He made a nifty six-yard run to score the first touchdown of the game.
Rolling to his right, he pump faked a defender in the air at the 10-yard line and scrambled to his left. He made Letroy Guion look silly by spinning past him at the 5-yard line and then dove into the end zone to avoid Chad Greenway.
It gave the Packers an early 7-0 lead.
His next five drives would result in four punts and the end of the first half. He finished 7-of-17 for 98 yards.
It's a Good Thing the Packers Didn't Start Matt Flynn
After signing to play for the Green Bay Packers a mere 12 days ago, Matt Flynn's career kind of came full circle when he stepped in for Scott Tolzien in the third quarter and almost pulled off a huge comeback win for the Packers.
Down 20-7 in the third quarter, Flynn took over for Tolzien after Tolzien opened the second half with a three-and-out.
Flynn's first drive ended in a punt, but after that, he was very good. He led the Packers on scoring drives in four of their next treks down the field. The only drive that didn't result in a score came at the end of regulation.
Packers fans can only wonder what would have happened if Flynn would have opened the game as the starter. He finished 21-of-36 for 218 yards and a touchdown in a little more than two-and-a-half quarters.
Flynn was able to take advantage of the Vikings' defensive secondary, unlike Tolzien.
Xavier Rhodes Showed What the Future Has in Store
Making only his fourth start of the season in place of Josh Robinson, Xavier Rhodes made a strong bid to remain in the starting lineup for a long time to come.
Unfortunately for Rhodes, he suffered concussion symptoms late in the game, according to a tweet from Ben Goessling from 1500ESPN.
Rhodes had one of the most memorable games by a cornerback without making an interception. He had a team-high four passes defensed—one of them was on a pass for James Jones in the end zone.
No doubt, this is the kind of performance the Vikings have been waiting for from their first-round draft pick.
Once Josh Robinson Comes Back, Chris Cook Should Be Moved to the Bench
According to a story by Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN at the beginning of the season, Chris Cook asked to cover the opposition's best receiver.
After the type of season he has had, he might be lucky to get to cover the third-best receiver for the other team.
On the Packers' opening drive of overtime, Cook allowed a 34-yard reception to Jarrett Boykin that put the ball on the 7-yard line. Fortunately for Cook, the defense was able to hold the Packers to a field goal.
According to ESPN, Cook has only defended two passes all season in eight games. In 29 games, over parts of four seasons, Cook has not had an interception.
Audie Cole Makes the Most of His Start
Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune reported Friday that Erin Henderson would miss the Packers' game due to personal reasons.
Henderson's first missed game of the season allowed Audie Cole to make his first NFL start. A seventh-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2012, Cole was released November 7 when they needed to make room for an extra offensive lineman in a game against the Redskins. The Vikings re-signed him two days later.
Fortunately for the Vikings, no one else signed him in those two days.
Against the Packers, Cole was very productive. He led the Vikings with 13 tackles, two of them for a loss. He also had a sack and three quarterback hits.
It will be interesting if the Vikings consider giving Cole another shot to start. They could move Henderson back to the position he played last year and shift Marvin Mitchell back to special teams.
Greg Jennings Did Not Make a Big Splash in His Lambeau Debut as a Viking
When the Vikings signed Greg Jennings to five-year, $45 million contract, they were expecting big things. A return to the field he called home for seven seasons should have given him extra motivation to play well.
He finished with only two catches for 29 yards.
In overtime, he dropped a pass on a 3rd-and-5 with with 2:11 left in the game with Vikings on the their 44-yard line and the game tied at 26.
He might not have been as effective as he would have liked, coming off an injury to his Achilles that caused him to miss the Seattle game last week.
Cordarrelle Patterson Leads the Vikings, Sort of
Cordarrelle Patterson led the Vikings with eight receptions against the Packers. The problem is, he only gained 54 yards on those catches for a 6.8-yard average.
Jerome Simpson had as many yards on only two catches.
It's great that the Vikings are finally getting Patterson more involved in the offensive part of the game.
The biggest play he didn't make came with the Vikings facing a 3rd-and-14 from the Packers' 17-yard line in overtime. Christian Ponder made a great throw on a post pattern to Patterson in the back of the end zone. Patterson had the ball slip through his hands as he fell backwards into the goal post.
If he makes that catch, the Vikings win the game. Instead, they settled for a 35-yard field goal that tied the game at 26.