Humbled Vikings have plenty of work to do before playoffs

Dave Campbell Ap Pro Football Writer
Thursday, December 26, 2019
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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a pass in front of Green Bay Packers linebacker Rashan Gary (52) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Their spot in the playoffs conveniently clinched, the Minnesota Vikings were humbled by rival Green Bay in a way that suggested a short postseason stay.

As well as they’ve played in the majority of their games this year, with a cumulative scoring margin of plus-106 that’s the secondbest in the NFC, the Vikings have had plenty of vulnerabilities exposed against the best of the competition.

Their 23-10 loss at home to the Packers on Monday night was the latest example, dropping them to 1-4 against teams currently with a winning record. Last season, they were 1-6 in games against opponents that finished above the even mark.

“Certainly the Packers beat us tonight, and so we’ve got to go back and look at how, why, and certainly the answers to those questions in theory should be of some help going forward, not just if we play them again, but in general,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “So we’ll have to study that, and that would be the silver lining, is just learning from the mistakes so that they get corrected, and that when big games are being played up ahead, they don’t repeat themselves.”

The Vikings (10-5) could play the Packers in the first round of the playoffs, but New Orleans or Seattle are the more likely foes. Regardless if they can make a run or not, they’ll be on the road the whole time.

“Offensively we didn’t play as well as we can play, I’ll say that, and defensively we could have played the run better,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “So there’s a lot of things that we need to clean up.”

The Vikings were humbled while their biggest rival clinched the NFC North on their home turf. Packers linebacker Preston Smith, on his way into the jubilant locker room, mocked the “You like that?” mantra Cousins often shouted with Washington before coming to Minnesota last season. The Green Bay defense also did a group mimic of Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter’s customary karate-kick sack celebration.

The Packers had plenty to be happy about with their pass rush. The Vikings totaled 139 yards and seven first downs, both season lows by far.

Though the defense produced three turnovers in the first half, it slipped after that while letting running back Aaron Jones get loose and quarterback Aaron Rodgers get more comfortable. Of course, the time-of-possession advantage the Packers had (37:32 to 22:28) was a significant factor.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, that’ll wear you out,” Rodgers said.