Vikings outlast Rodgers, Packers, win 34-31

Monday, November 22, 2021
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Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph, center, celebrates with teammates after kicking a 29-yard field goal on the final play of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Minneapolis. The Vikings won 34-31. AP PHOTO

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Much to coach Mike Zimmer’s consternation, the Minnesota Vikings have made quite the habit of these white-knuckle, highstress finishes.

All that experience must be paying off. They deftly followed the winning formula for beating Green Bay by making sure Aaron Rodgers was on the sideline at the end and not on the field.

Greg Joseph made a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give the Vikings a 34-31 victory over the Packers in a classic back-and-forth with their division rival and longtime nemesis.

“You know how they say, ‘Sunday is fun day?’ It’s not, at all,” an exhausted Zimmer said after the game was decided on the final snap for a sixth time in 10 games. The Vikings (5-5) have won three and lost three of those.

The only team in the NFL this year to hold a lead of seven or more points in every game, all but one of Minnesota’s games have been decided by one score. Kirk Cousins passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns to help the Vikings stay a step ahead of Rodgers for most of the afternoon.

“Hopefully going forward we can kind of find our way to put the forks in teams, put them away when we have to, but we’re still trying to learn how to do that,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “I think continuing to have these situations will continue to get us better.”

Rodgers threw four touchdown passes, all on Green Bay’s final four full possessions, excluding a kneel-down to end the first half. All of those drives covered 74 yards or more.

Rodgers finished 23 for 33 for a season-high 385 yards for the Packers (8-3). After missing time earlier to COVID-19, Rodgers was unable to practice much this week because of a toe injury.

“It’s very, very painful. I got stepped on in the first half, and that kind of activated all the symptoms that I was having,” Rodgers said. “It’s going to be another painful week next week, and then hopefully I can get healed up during the bye.”

Justin Jefferson had eight receptions for 169 yards and two scores for the Vikings, including a third-down catch against rookie Eric Stokes that Cousins delivered for a 23-yard touchdown while being decked on a blitz by Darnell Savage. Dalvin Cook ran in the 2-point conversion to make up for an earlier missed extra point by Joseph.

On the next play from scrimmage, Rodgers threw a rainbow to Marquez Valdes-Scantling streaking past safety Xavier Woods for a 75-yard score to tie the game just before the two-minute warning.

“Every play with this guy is a fight. You just hope, when they go down and score in one play, that the offense can come back and do what they did,” Zimmer said. “So I was proud of them for that.”

When the Vikings regained the ball, Cousins nearly cost himself the comeback by slightly underthrowing Jefferson, whom Savage darted in front of to intercept the ball. He bobbled it on the way down, though, and a replay review overturned the call.

Cousins then went 3 for 3 for 51 yards on the next three snaps, and Cook — who rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown — ran for one more first down. Then the Vikings kneeled down twice to set up the final kick by Joseph.

“It’s just life in the NFL. It’s exciting. I certainly understand why people want to follow and watch it,” Cousins said.

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