The Green Bay Packers kept their playoff hopes alive with a convincing 33-10 win over their NFC North division rivals, the Minnesota Vikings, on New Year’s Eve. Quarterback Jordan Love, starting in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers, turned in an impressive performance to lead the Packers to victory.
Love Throws 3 TDs As Packers Control Game From The Start
In just his third career start, Jordan Love completed 15 of 23 passes for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns, finishing with a stellar 123.5 passer rating. The 2020 first round pick showed poise in the pocket and made big throws when it mattered. Love’s performance belied his inexperience and inconsistency in previous outings this season.
Love’s first touchdown pass came late in the first quarter on a frozen Lambeau Field, finding rookie wide receiver Christian Watson on a 9-yard pass to give Green Bay an early 10-0 lead. He later connected with Watson again in the third quarter on a 14-yard strike. Love’s third touchdown was a 3-yard pass caught by tight end Robert Tonyan to put the Packers up 30-3 at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Packers set the tone from the outset, marching 75 yards on 11 plays on the opening drive of the game, capped off by AJ Dillon’s 1-yard touchdown run. Green Bay’s offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage against a Vikings defense missing several starters, allowing Love the time to operate smoothly. The Packers outgained the Vikings 383 to 139 total yards.
Vikings Offense Sputters As Cousins Struggles
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins had a night to forget, completing just 18 of 31 passes for 205 yards for a 69.7 passer rating. Outside of a 56-yard completion to receiver K.J. Osborn, Cousins struggled to sustain drives against a Packers defense that brought consistent pressure.
Star wideout Justin Jefferson was held to just one catch for 15 yards, routinely facing double teams. Jefferson’s frustration boiled over when he slammed his helmet down on the bench after a failed third down conversion attempt in the third quarter. The Vikings offense never recovered after falling behind early, punting on six of their first seven possessions.
The Vikings benched backup quarterback Jared Hall, who started one game earlier this season, in favor of veteran Brett Hundley. Head coach Kevin O’Connell received criticism for not giving Hall some playing time to continue his development.
Turning Point: Douglas’ Pick Six Crushes Vikings’ Hope
Clinging to a 13-3 lead late in the second quarter, Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas intercepted a tipped Cousins pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown. The pick six put Green Bay firmly in control at 20-3 going into halftime and crushed any momentum Minnesota had. It capped a nightmarish first half for Cousins that saw him sacked three times and limited to just 47 passing yards.
Douglas read Cousins’ eyes perfectly and was in perfect position to snag the ball off Vikings receiver Adam Thielen’s hands. It marked Douglas’ third defensive touchdown since joining the Packers midway through last season.
What This Means For Packers’ Playoff Chances
|AFC Playoff Standings
At 8-8, the Packers still have a chance to clinch the 7th and final NFC playoff spot heading into the last week of the regular season. Green Bay needs to win next week against the Detroit Lions and needs the Seattle Seahawks (8-8) to lose against the Los Angeles Rams.
The red hot Packers have now won four straight games and are riding a wave of momentum fueled by improved offensive line play and a defense that has forced 12 turnovers during the win streak.
First year head coach Matt LaFleur deserves credit for keeping the team focused and not allowing the early season turmoil surrounding quarterback Aaron Rodgers to derail their season. LaFleur has the Packers playing their best football with the stakes at their highest.
What’s Next For The Vikings
Despite entering week 17 controlling their own destiny, the 12-4 Vikings are now likely locked into the #3 seed in the NFC. They close out the regular season at the Chicago Bears before gearing up to host a playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
O’Connell will have to quickly shake off this loss and ensure his team puts this poor performance behind them. He’ll need to determine if benching Hall was the right move and make an informed decision about his backup quarterback role headed into the postseason. Jefferson, Osborn and Thielen must also refocus, as the offense won’t survive in January without them operating at full capacity.
With a first-round bye now almost certainly out of the question, the Vikings will need to fix their recent issues quickly. Their Super Bowl dreams depend on it.
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