It was a tale of two halves in Minneapolis as the Green Bay Packers turned the ball over three times in the first half, but rallied to defeat the Minnesota Vikings 23-10 in front of a record crown at U.S. Bank Stadium. The game turned on a Kevin King interception and 39 yard return in the third quarter. The win for the Packers locks up the NFC North division title and assures that they will play a home playoff game. With a win next week against the Lions they will earn a first round bye.
The Packers opened the game with the ball, but on third down Aaron Jones fumbled and it was recovered by Eric Kendricks, who returned it to the Green Bay. The Vikings could only muster a field goal off of the great field position. Green Bay turned the ball over again when Aaron Rodgers threw just his third interception of the season to Anthony Harris. The Vikings found pay dirt three plays later when Kirk Cousins found Stefan Diggs for a 21 yard touchdown pass. Diggs beat Packer cornerback Jaire Alexander at the line of scrimmage and made the catch with a hand in his face to make the score 10-3. Green Bay was able to get field goals from kicker Mason Crosby of 42, 33, and 19 yards to make the halftime score 10-9.
The Vikings opened the second half with the ball but went three and out. The Packers started their first drive of the second half from inside their own 20 yard line. After a first down on a slant to Iowa St. alum Allen Lazard, the Packers started to get their running game going, but a sacked forced them to a third down and 18. After being unable to convert the Packers punted away their opening second half possession. The Vikings converted a third and long to Stefan Diggs on their next possession, but on the very next play Kirk Cousins was picked off by Kevin King, who returned it 39 yards to the Green Bay 47. The Packers turned that into their first touchdown of the game when Aaron Jones ran it in from 12 yards out. The Packers capped it with a two point conversion to Geronimo Allison to make the score 17-10 at the 2:13 mark of the third quarter. As the fourth quarter started the momentum had seemed to shift in favor of Green Bay. However, the Vikings were able to stop the Packers and force a punt at the 9:37 mark. The Vikings went three and out on the ensuing possession. Britton Colquitt boomed a 56 yard punt back to the Packers, where they took over on their own 25 yard line with 7:40 to go in the fourth quarter. That’s when Aaron Jones broke open for a 54 yard touchdown run around the left end. The point after by Mason Crosby missed, wide right. The Vikings got the ball back and started to make a drive before having it derailed by an ill-timed penalty. Kirk Cousins hit a long touchdown pass to Bisi Johnson that would have cut the lead to 23-17, only to have it called back for holding. After three incomplete passes the Vikings elected to punt to gain field position. The Viking defense held the Packers to a three and out to give Minnesota a chance with 2:31 to play, trailing by 13 points. The Vikings offense sputtered and the ball went back to Green Bay with 1:50, needing only 3 kneel downs to run the clock out. The Packers win for the first time in U.S. Bank Stadium (opened in 2017)and move to 12-3. With a win in week 17 Green Bay can finish no worse than a two seed heading into the playoffs, and could secure a number one seed with a San Francisco loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings are still in the playoffs, having locked up a spot when the L.A. Rams lost to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. They move to 10-5 and will play the Bear to close out the regular season. With the NFC race as tight as it is it is too early to predict who they might play in the opening round.