Packers Take Control of NFC North

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The Matchup

The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers clashed in Minnesota on Monday night. The top two teams in the NFC North played for the second time this season. Green Bay won the first meeting 21-16, but that came way back in Week Two. Minnesota entered the night one game behind Green Bay in the standings. Though, a Vikings’ victory would give them a realistic shot at the division title. A week after getting Adam Thielen back, Minnesota missed yet another star. Running back Dalvin Cook sat out with a shoulder injury, and backup runner Alexander Mattison sat with an ankle injury. With so much on the line, who would take control on Monday night?

First Half

Aaron Rodger’s offense took the field first, but not for long. On the third play from scrimmage, running back Aaron Jones put the ball on the turf after catching a short pass. Minnesota’s Eric Kendrick’s quickly pounced on the ball, giving the Vikings an early takeaway. Kirk Cousin’s team was set up at the Green Bay 10-yard line, but couldn’t find the end zone. The Vikings had to settle for an early 3-0 lead on a Dan Bailey field goal. Green Bay found some offensive rhythm after a turnover and punt on two early possessions. They had a chance for a touchdown, but an Aaron Jones dropped pass lead to a field goal attempt. Kicker Mason Crosby nailed a 42-yarder to knot the score at 3-3.

The Packers got the football back early in the second quarter. What came next was something very rare. On a throw intended for Davante Adams, Aaron Rodgers was intercepted by Vikings’ safety Anthony Harris. This was just Rodgers’ third interception of the season and his first since Week 6 versus Detroit. Minnesota wouldn’t have to settle for a field goal a second time. Kirk Cousins hit Stefon Diggs in stride for a 21-yard score touchdown score. This was Diggs’ seventh straight game with a touchdown against Green Bay, putting Minnesota in control 10-3.

Green Bay added a field goal to make it 10-6, but their next possession was yet another mistake. Davante Adams caught a screen pass from Rodgers but was stripped of the football. Eric Kendricks picked up the loose ball for what was his second fumble recovery of the night. Kirk Cousin could not capitalize though, and the offense failed to pick up a first down after the takeaway. The game remained 10-6 at the two-minute mark of the first half.

Two Minute Drill

Green Bay’s offense had one final drive to close out the half. Aaron Rodgers was surgical as he marched down the field to the Minnesota 2-yard line. On the final scrimmage play of the first half, Rodgers had Adams open but threw the ball a smidge behind him. Adams ended the half with nine catches, but couldn’t reel in any touchdowns. Mason Crosby hit a chip shot field goal, which was his third of the game already. At the intermission, neither team could take control. Instead, the Vikings held a narrow 10-9 lead.

Second Half

Minnesota’s second drive of the third quarter looked promising at first. Kirk Cousins moved the ball well but fell victim to an interception on a deep ball intended for Stefon Diggs. The score remained 10-9, but Green Bay had a quick response off the turnover. Aaron Jones ran in for a go-ahead touchdown, which capped off an 8 play, 53-yard drive for the Packers. On the next play, Rodgers connected with Geronimo Allison for a successful two-point conversion, giving Green Bay a 17-10 advantage.

The story of the second half was Minnesota’s inability to do anything on offense. Mike Boone failed to fill in for Dalvin Cook and recorded a mere 33 total yards on 12 touches. Adam Thielen’s second game back from injury was a complete dud. Cousins targeted him four times in the game, but Thielen failed to pull down any of those targets. He ended his night with a goose egg in the box score. Green Bay took a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter, as they looked to take complete control of the NFC North division.

The game’s final quarter was more of the same for Minnesota. They struggled to pick up first downs, and couldn’t move the ball into Green Bay territory. The Packers came away with one last score to put an exclamation point on the night. Aaron Jones took a handoff for 56 yards on his way to the end zone for his second score of the night. After an early fumble, Jones finished with 154 rushing yards on 23 carries. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins and his offense couldn’t find their groove whatsoever. The Vikings were shutout after the second quarter, and Cousins finished his night with 122 passing yards and an ugly 16.9 QBR. Green Bay found a way to take control in the second half and notched a 23-10 victory.

Final Notes

Image via Washington Post

The Green Bay Packers are your 2019 NFC North Champions. They improved to 12-3 on the season, and still have a chance at clinching the NFC’s #1 seed. On the other hand, it was a disastrous night for Minnesota. The Vikings can no longer win the division and are now locked into the #6 seed for the playoffs. This means Minnesota will hit the road for their first playoff game, where they are just 4-4 this year. The Vikings conclude the 2019 regular season with a home game versus Chicago next week. Though, it remains to be seen how many starters actually play in that game, and for how long. In the meantime, the Vikings are hopeful that Dalvin Cook can return from his shoulder injury in time for Wildcard Weekend.

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