by Mark Metzler
On a beautiful late Summer day, Packers and Vikings fans both saw their teams turn the promise of victory — the Packers early and the Vikings late — into an unsatisfying 29-29 tie.
Ties aren’t fun, but the Vikings didn’t win, and the Packers didn’t lose. Both could have happened, but didn’t thanks to Daniel Carlson.
The drama of whether Aaron Rodgers would play filled the week for the fans, but it was clear Vikings coach Mike Zimmer fully expected Rodgers to play because he (Rodgers) “walks on water.” Packers fans expected him to play, too.
The Vikings were prepared. Rodgers was good, but not great, moving around more than passably in his knee brace. But it turned out that the Packers needed great to beat the Kirk Cousins-led Vikings. Cousins showed why the Vikings invested in him.
In the first half Packers’ special teams and defense came up big when they needed it.
Where did the great punt block come from? You have to love the call, creating confusion on who to block, the great effort from Geromino Allison going right for the foot of the Vikings’ punter, and then the recovery by Josh Jackson for the touchdown. Packers fans know there isn’t a history of great special-teams play, and the team didn’t disappoint, giving up a long kickoff return leading to a touchdown from Cousins to Laquon Treadwell, who caught his first and what will likely be his only NFL touchdown. His drop later was crucial.
The Vikings’ special teams were bad. There was the wrong choice with the Allison block, and the first missed field goal by Carlson — not even close — that led to the Mason Crosby field goal at the half. That was a key.
The Packers appeared to have the game in hand through most of the first three quarters. But it started to get interesting after the Cousins to Stefon Diggs bomb made it 23-21.
Then, the Packers drove and Mason Crosby’s fourth field goal made it 26-21. The Vikings started their drive and the ball went right through Treadwell’s hands and into the hands of Ha Ha Clinton Dix. That was the first and only turnover of the game. As the clock was winding down, the Packers decided to try two passes that both fell incomplete and stopped the clock, instead of running the ball and the clock. I understand that they were trying to end it for good. But I think if the roles had been reversed that Zimmer would have run the ball and the clock. That’s, of course, if he had Crosby kicking. Crosby’s fifth field goal did make it 29-21. But, with 1:45 remaining, too much time was left.
Cousins drove them and somehow Adam Thelen made that catch for a touchdown, and they converted the nice two-point conversion to Diggs, and it was 29-29, thanks in part to a horrible roughing the passer call on Clay Matthews that negated what would have been a game-ending interception. To be fair, the Vikings had one called on Eric Kendricks that was almost as bad. It’s a bad rule, and they were bad calls.
After that, with just 31 seconds left, Rodgers somehow got them into place for a 52-yard field goal from Crosby. It was up and good, but the Vikings had called time out. Crosby missed the next one wide left.
The two misses by Carlson, including the 35-yarder with a chance to win it at the end of overtime, were typical of Vikings’ kickers. He joined Gary Anderson and Blair Walsh in the Vikings’ kickers hall of shame. He probably won’t be with the Vikings by the time this column gets printed. No one could blame Zimmer if he sent both Carlson and Treadwell down the road. I think Jan Stenerud is available.
I’m looking forward to the next regularly scheduled meeting between these two teams, and I fully expect them to both be in the playoffs, and maybe facing off in the NFC Championship game in Green Bay.