Purple Reign again: Vikings beat Packers, take NFC North
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The joy that Adrian Peterson felt following the Minnesota Vikings' victory over the Green Bay Packers to win the NFC North overshadowed the tightness that the NFL's leading rusher felt in his lower back.
The injury knocked Peterson out for a stretch of the second half of the 20-13 win Sunday night over Green Bay.
It doesn't sound like he has any intention of missing next Sunday's home wild-card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.
''It's a little tight, but I'll be OK,'' Peterson said. ''Now I've just got to get up early tomorrow morning, I'm not looking forward to it, and I've got to do what I've got to do to get ready for Sunday.''
Peterson ran for a touchdown and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned a fumble 55 yards for a score as Minnesota (11-5) claimed its first NFC North title since 2009 and ended the Packers' four-year reign atop the division.
''Coming here, it was always a fight, a dogfight,'' Peterson said.
It was his second title of the day - he also finished the season with his third career NFL rushing crown.
The Packers (10-6) will travel to Washington to play the NFC East champion Redskins, also on Sunday.
But familiar problems with the sluggish offense plagued coach Mike McCarthy's squad again. A team that started 6-0 and looked to be a strong NFC contender has stumbled into the playoffs with two straight losses.
''Frankly, we didn't do enough of the things you need to do, especially in big games, to come out on top,'' McCarthy said.
The upstart Vikings made those plays.
Other notes and takeaways from the final game of the 2015 NFL regular season:
PURPLE REIGN AGAIN: Those new black ''NFC North Champs'' T-shirts and gray caps that the Vikings proudly wore in the locker room should be hot sellers back in Minnesota this week.
''It's been since 2009 and that's too long of a stretch,'' Peterson said. ''That drought is over.''
Just two years after finishing 5-10-1, Minnesota is back in the playoffs under second-year coach Mike Zimmer, perhaps a bit ahead of schedule.
''Did we get here faster? I don't know. I have pretty high expectations,'' Zimmer said. ''I don't know, maybe.''
FRANTIC FINISH: Lambeau Field in prime time is not an ideal place for any opponent to play.
Yet the Vikings still won in spite of a so-so day for the offense and some harrowing moments late on defense and special teams.
The Vikings knocked away a desperation pass in the end zone from Aaron Rodgers on fourth down as time expired.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby forced a fumble on Cordarrelle Patterson's potentially field-flipping 70-yard kickoff return with 5:21 left. But the Packers' next drive ended with Rodgers being intercepted in the end zone by Xavier Rhodes.
Zimmer smiled and raised both arms in the air after Rodgers' final pass fell incomplete.
A handful of Vikings later came back onto the field to take pictures. They'll remember this night for a while.
WILD CARD MEMORIES: The Packers can take slight consolation from memories of their run to winning the Super Bowl in 2010, when they were the sixth seed.
''Playoff season is here. We know how to win, we know what it takes to win and we have a clear understanding of the things that you can't do to win,'' McCarthy said.
VIKINGS BLUEPRINT: The offense was rather ho-hum. Peterson ran for 67 yards on 19 carries. Teddy Bridgewater was just 10 of 19 for 99 yards, and the passing game was rendered largely ineffective.
But the defense stopped Green Bay's dysfunctional offense at nearly every turn until the fast-paced fourth quarter.
Everson Griffen had two sacks, and the Vikings held on at the end after being left out of breath defending the Packers' late no-huddle attack.
''It wasn't fun, to be honest with you. It was nerve-racking,'' Zimmer said.
FAMILIAR PROBLEM: The dormant Packers scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a 16-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Richard Rodgers, and a 43-yard field goal by Crosby.
But a slow start doomed the Packers once again, as did a sluggish running game.
Rodgers finished 28 of 44 for 291 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked five times.
Running back Eddie Lacy had a strong start, but finished with just 34 yards on 13 carries.
The loss left the Packers without a win over a division opponent at home for the first time since 1968.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL