- This NFC North divisional matchup had it all—a hobbled Aaron Rodgers, missed field goals, controversial defensive calls, overtime and, to cap it off, a tie.
Everson Griffen mumbled an expletive as he walked to his locker after the game.
Eric Kendricks, normally a social guy, spoke in short, pained sentences. “This feels terrible, honestly,” the Vikings’ linebacker told The MMQB. “It’s weird. We play for wins. This is my first tie ever. In my life.”
Across the stadium, things weren’t going much better in Green Bay’s locker room. “It crushed us just knowing that we did a good job out there and it just sucks that we don’t have [the win],” said Packers linebacker Nick Perry. “I look at it as a loss because we didn't get the win. It’s a different feeling knowing that you didn't really win or lose a game, it’s a stalemate.”
Sunday’s Week 2 game between the two NFC North favorites had it all—Aaron Rodgers scrambling for a first down on one good leg, two controversial roughing-the-passer penalties, four total missed field goals, a blocked punt for a touchdown, a 75-yard touchdown and an overtime period.
Well, everything except a winner and a loser.
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One Vikings player was a little more easygoing about the 29–29 tie, given the overall weirdness of the game. “This was just a fun game altogether,” said defensive tackle Linval Joseph. “You got a chance to see both sides of it—[behind the Packers], come back, overtime, tie. I’ve been playing football for awhile and this is my first time I’ve ever experienced something like this.”
“After all the crazy stuff that went on today, I was like, you know what, maybe this [tie] is what it’s supposed to be,” Joseph said.
Despite not practicing all week with an “unusual” knee injury sustained in last week’s comeback win over the Bears, Rodgers was declared active on Sunday and played the entire game. He wore a large brace on his left knee, proving to be more mobile than he was last week when he played immediately after getting hurt. On second-and-seven in the Packers second drive of the first quarter, Rodgers scrambled up the middle for a first down. It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done, and showed the Vikings defense that he wasn’t just going to sit in the pocket all day. The Packers QB ended the day completing 30 of 42 pass attempts for 253 yards.
Rodgers worked exclusively from shotgun or pistol, like he did last week, in order to accommodate his knee and encourage quick throws to avoid the Vikings pass rush. But the Packers quarterback showed a glimpse of his mortal side this week. He was sacked three times for 21 yards, the first of which he leaned into, going down to protect his knee before he was actually hit, which minimized the force of the sack itself. The old Rodgers, the one with two good legs, would typically try everything possible to avoid that sack.
And in overtime, Rodgers had an uncharacteristic fumble on second-and-one. He faked a handoff to Jamal Williams and was pulling the ball back when he dropped the ball and fell on it to recover. “If I pull that one without fumbling it—Jamaal didn’t know I was fumbling it, he was trying to grab it for a bit—but if I had been stronger in pulling it, both the end and Harrison Smith were flying over the top. I’m definitely getting a first down and we’re inside 50-yard field goal range, so that’s disappointing.”
In his post-game press conference, Rodgers said he hopes to keep playing all season and that his knee won’t continue to be an issue, but also admitted it’s not going to be cured overnight. “We’ll see,” he said. “It’s the type of thing that could linger for awhile.
On the Vikings side of the ball, Kirk Cousins and the offense were fortunate to get a roughing-the-passer call on Clay Matthews late in the fourth quarter, which negated a Cousins’ interception and extended that game-tying drive. Later in that drive Cousins dropped a dime in a teensy window to a double-covered Adam Thielen at the right pylon to bring the Vikings within two points.
Thielen said his route was just to get to the pylon any way he could, because Cousins would be throwing to that spot. “I knew that if I could just be really late with my hands, that the ball was going to drop right in there,” Thielen said. “I was just trying to not show my hands so they couldn't their hands up and knock it down. It just shows how accurate Kirk can be, especially in those critical situations.”
Cousins went on to get the Vikings in field goal range twice in overtime, but kicker Daniel Carlson missed both his chances. The QB ended the day completing 35 of 48 pass attempts for 412 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
Although the Vikings were forced to settle on a tie because of special teams failures, this game proved that Cousins was worth the money. He outperformed Rodgers, which is exactly what Minnesota signed him to do.
“It gives us a lot of confidence in saying, Hey, we’re never out of a game with our weapons we have, with Kirk as our leader, and our defense, we’re never out of a game and this game just gives us confidence in that,” Thielen said.
With a tie between the top two teams, the NFC North standings got a lot more interesting. This game could come back to haunt these teams later on this season. Their next meeting is a Week 12 Sunday Night Football matchup on Nov. 25. It’s too early to tell how this will all play out, but that could be the game to decide the division. The Bears, the sleeper team of the NFC North, has to be excited knowing they are currently technically just a half-game back.
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