GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers were in desperation, trailing 28-14 and facing a fourth-and-9 from the Vikings’ 32-yard line midway through the fourth quarter.
Rodgers floated a pass to tight end Robert Tonyan, who was unable to make the catch against tight coverage from Vikings safety Anthony Harris. Minnesota’s bench celebrated. Then it protested, as a flag was thrown. Then, it celebrated again when, after a discussion, referee Alex Kemp announced his crew was picking up the flag.
“Look, they’re human. I don’t know how that doesn’t affect them,” Rodgers said. “I know there’s times where, they probably won’t admit it, but New York is looking at some of these plays and telling them whether or not it was pass interference or whatever the penalty is. From my vantage point, it wasn’t even close. From my vantage point, it actually helped that the ball fluttered up in the air a little bit because it threw off the timing slightly and [Harris] got there clearly early. Didn’t seem like a tough call to me.”
Not only did the Packers not score on the drive but the Vikings burned about two-and-a-half minutes off the clock on the ensuing possession. Both were key factors in Minnesota’s 28-22 victory.
“I don’t even know what to say to that,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “You know, the explanation I got was that they talked about it, they said it wasn’t pass interference. I’ve got to go back and look at it. It sure looked like it was PI.”
The Packers have no excuses for losing. Offensively, five holding penalties and a lack of explosive plays were more miserable than the biting northwest winds. Defensively, the inability to keep Dalvin Cook out of the end zone was the biggest factor of the day.
Minnesota struck first to open the second half to take a 21-14 lead. Tonyan gave the Packers a chance to answer when he made a sensational catch of a deep ball by Rodgers for a gain of 45. However, the drive stalled on a dropped jet-sweep flip to Tyler Ervin, an incomplete pass to Ervin, a contested drop by Equanimeous St. Brown and an incomplete desperation heave to St. Brown on fourth down.
When Cook scored his fourth touchdown on a weaving 50-yard screen on third-and-9, the Vikings were up 28-14.
“I think it was just kind of momentum swings,” said Tonyan, whose five catches for 79 yards included the only play of longer than 27 yards on the day. “We didn’t have enough momentum swings and riding out momentum, I believe. When the defense gets stops, we’ve got to score. And if we score the defense has to get stops. We just have to play better as a team.”