MINNEAPOLIS – The Packers moved out of blowout mode into late-season mode on Sunday in a 24-21 win over the Minnesota Vikings that, combined with the Lions’ loss to the Patriots, moved the Packers into sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
On a dreary day at TCF Bank Stadium, the Packers traded their high-powered passing attack for a pound-the-ball ground game that controlled the action and bled the final 3:23 off the clock when the visitors needed two first downs to clinch victory.
“This is a very good November win. You have to run the ball. You have to be balanced at this time of the year. On the other side, we have to stop the run and take the ball away,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “You have to win close games at this time of the year.”
The Packers had made a habit of winning by a wide margin, scoring wins over the Bears and Eagles by a combined 108-34 in the previous two games. The Vikings kept this one close and needed only to make one more stop to get the ball back and try to send the game into overtime.
“Eddie Lacy was obviously a focus coming into this game,” McCarthy said.
Lacy rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries. His final 27 yards on five consecutive runs clinched the win.
A major impact of the win is that it puts the Packers in the tiebreakers driver’s seat. They’re 4-1 in division record, which is the No. 2 tiebreaker. They also have a lead in the common games tiebreaker, which is No. 3 in the order.
“Today was a very good division win. One of our focuses all week was the importance of getting that fourth win and its importance to your season,” McCarthy said.
The Packers outgained the Vikings and controlled the clock, but at least one potential scoring drive was sabotaged by a flurry of penalties.
“Our penalties were on big plays. First-and-27, I don’t have a play on my call sheet for that,” McCarthy said.
“First place, 11 games. Five more to go,” McCarthy added.
The first of those five games will be against the New England Patriots next Sunday at Lambeau Field, a game that’s being hyped for its head-to-head battle between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.
For one of the few times this season, Rodgers wasn’t the Packers’ star. His stat line from Sunday – 19 of 29 for 209 yards, two touchdowns and a 109.7 passer rating – is pedestrian by his standards, but he made big plays at important times, including six scrambles for 34 yards.
“Feel good about getting to 8-3 and looking forward to going back home,” McCarthy said.
“We weren’t very clean in some areas I thought we were playing better in. We leaned more toward the run. I didn’t take too many shot plays. I saw a lot of two-man (safety) on first down.”
The game was played outdoors as the Vikings await completion of their new dome stadium.
“We prefer to play outside. I think Minnesota should stay outside. Save money on that new stadium,” McCarthy joked.
“You have to learn how to win. You have to find ways to win each and every week. It’s foolish to think it’ll be the same from one week to the next. Handling success is always the biggest challenge, in my opinion,” he added.
Whether it’s by a lot or by a little, the Packers just keep on winning. COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE