GREEN BAY—The players in the locker room didn’t know exactly how to feel about Sunday’s tie against Minnesota.
Many said it was strange and weird, having never been a part of a tie before in their football lives. Others admitted they hadn’t really processed it, yet, having just walked off Lambeau Field with the scoreboard reading 26-26.
“It was just an odd day,” defensive end Mike Daniels said. “I’ve never seen a stadium just quiet after a game. I’m pretty sure the general feeling was … what … happened?”
What happened is the Packers didn’t win, and they felt more like they’d lost, given the opportunities they let slip away on both sides of the ball.
The reality is the Packers are a half-game closer to the NFC North lead than they were at the start of the day, with the division-leading Lions and Bears both losing. But that consolation only made the missed chances sting a tad more.
“It’s hard to really know how we’re going to feel after this game, because we were so close to finishing it off,” fullback John Kuhn said. “That’s kind of been the key to the whole season this year, finishing drives as an offense and finishing games as a team.”
The biggest unfinished drive on offense came to open overtime. Having rallied from 16 points down in the fourth quarter, the Packers had all the momentum in the world and won the coin toss to get the ball first.
Driving 77 yards to set up goal-to-go, to a man the players in the offensive huddle expected to score a TD to win. But Eddie Lacy was stopped on second down from the 3-yard line, and Matt Flynn’s pass to Jordy Nelson from the 2 was too high and incomplete. Mason Crosby was good from 20 yards, but the game continued.
“We had a chance to end it, and we didn’t,” guard Josh Sitton said. “It’s frustrating.”
Then it was the defense’s turn, needing a stop for the win. But after holding the Vikings to just two first downs on their final three drives of the fourth quarter, the Packers started getting gashed by the run again, the same way they were in the second and third quarters when the Vikings produced two touchdowns and two field goals.
The key play came on third-and-9 from the Minnesota 21 in the overtime. A stop would have put the Vikings into a do-or-die fourth down in their own territory, but running back Adrian Peterson took a handoff on a draw, cut to his left and rambled 15 yards to move the chains.
“They ran the ball down our throat,” rookie cornerback Micah Hyde said. “They ran the same play a couple times, actually, and we have to execute.”
The Packers didn’t get the Vikings into another third-down situation until they were in the red zone, but Minnesota was in position for a game-tying field goal.
“That was our opportunity as a defense to step up, and we couldn’t get it done,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “We just didn’t have any answers for them.
“We’re not really into moral victories. It felt like we had it. On defense, we needed one or two more plays.”
The offense was in the same situation as overtime wound down, getting a first down at the Green Bay 35 when Flynn scrambled for 13 yards. The Packers had just under a minute left and needed about 30 more yards for a shot at a game-winning field goal.
But a false start – the second of the drive – followed by a holding penalty wrecked that, and the Packers had their first tie in 26 years (Sept. 20, 1987, vs. Denver at Milwaukee).
“Penalties in a time like that will kill you,” tight end Andrew Quarless said.
The Packers aren’t dead by any means, but they’ve now gone a full month without a win. Some players said they were glad they get another chance at victory on Thursday in Detroit.
The effort was as valiant as the Packers had put forth since quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone three weeks ago, and for now, that’s what they’re hanging their hat on.
“To see how everybody fought after having those couple fourth-quarter performances we had, or lack thereof, to see how nobody gave up, continued to press forward, I think that’s going to carry over,” Daniels said. “It’s definitely a good sign.”
But it will only matter if it produces a victory in four days.
“I’m looking for an answer too,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “Injuries, losses, overtime, but we’ve got to keep fighting. That’s the name of the game around here.
“We’re keeping our head above water right now. We’re treading water, and hopefully we can find that shallow end after this Thursday.” Complete game coverage