For the first time since 2010, a team that is not the Green Bay Packers has won the NFC North. . .and for the first time since 2009, that team was the Minnesota Vikings.
It wasn't necessarily pretty, but the Vikings held off a furious last-second rally to hang on and defeat the Packers at Lambeau Field by a final score of 20-13.
The teams exchanged field goals in the first quarter. Blair Walsh got the Vikings on the board first with a 39-yard effort to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead, and the Packers answered on the next drive with a 28-yarder from Mason Crosby to tie the score at 3-3. Walsh added a 32-yarder in the second quarter to put the Vikings back on top, 6-3, and. . .well, that was all the scoring for the first half of play. Both of the defenses put together very strong first half performances and neither offense could get anything started in the first thirty minutes of play.
The Vikings finally put a touchdown on the board on their first drive of the second half. After forcing a three-and-out from Green Bay to start the half, the Vikings went 58 yards in six plays, capping things off with a 3-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson to take a 13-3 lead. Following a turnover on an awful effort by Teddy Bridgewater that saw him attempt to throw one left-handed, the Vikings struck back with their defense. Everson Griffen got to Aaron Rodgers and knocked the ball out of his hand for a fumble. Captain Munnerlyn jumped on the loose ball for the Vikings, and took it back 55 yards the other way for a Vikings' touchdown to make the lead 20-3.
Green Bay got themselves into the end zone early in the fourth quarter, courtesy of a touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Richard Rodgers. The 16-yard connection cut the Minnesota lead to 20-10 with a little over thirteen minutes remaining in the quarter. Mason Crosby then got the Packers even closer, as he connected on a 43-yard field goal to cut the lead to seven at 20-13.
Minnesota looked to have an opportunity to extend their lead after Cordarrelle Patterson broke a huge return deep into Green Bay territory. However, on the return, he was stripped by Mason Crosby. . .yes, the kicker. . .and fumbled the ball, with the Packers recovering at their own 23-yard line. The Packers quickly marched down the field, and faced a fourth-and-goal situation from the 13-yard line. Rodgers heaved a pass for the end zone, but it was intercepted by Xavier Rhodes to snuff out the drive. It was the second career interception for Rhodes, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
The Vikings had to punt the ball back to Green Bay after they couldn't generate a first down following the interception. Green Bay started at their own 42-yard line with under a minute left and no timeouts. The Packers pushed the ball down to the Minnesota 38-yard line, but could not pull out a miracle as Rodgers' last pass fell incomplete, and the Vikings wrapped up their first division championship since 2009.
The stat sheets weren't exactly on fire in this one for either side. For Minnesota, Teddy Bridgewater completed just 10-of-19 passes for 99 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. Adrian Peterson and Adam Thielen tied for the team lead in rushing yardage with 67 each. Thielen collected 41 of those yards on a fake punt in the first quarter, while Peterson solidified his rushing title by carrying the ball 18 times. Jerick McKinnon was the Vikings' leading receiver, hauling in three passes for 33 yards.
For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 28-of-44 passes for 291 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Eddie Lacy was held in check by the Vikings' defense, as he put up just 34 yards on 13 carries. James Jones managed another big game receiving, hauling in four receptions for 102 yards.
The Vikings get one more game. . .at least. . .at TCF Bank Stadium, as they will host the Seattle Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend. The Packers will travel to the nation's capital to take on the NFC East champions, the Washington Redskins.
The Minnesota Vikings are your 2015 NFC North champions, defeating the Green Bay Packers by a score of 20-13 at Lambeau Field. Thank you to everyone that got their coverage of this week's game here at The Daily Norseman!