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Vikings vs. Packers: Five Game-Changing Plays

Looking back at the five most important plays from the Vikings’ win over the Packers.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The theme of my weekly preview for Sunday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers was “Bummer.” Basically the gist was I thought it was going to be a closely contested game between two evenly matched teams. But in the end I thought Aaron Rodgers was going to be the difference, which was a bummer to me as a Vikings fan.

Well, I was partially right. The game was a bummer and Aaron Rodgers did end up being the difference. Just not in the way I imagined.

Let’s go through our weekly look into the five biggest plays from Sunday’s game, starting with the one that’s being talked about the most today.

Play 1: Packers ball, 2nd & 9 at the Green Bay 39. First quarter, 7:04 remaining. (Shotgun) A.Rodgers pass incomplete short right to M.Bennett [A.Barr]. GB-A.Rodgers was injured during the play.

The exact moment Anthony Barr became persona non grata throughout the entire state of Wisconsin.

Nobody should want to see star NFL players get hurt, regardless of team affiliation. Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and the NFL is worse off now that he’s going to miss a significant amount of time with a broken collarbone. (If you are one of those fans that cheered when Rodgers went down, knock it off. Don’t use the excuse of “well they did it when Teddy Bridgewater went down” either.) That said, I can’t agree with the Packer backers that consider this a dirty or late hit. Barr hit him with a clean form tackle just as the ball was being released.

Green Bay fans can be furious with the result, as they should be. But getting upset with the hit itself is just misguided rage. If Packers fans really want to get upset with Barr, get mad about his stupid headbutt on Davante Adams. That was a dirty hit.

Either way, Rodgers’ injury changed the outlook of the game and possibly the landscape of the NFC playoff picture. Its repercussions will be felt for weeks to come.

Play 2: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Green Bay 22. Second quarter, 12:19 remaining. (Shotgun) J.McKinnon up the middle to GB 20 for 2 yards (K.Clark). FUMBLES (K.Clark), RECOVERED by GB-C.Matthews at GB 19. C.Matthews to MIN 18 for 63 yards (L.Treadwell). FUMBLES (L.Treadwell), ball out of bounds at MIN 18.

With Rodgers out, the Vikings took the lead early in the second quarter after Xavier Rhodes picked off Brett Hundley and Jerick McKinnon cashed in with a 27-yard touchdown reception. The defense forced a quick three-and-out, Justin Vogel shanked a punt, and the Vikings were in great shape to go up by two scores on the reeling Packers.

Not so fast.

McKinnon fumbled and Clay Matthews took it all the way back from one red zone to the other. Three plays later, the game was tied. The Vikings were letting a wounded team hang around, which is always a dangerous proposition.

Play 3: Vikings ball, 3rd & 7 at the Green Bay 49. Third quarter, 11:36 remaining. (Shotgun) C.Keenum pass short left to J.McKinnon to GB 41 for 8 yards (J.Jones).

This play shouldn’t have counted.

McKinnon made a great effort to convert on third down and set up what would become the first of three Kai Forbath second half field goals. But after looking at the broadcast replay, it was pretty obvious that the ball hit the turf while McKinnon caught the low pass.

Of course, the Packers couldn’t challenge the play. They had already challenged twice and won only one of them. This play illustrated two sad truths about yesterday’s game:

  1. The NFL challenge system is asinine. It basically assumes that it’s impossible for referees to get more than two calls incorrect against a team.
  2. The FOX team of Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman, and Mike Pereira were decidedly not at the top of their game during the broadcast Sunday. It took them three real-time minutes, which included an inexplicable Vikings timeout and two plays after this one, to figure out that Green Bay couldn’t challenge McKinnon’s catch. It also took them a full 13 seconds before realizing Jordy Nelson was under center on Green Bay’s fake-fake punt later in the third quarter. With Joe Buck gone for baseball, most fans assumed they would be yelling at their TV less on Sunday. That definitely wasn’t the case.

Anyway, the play stood when it shouldn’t have, and the Vikings got three points out of it. Thanks, ridiculous NFL challenge rules!

Play 4: Vikings ball, 2nd & 5 at the Minnesota 22. Third quarter, 4:38 remaining. C.Keenum pass deep left to L.Treadwell pushed ob at MIN 47 for 25 yards (H.Clinton-Dix) [C.Matthews].

Laquon Treadwell sighting!

Treadwell nearly doubled his career yardage on Sunday, setting career highs with three catches for 51 yards. Calling this his best game ever is one of the lowest bars ever to clear, but let’s just appreciate what an amazing grab it was.

With Stefon Diggs sidelined and the Packers secondary in shambles, Treadwell needed to show at least something to give Vikings fans hope going forward. This did the trick, and it helped set up a field goal that finally made it a two-score game.

Play 5: Packers ball, 3rd & 2 at the Green Bay 45. Fourth quarter, 12:27 remaining. B.Hundley pass short left intended for J.Nelson INTERCEPTED by H.Smith at MIN 46. H.Smith pushed ob at GB 35 for 19 yards (J.Nelson).

Treadwell wasn’t the only Viking with a ridiculous catch on Sunday.

Harrison Smith is a superhero. That’s the only way to explain how great he has been at safety over the past few years. Smith had five tackles, 1.5 sacks, and this amazing interception that set up the game’s final points and sealed the victory. Even after the one mistake he did make—a pass interference penalty that negated a Green Bay holding penalty on third down—he came back and got the sack on the very next play.

There might not be a better do-everything safety in the NFL than Harrison Smith, and I am so incredibly glad that he plays on my favorite team.

This certainly isn’t the way any of us envisioned going 4-2 and leading the NFC North at this point of the season, but we’ll take it, along with the other positive news coming out Monday. Which play do you think was the biggest from Sunday? Vote in the poll below, and let us know if we missed any in the comments.


What was the most important play of the Vikings’ win over the Packers?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Rodgers’ injury
    (1278 votes)
  • 1%
    McKinnon’s fumble
    (20 votes)
  • 1%
    McKinnon’s third down "catch"
    (25 votes)
  • 3%
    Treadwell’s one-handed grab
    (60 votes)
  • 12%
    Smith’s interception
    (195 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (comment below)
    (18 votes)
1596 votes total Vote Now