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Vikings at Packers: Five Game-Changing Plays

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Looking back at the five most important plays from the Vikings’ shutout victory at Lambeau.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Not a Pro Bowler.
USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Holiday Redemption Tour: complete.

In 2016, the Vikings lost on Halloween to the Chicago Bears. Then they lost on Thanksgiving to the Detroit Lions. Then they lost to the Green Bay Packers on Christmas Eve.

In 2017, the Vikings turned the holidays into the Skolidays.

The Vikings rang in 2017 with a victory over the Bears on New Year’s Day to finish off an otherwise disappointing 2016 season, even if it was basically meaningless. But it was a sign of things to come in the 2017 campaign. The Vikings beat the Bears in Chicago in October. Then they visited Detroit for the second straight Thanksgiving and came out with a win. Then they capped off the holidays with the greatest gift of all: a shutout of the Packers at Lambeau field.

The 16-0 win in the Wisconsin cold wasn’t exactly the shiniest of presents. The Vikings mustered only 236 total yards against a depleted Packers defense that was missing a handful of key players. Case Keenum missed some opportunities to make big plays down field. The ground game wasn’t especially impressive. The Vikings lost Nick Easton for the season to a broken ankle and long snapper Kevin McDermott is out for the foreseeable future with a dislocated shoulder. The play looked as sloppy as the Lambeau Field turf for much of the game. The Packers looked largely uninterested in competing for most of the night, yet the Vikings let them hang around and kept the game closer than it needed to be.

That said, we could have hung around for eight quarters Saturday night and I’m not sure the Packers would have scored. Minnesota’s defense smothered Brett Hundley and the Green Bay offense, making sure his home woes continued. He was held to 17 of 40 for 130 yards and two interceptions. Outside of a few Hundley scrambles, Green Bay never found a way to consistently move the ball. On the few occasions that the Packers did threaten to score, the Vikings defense came up always with the big stop.

In the end, the ugly wins count just the same as the pretty ones. The NFC North champions are now 12-3 and in great shape for a first round bye. In fact, there’s only one scenario where the Vikings would have to play on Wild Card weekend. All four of these results would have to happen in Week 17:

  • Vikings lose at home to the Bears
  • Panthers win at Atlanta
  • Saints lose at Tampa Bay
  • Rams lose at home to San Francisco

Feasible? Sure. Likely? No way. It would be incredibly shocking if that first bullet point came to fruition, much less having the other three games go the wrong way. But before we look ahead to closing out the regular season with a season sweep of Chicago, let’s dive into our weekly review of the five biggest plays that had the most impact on the game.

Play 1: Vikings ball, 4th & 7 at the Green Bay 31. First quarter, 8:33 remaining. K.Forbath 49 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-K.McDermott, Holder-R.Quigley.

When the temperatures are this low, kicking a football can feel like booting a brick. After a promising opening drive by the Vikings sputtered in Packers territory, Kai Forbath ensured the trip wasn’t for naught.

That right there is a big boy kick. Not only did it get the scoring started, it gave Forbath (and Vikings fans) some much-needed confidence. Forbath went 3-for-3 on field goals and nailed his only extra point attempt despite having David Morgan as his long snapper for the last two attempts. You just know that Forbath is going to be called upon to make a big kick in the postseason; his performance in this game made everyone feel a little better about his chances.

Play 2: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Minnesota 32. First quarter, 3:02 remaining. L.Murray left guard to MIN 40 for 8 yards (B.Martinez). MIN-N.Easton was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.

This was one of only a few productive runs by Latavius Murray on the day, who I had jokingly dubbed “Longitavius Murray” on Twitter because he can only go north and south.

But the eight yards wasn’t the significant part of the play; it was the final play of Nick Easton’s season. As Packers defensive tackle Quinton Dial went for the tackle, his body whipped around and hit Easton in the back of the leg. It resulted in a broken ankle for Easton, which means Jeremiah Sirles will be the starting left guard for the Vikings down the stretch.

(By the way: don’t worry, Mr. Dial. We Vikings fans realize that players can get hurt on legal plays during football games. It’s unfortunate, but we understand there was no malice on your part. Don’t expect the death threats that Anthony Barr has been getting for the past two months.)

Play 3: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Green Bay 45. First quarter, 1:48 remaining. (No Huddle) C.Keenum pass incomplete deep right to S.Diggs. PENALTY on GB-J.Hawkins, Defensive Pass Interference, 39 yards, enforced at GB 45 - No Play.

Keenum struggled with the long ball several times on Saturday, but this under-thrown ball actually paid off.

Josh Hawkins, who was filling in for the injured Damarious Randall, never turned for the ball and bumped Stefon Diggs before the ball got there. The result was a 39-yard penalty and first & goal for the Vikings. If the pass hit Diggs in stride it was likely a touchdown, but Diggs scored two plays later anyway. All’s well that ends well, right?

Play 4: Packers ball, 3rd & 3 at the Minnesota 15. Second quarter, 1:50 remaining. (Shotgun) B.Hundley pass short middle intended for L.Kendricks INTERCEPTED by H.Smith at MIN 5. H.Smith to MIN 22 for 17 yards (C.Linsley).

Again: not a Pro Bowler.

With the Packers threatening to pull within 3 just before the half, Harrison Smith gave a sample of why he’s the best safety in the NFL. He read Hundley like a book, darted in front of Lance Kendricks, and ended Green Bay’s best chance at making this one a contest. Smith added another pick late in the fourth quarter and the first shutout for the Vikings defense since 1993 was preserved.

You can keep your stupid Pro Bowl votes; there’s nobody I’d rather have patrolling the Vikings defensive backfield.

Play 5: Vikings ball, 3rd & 13 at the Minnesota 47. Third quarter, 6:11 remaining. (Shotgun) C.Keenum pass short right to D.Morgan to GB 30 for 23 yards (K.Fackrell).

After trading punts to start the second half, the game was just sort of treading frozen water. The Vikings had a golden opportunity to score midway through the third quarter, but Keenum overthrew the deep pass this time. Adam Thielen was wide open for what surely would have been a touchdown.

Next came a delay of game and it looked like the Vikings weren’t going to get anything out of the drive. Thankfully, Keenum was able to pull out some nifty improvisation to atone for his miss on the previous play.

Tight end/long snapper extraordinaire Morgan made an excellent play to run a late route after the scramble and fight through a tackle to get one of the most improbable third down conversions of the season. The Vikings were able to salvage three points and create some more breathing room. Keenum’s ability to make things happen outside of the pocket has been remarkable to watch and one of the best parts of his career year this season.


The defense took it from there, stopping Green Bay on fourth down three times in the final quarter and locking down the Vikings’ 12th win of the season. As always, we welcome your input on which of these plays had the most impact in the poll below. If you think we missed a few others that should have been included, please add them in the comments.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Forbath’s 49-yarder
    (53 votes)
  • 7%
    Easton’s injury
    (92 votes)
  • 8%
    Diggs drawing DPI
    (103 votes)
  • 67%
    Smith’s interception before half
    (854 votes)
  • 11%
    Keenum’s scramble and throw to Morgan
    (148 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (comment below)
    (16 votes)
1266 votes total Vote Now