A sound defensive performance was the engine for a resounding Vikings shutout victory over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night. The Vikings defeated Green Bay 16-0 at Lambeau Field to move to 12-3, preserve their standing as the NFC's No. 2 seed and remain alive in the hunt for the top seed.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday night's win.
1. Vikings defense overwhelms Packers offense
Opposing offenses have been hard-pressed to do much of anything against the Vikings defense this season, so a Packers offense entering the game without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, right guard Jahri Evans and receiver Davonte Adams, plus losing starting right tackle Jason Spriggs on the first snap of the game, was definitely behind the eight ball. And it showed. The Vikings pitched a shutout, the first by a Vikings defense in 24 seasons and the first Vikings shutout of Green Bay since November of 1971. The impressive defensive stats include holding Green Bay to four of 15 (27%) on 3rd downs, 3.7 yards per play and 3.25 yards per pass attempt and zero of two (0%) in the red zone. Green Bay was forced to punt after each of its first five possessions and then had its sixth possession end with an interceptions. Green Bay then saw three possessions end on downs, one end on a punt and another end on an interception in the second half.
2. Harrison Smith was a standout
The 2018 Pro Bowl rosters were announced earlier this week and Vikings safety Harrison Smith was inexplicably not voted onto the NFC squad. Smith couldn't care less about Pro Bowl nods, so what he did at Lambeau Field on Saturday night was in no way a response to not being voted into the Pro Bowl. But what he did at Lambeau Field on Saturday night was the latest and greatest evidence that the credibility of Pro Bowl voting is zippo. With the entire country watching as the Vikings played on NBC, Smith was a shining star. He collected two interceptions on the night and finished the game tied with Eric Kendricks for the team lead with eight tackles, with one of them being for a loss. Pro Football Focus gave Smith a perfect grade (99.9) for the game.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night at Lambeau Field.
3. The next man up stepped up
It's the penultimate week of the regular season, so every team is dealing with injuries to important players and the Vikings were no different on Saturday night. Two players in particular stepped up in injury situations to help get the Vikings to their 12th victory. Tight end David Morgan was called on for long snapping duties when Kevin McDermott was forced from the game with an arm injury. Morgan snapped for three punts and two field goals, with all of them being a part of a successful operation. He also caught two passes for 26 yards. Jeremiah Sirles was also called into the action when starting left guard Nick Easton left the game with a leg injury in the 1st quarter. Sirles, who has started three games for the Vikings this season, filled in capably and was the left guard for all but the first play of the Vikings lone touchdown drive.
4. Weather was a factor
The cold game-time temperature was a storyline all week leading up to the game and it was a factor all night during the game. The kickoff temperature was 10 degrees and the wind chill was 0 degrees, and it only dropped as the game progressed. It's fair to suggest the frigid temperatures threw timing off in the passing game and may have led to dropped passes on both sides. A combination of cold temperatures and poor field conditions also led to bad traction and prevented ball carriers from making many defenders miss in the open field, including on one goal line run for Latavius Murray and on a 3rd down catch for Jordy Nelson. But the Vikings found a way to overcome that hurdle and make more plays than the Packers to come out on top in a road division game.
5. Forbath, Quigley sharp in the deep freeze
In tough kicking conditions, Vikings kicker Kai Forbath and punter Ryan Quigley were nearly' flawless and are now starting to string together solid performances as the season's final game is on tap and the playoffs approach. Forbath was true on three field goals, including a 49-yarder on the Vikings first series; he was also good from 20 and 27 yards on kicks that began with Morgan snaps. Quigley executed seven punts without a mishap and only three of them were returned (for 29 yards). Quigley landed two of the seven punts inside the 20 and had no touchbacks. He was also sound in his holding responsibilities with two different long snappers. The Vikings kickoff team was stingy, as well, holding Green Bay to a 19.2-yard average on five returns.