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After Early Setback, Vikings Defense Contains Packers Late

GREEN BAY, Wisc. – It was a Border Battle for the ages, even if there wasn't a winner and loser.

After an up-and-down start at Lambeau Field, the Vikings defense pulled together and took a stand that helped keep Minnesota in the game.

Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said the defense "did a lot of good things, a lot of bad things" in the game that had ended in a 29-29 tie.

Minnesota allowed just 12 points in the final 40 minutes of football and limited Green Bay to 1-for-5 in the red zone.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a knee injury in Week 1 against the Bears but returned to lead Green Bay back from a 17-point deficit to win that game. It wasn't determined until Sunday morning whether or not Rodgers would start against Minnesota, but the Vikings defenders weren't surprised when he did.

Rodgers finished the game 30-of-42 passing for 281 yards and one touchdown for a 97.4 passer rating. He threw no interceptions and fumbled once but recovered his own dropped ball.

Everson Griffen, who combined with Sheldon Richardson to sack Rodgers for a loss of 7 in the first quarter, said the quarterback "played great" and that he wasn't surprised when Rodgers made some plays against them.

"That's Aaron. He's one of the best in the game, I respect him and his game and what he brings," Griffen said.

There had been some question to Rodgers' mobility entering the matchup, and although he arguably escaped the pocket less than usual, he didn't hesitate to move when necessary.

On third-and-7 late in the first quarter, the Vikings allowed Rodgers to scramble just past the first-down marker and out of bounds. Rodgers' play kept alive a Green Bay drive that ended in a 9-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams.

"You've got to play him a certain way, you've got to rush him a certain way," Griffen said. "We didn't know if he was mobile or if [he would be] running. He was running, apparently. He was healthy, and he played well."

Added Linval Joseph: "I knew he was going to come out and give it his all because that's Aaron Rodgers."

The Vikings gave up only one offensive touchdown on the day, but the Packers were able to move down the field and set up Mason Crosby for a field goal five times in regulation, during which kicker made all five and tied a career high.

Of 12 Packers drives, only four ended in punts.

Penalties also reared their heads a few times throughout the afternoon to put the Vikings behind the sticks. Minnesota's defense was flagged five times for 45 yards.

Andrew Sendejo was called for unnecessary roughness, and linebacker Eric Kendricks received a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty for a hit on Rodgers, ultimately enabling the Packers to continue down the field and notch another Crosby field goal.

There was some confusion across social media – even from FOX Sports rules analyst Mike Pereria about the call — and Griffen reiterated to media members that players have to do their best to stay within the guidelines but can't slow up or be afraid to play their game.

"It is what it is. I can't control it. It's out of my control," Griffen said. "We can't control penalties, we can't control the flags. The only thing I can control is coming off the edge and helping my team win."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he appreciated the drive his team showed after digging itself into somewhat of a hole to start.

"We can play a lot better than we did defensively today," Zimmer said. "We turned a couple guys loose on the sideline, and we took our eyes off [them] and started looking back at the quarterback. But I thought we fought our rear ends off."

The Vikings allowed 10 plays in regulation that gained at least 11 yards – including a 34-yard catch by Jimmy Graham to convert a third down – and a handful of effective runs by Green Bay, which finished with 98 yards rushing.

When push came to shove, however, Minnesota defensively found its groove and stopped Rodgers and Co. down the stretch. The Packers made two field goals in the fourth quarter but didn't get in the end zone.

The effort was complemented by Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who led the offense on two fourth-quarter drives that ended in touchdowns and the 2-point conversion that pushed the game into overtime.

Minnesota did not allow Green Bay to put any points on the board in the extra 10 minutes of play.

"We did get on point. We got it clicking. I think that's what five years together will do," Griffen said. "We tried to push as hard as we could, and we should have won that game. That should have been a 'W.'

"We fought to the very end; this team has a lot of grit, and I love it," Griffen added. "The guys came through and played big time. Mackensie [Alexander] had a sack, David Parry had a sack. It's fun. We had a lot of fun today. We're going to learn from it and get better."

When asked if Griffen was worn out from playing through an overtime period and not coming away with the win, the defensive end responded with energy.

"I'm not tired, man. I'm motivated," Griffen said. "It was a big game, a fun game. We have to clean up some mistakes … [but] it's just a blessing to be healthy, get to see next week and get out there and do it all over again."

It wasn't the outcome the Vikings wanted, and a lot will be assessed on tape Monday in order to improve going forward.

There's pride in preventing a loss to a talented division rival. But Kendricks reminded that it isn't good enough.

"When our back is against the wall, we handle our business," Kendricks said. "But there were a lot of field goals and stuff we gave up that could have been prevented. We're going to get back in the film room and correct those mistakes and come back with a different attitude."

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