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Vikings Offense Sputters on Cold Night at Lambeau

The Vikings needed to score the football, but more importantly extend drives to keep the ball away from the Packers potent offense.

The run game was barely there, and the passing game showed up with too little, too late in a 37-10 loss that eliminated Minnesota (7-9) from contention for a spot in the NFC Playoffs.

Backup quarterback Sean Mannion, who started in place of Kirk Cousins (Reserve/COVID-19), led Minnesota with 14 rushing yards on two carries (one was a scramble and the other was a QB sneak).

Dalvin Cook was back in the lineup after missing Minnesota's Week 16 game, but Green Bay was all over the running back who had torched them on a windy day at Lambeau Field last November.

The Florida native didn't find the same success on a night when the temperature at kickoff was 11 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of minus-1.

Cook finished with 13 yards on nine carries, an average of 1.4 with a long of 6.

Green Bay's third-string RB Patrick Taylor and backup QB Jordan Love totaled as many rushing yards (27) as the Vikings all night.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer lamented the lack of a running game because of how it could have helped Mannion, who was just activated Friday from the Reserve/COVID-19 list, about 30 minutes after Cousins' status was announced.

"OK, disappointing tonight. I didn't feel like we gave ourselves a chance to win," Zimmer said. "The first half kind of got away from us, time of possession. We didn't move the ball, really at all. We got away from the running game way too soon, and then in the second half, we didn't play well enough defensively, so give them credit. They're a good team, and they got after us tonight."

Mannion completed 22 of 36 passes for 189 yards with a touchdown — the first of his career — to K.J. Osborn, which was respectable but not enough to keep pace with the Pack.

A career backup making his third start, second with Minnesota and first since Dec. 29, 2019, said he felt prepared despite not being able to attend practice Wednesday or Thursday. Mannion, who is vaccinated, said he had taken multiple precautions.

"Physically, I feel great. I feel great," Mannion said after the game. "I started to feel a little bit sick and then I talked to [Vikings Vice President of Sports Medicine Eric Sugarman] and that's obviously how I ended up on the COVID list, which was a surprise to me because I'm just kind of to and from work; I don't really go anywhere or do anything.

"I felt totally prepared. That's the job," Mannion added. "Seven years of my career now, you spend every single day preparing like you're the starter. I know sometimes it gets thrown around as a cliché, but I've truly taken that approach. I'm trying to do whatever I can to be prepared mentally, physically, finding extra time after practice to get extra work. I absolutely felt prepared."

He and the Vikings had the makings of a crisp drive to start the game while trying to answer a field goal by the Packers.

The Vikings opened with a 12-yard gain to Tyler Conklin on a bootleg before two carries by Cook gained 3 apiece. On third-and-4 from the Green Bay 48, what appeared to be a 24-yard gain to a wide-open Conklin was wiped off when officials ruled rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw had drifted too far down the field before the pass was thrown.

"I think stuff like that hurts, especially because I feel like stuff like that has seemed to happen to us at bad times throughout the year a little bit," Conklin said. "You can't make mistakes like that, especially on third down. But at the end of the day, it's the first drive of the game, and we have to be able to overcome something that happens on the first drive of the game and not let it affect us for the whole game. It was a tough break, but it's not an excuse for anything."

On third-and-6, Mannion connected with Conklin for a gain of 6, and Minnesota opted to go for it on fourth-and-3, but a pass to C.J. Ham near the sideline was broken up by Preston Smith.

Conklin finished with five catches for 47 yards.

Justin Jefferson totaled team highs of six receptions for 58 yards, but his damage was mitigated by Green Bay being able to play soft coverage.

Osborn added three catches for 50 yards while taking on a bigger role in the offense with Adam Thielen lost for the rest of the season.

Mannion dealt with hand cramps in the fourth quarter and missed one offensive series, which brought about the pro debut of Kellen Mond. The rookie completed his first two passes to Alexander Mattison for a total of 5 yards but was nearly picked off on a third-down pass.

View game action photos between the Vikings and Packers during the Week 17 Sunday Night Football matchup at Lambeau Field.

Conklin was asked about why the run game struggled.

"That's a good question. I don't think it's anything [the Packers] did," Conklin said. "I just think when we ran the ball, we didn't execute the way we need to execute and didn't create holes for Dalvin. He's obvious a special back, but if you don't give him lanes to run, there's only so much he can do out there."

As for Minnesota's QB situation going into the final week of the 2021 season?

It remains unknown whether Cousins will be eligible to return to the team next week.

"I don't know. We'll talk about next week, next week," Zimmer said.

Media members also asked if he wants to get a longer look at Mond by starting him next week.

"Not particularly," said Zimmer, who was then asked why not. "I see him every day."