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Vikings Defense Outduels Packers on Key Plays

The Vikings defense entered Sunday's game against the Packers incredibly short-handed — and quite frankly — counted out before kickoff.

In-game injuries, including one that forced Cameron Dantzler to leave the field on a stretcher, further challenged Head Coach Mike Zimmer's squad. Zimmer shared a positive report on Dantzler after the game.

But the unit didn't stop believing and made the plays that mattered most in a 28-22 victory at Lambeau Field.

The Vikings (2-5) endured a rocky start out of the gate during which the Packers (5-2) put on clinics with 13- and 15-play touchdown drives on their first two possessions.

"They're a great offense. They're going to score," said linebacker Eric Kendricks, who was credited with 12 tackles. "We don't like to have that happen early. We just kept telling each other, 'Hey. We can still stop them going forward. Those two drives are behind us. We just have to look forward and continue to play and continue to play hard.'

The Vikings forced a turnover on downs, a punt and another turnover on downs for the Packers first three possessions of the second half.

Safety Harrison Smith broke up a pass in the end zone to receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on fourth-and-10 from the Minnesota 37-yard line.

Kendricks showed part of why he's an All-Pro by staying stride-for-stride with three-time Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams on an incomplete pass on first-and-30 that eventually led to a punt.

Anthony Harris stopped the next Packers possession by breaking up a pass to tight end Robert Tonyan on a fourth-and-9 from the Minnesota 32.

"If he would've came over the middle a little bit more, I might've taken a look at the ball," Kendricks said. "I knew that the ball was coming based on the way he kind of looked and the way he felt. I just tried to be patient, look at his hands, played his hands, and it worked out."

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins explained why Kendricks is one of his "favorite players."

"I say that when my boys, Cooper and Turner, are old enough, I'm going to get them Eric Kendricks jerseys because he's the player I want my kids to wear the jersey of," Cousins said. "I just think he's as good of a linebacker as there is in the league, the way he can cover a Davante Adams down the middle of the field and also take on a pulling guard, to be that versatile and that athletic, it's special.

"It's something I see every day in practice every day through OTAs and training camp, I go against him every day and I just always tip my cap to him, because I think he's not only a great athlete but a very smart player, and we're lucky to have him," Cousins added.

The pass breakup by Harris initially drew a penalty flag, but officials picked it up, preserving a 28-14 lead with 8:15 remaining in the game.

Minnesota continued to endure injuries in the secondary and expected Green Bay to make a run.

The Packers did, thanks to a 12-men-on-the-field penalty against the Vikings and scored on Aaron Rodgers' third touchdown pass of the game to Adams. Green Bay barely got a 2-point conversion run to make it 28-22 with 3:05 remaining, then forced a punt to get the ball back at their own 28 with 47 ticks left.

Green Bay advanced to the Minnesota 41-yard line and stopped the clock with 12 seconds left.

Rookie D.J. Wonnum walloped Rodgers and forced a fumble that was recovered downfield by Eric Wilson as time expired.

Zimmer and Kendricks said the play is a good building block for multiple young players on the Vikings defense.

"Yeah, well I think it's important for not only for him, but for other guys to see that as well," Zimmer said. "And then, you know, part of the thing with D.J. and with all young players is learning to trust your athleticism. Kind of just free-flowing and playing. That kind of thing will help him in the future. I was able to do it on a big play and I can do it again."

Added Kendricks: "Those young guys, I feel like they don't understand that they can change the game at any play. And if they make a mistake, they have to let it go because the next play can be the difference in the game. You can see it now. That's exactly what happened. It happened late in the game, and he came up big for us."

Zimmer credited Minnesota's improved performance in the second half as the result of doing better against the run, creating some pressure while keeping Rodgers mostly in the pocket and the ability to "manufacture" some coverage despite the revolving door at cornerback.

"I think Aaron Rodgers is the best in the business, so trying to manipulate ways to figure out how to stop him – I guess you don't stop him – but I never felt like the game was in our grasp," Zimmer said. "Even with [47] seconds left, and he's got the ball in his hands and no timeouts and all the young guys I got playing in different spots. Yeah, it was pretty rough. I'm worn out."

View game action photos as the Vikings take on the Packers on Sunday.