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Vikings at Packers Game Observations: Slip Ups on Field Mean No. 1 Seed Slides Away

Minnesota's chance at the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs proved as slippery as the playing surface at Lambeau Field.

The Vikings needed to win their final two games of the regular season and have the Eagles drop their final two contests.

New Orleans helped with a win at Philadelphia before the 125th Border Battle kicked off Sunday in Green Bay.

Minnesota blocked a punt early but failed to take advantage of getting the ball at the Green Bay 1-yard line. That drive was only the beginning of a bevy of slip ups and self-harm that made a team in white jerseys and purple pants look unlike what the 2022 Vikings had showed in most games this season.

As the calendar flipped to the first day of 2023, the Vikings dealt with miscues and never found a way to swing momentum back toward their direction in what turned into a 41-17 loss.

Rather than finding another way to win another close one in the fourth quarter or staging yet another dramatic comeback, the Vikings finished the game with its skills players on the sidelines.

It's not like the group had a banner day to write home about.

Kirk Cousins finished 18-of-31 passing with 205 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions for a passer rating of 49.2. He also lost a fumble during a sack.

Dalvin Cook totaled 27 yards on nine rushes and added 17 yards on two catches.

Justin Jefferson was limited to one reception for 15 yards on five targets, and Adam Thielen finished with one catch for 16 yards on four targets.

Injuries mounted on the offensive line, as well, with the Vikings losing Austin Schlottmann on their fifth offensive play of the game. Schlottmann, who has been starting in place of Garrett Bradbury (back injury), was replaced by Chris Reed. The Vikings also lost right tackle and captain Brian O'Neill to a calf injury. He was replaced by Olisaemeka Udoh.

The loss dropped the Vikings to 12-4 on the season and moved the Eagles (13-3) another step closer to the No. 1 seed. San Francisco (12-4) was able to leapfrog Minnesota for the No. 2 seed. The 49ers hold the tiebreaker because of a better conference record if they finish with the same record as the Vikings. San Francisco can also claim the No. 1 with a win and loss by Philadelphia next week.

Minnesota would need to win next week at Chicago and have San Francisco lose to Arizona in Week 18 in order to get back to the No. 2. The No. 3 spot is guaranteed to be the lowest seed for the Vikings.

Here are four more observations presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings, followed by a scoring summary:

1. Punt block wasted, then special teams struggle

Josh Metellus blocked a punt for the second time in as many games, but the Vikings didn't follow the success on special teams with a touchdown like they did the previous week.

Metellus became the first NFL player to block a punt in consecutive games since former Chicago Bear Anthony Marshall in 1995 against Green Bay and at Tampa Bay.

The Vikings wound up settling for a field goal after getting the ball at the Green Bay 1 to start their second possession of the game. Minnesota tried a run up the gut on second down (Schlottmann was injured) and again on third. The two snaps netted a loss of 1.

Green Bay seized momentum on the ensuing kickoff when Keisean Nixon ripped a 105-yard return for his first career score.

In addition to that long run back, Minnesota also allowed a 10-yard punt return by Nixon and a 15-yarder by Randall Cobb.

Jalen Reagor muffed a punt return for Minnesota. Kene Nwangwu averaged 28.2 yards on five kickoff returns for a total of 141. His long was 39 yards.

After a perfect December and last week's franchise-record 61-yard field goal, Greg Joseph missed two of his three

2. Points avalanche

Minnesota stacked bad drive after bad drive into the fourth quarter, failing to gain a first down on five of its first nine possessions.

After the Joseph field goal, Minnesota's next seven drives ended the following ways: punt, interception, missed field goal, interception, missed field goal, fumble and interception.

View pregame photos of Vikings players ahead of the Week 17 game vs the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Green Bay failed to convert a fourth-down attempt with 6:32 remaining, but the Packers then picked off Cousins for a 75-yard touchdown when Minnesota tried to go for it on fourth down.

The Packers next six possessions ended with the following ways: field goal, touchdown, field goal that bounced off the crossbar and through, punt, touchdown and touchdown.

The combined lack of success by Minnesota's offense and an inability to get stops on defense led to Green Bay scoring 41 consecutive points.

3. Turnovers, time of possession and rushing yards

Most teams would sign up for this stat line from Aaron Rodgers before the game and take their chances the rest of the way: 15-of-24 passing for 159 yards with one touchdown (passer rating of 95.7).

But the deal would probably be off once the team found out it would be joined by losing the turnover battle 4-0, time of possession 34:04 to 25:56 and allowing 163 net rushing yards.

Aaron Jones finished with 111 yards on just 14 carries (average of 7.9), becoming the first opposing player to post 100 yards on the ground against Minnesota this season.

AJ Dillon added 41 yards on 12 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown, and Rodgers' only run was a 2-yard score for Green Bay's final points.

4. Trash talk backed with physicality, taunt and hit on the sideline

Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander called Jefferson's 184 yards and two touchdowns against Green Bay in Week 1 a "fluke."

On Sunday, he brought physicality, taunting and an unflagged late hit out of bounds to the matchup.

Alexander jammed Jefferson at the line multiple times and played with some physicality with the ball in the air.

Two plays after Minnesota stopped Green Bay with a sack by Dalvin Tomlinson on fourth-and-1, Alexander made contact on Jefferson multiple times with the ball in flight. It fell incomplete, and no flags fell.

Alexander hit Jefferson's "The Griddy" dance to taunt him after the play.

In the fourth quarter, Alexander dived at Jefferson, who was well out of bounds and down on the Packers sideline after making a tackle to end Minnesota's third interception thrown.

Jefferson seemed to struggle with his footing for much of the game — he wasn't alone — and changed his cleats during the game.

Scoring summary

Q1, 10:38 remaining

Vikings 3, Packers 0

Greg Joseph kicks a 21-yard field goal [4 plays, minus-1 yard, 1:12 time of possession]

Disappointing drive: After getting the ball at the Green Bay 1-yard line, the Vikings threw an incompletion on first down before an unsuccessful run up the middle on which backup center Austin Schlottmann was injured and left the game. Dalvin Cook was tackled for a loss of 1 as Minnesota again tried to run up the middle after Chris Reed replaced Schlottmann.

Q1, 10:25 remaining

Packers 7, Vikings 3

Keisean Nixon returns kickoff 105 yards (Mason Crosby kicks PAT) [0:13 time of possession]

First-time TD: Nixon entered the game, his 56th in the NFL, leading the league with 825 kickoff return yards and boosted that with his first career touchdown.

Q1, 5:17 remaining

Packers 14, Vikings 3

Darnell Savage returns an interception 75 yards (Crosby kicks PAT)

Tip drill: Savage corralled a pass that was intended for T.J. Hockenson and knocked into the air by Rasul Douglas.

Q2, 9:48 remaining

Packers 17, Vikings 3

Crosby kicks a 26-yard field goal [14 plays, 56 yards, 6:49 time of possession]

Pair of conversions: Green Bay converted third-and-10 with a 14-yard pass to Allen Lazard and a third-and-6 with an 8-yard reception by im.

Q2, 2:41 remaining

Packers 24, Vikings 3

Robert Tonyan catches a 21-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers (Crosby kicks PAT) [5 plays, 60 yards, 3:11 time of possession]

Wide open: Tonyan got lost in the secondary during a series when Harrison Smith was not

Q2, 0:00 remaining

Packers 27, Vikings 3

Crosby kicks a 56-yard field goal [4 plays, 23 yards, 0:36 time of possession]

Six-point swing: The Packers took over at their own 40 after a missed 50-yard attempt by Joseph and managed to get just within Crosby's reach, thanks to a bounce off the crossbar. Instead of 27-6 at halftime, it wound up being a 24-point margin.

Q4, 14:54 remaining

Packers 34, Vikings 3

AJ Dillon rushes for 2 yards (Crosby kicks PAT) [12 plays, 76 yards, 7:12 time of possession]

Substitution woes: The Packers converted a third-and-10 with an 11-yard pass to Randall Cobb when the Vikings only had 10 defenders on the field and got a fresh set of downs when Minnesota was flagged for having 12 men on the field while trying to make another substitution. That moved the ball from the 17 to the 12 and effectively put the game away with Dillon's score on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Q4, 9:25 remaining

Packers 41, Vikings 3

Rodgers rushes for 2 yards (Crosby kicks PAT) [12 plays, 76 yards, 7:12 time of possession]

Substitution woes: The Packers converted a third-and-10 with an 11-yard pass to Randall Cobb when the Vikings only had 10 defenders on the field and got a fresh set of downs when Minnesota was flagged for having 12 men on the field while trying to make another substitution. That moved the ball from the 17 to the 12 and effectively put the game away with Dillon's score on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Q4, 7:36 remaining

Packers 41, Vikings 10

Jalen Nailor catches a 47-yard pass from Kirk Cousins (Crosby kicks PAT) [4 plays, 59 yards, 1:49 time of possession]

Rookie's first trip: A sixth-round pick in 2022, Nailor recorded his first career touchdown on the deep one from Cousins.

Q4, 0:21 remaining

Packers 41, Vikings 17

K.J. Osborn catches a 9-yard pass from Nick Mullens (Joseph kicks PAT) [8 plays, 79 yards, 3:37 time of possession]

Another first: The scoring pass was the first by Mullens with the Vikings and the 27th of his career. He finished 4-of-4 passing with 57 yards and a passer rating of 158.3.