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Vikings Ride Ups and Downs in Frenzied Final Few Minutes

MINNEAPOLIS — Sunday Funday? Not for Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

Not after the wild, heart-pounding, headache-inducing Border Battle between the Vikings and Packers in Week 11.

Sure, Minnesota scored a 34-31 win on the final play of regulation. And yes, the victory got the Vikings to .500 on the season and was also the 500th all-time regular season win in franchise history.

But the victory followed a familiar path of pressure-packed finishes that have defined the 2021 Vikings season.

"Sundays are not fun," Zimmer said. "You know they say, 'Sunday is fun day?' It's not, at all."

"I guess every one of these games is going to come down to the last play of the game, like they have all year," Zimmer later added. "We're just very fortunate to get a win."

All but one of Minnesota's 10 contests this season have been decided by seven or fewer points. But this one against the Packers felt even more bananas than usual, especially in the final minutes.

Let's recap a wild sequence that ended with a walk-off, 29-yard field goal by Greg Joseph.

7:49 left in 4th quarter, Vikings trail 24-23

Minnesota faces a deficit for the first time since early in the first quarter. But the Vikings offense gets rolling and moves the ball to midfield before their stars come up clutch.

Adam Thielen moves the sticks with a 7-yard catch on second-and-7 from the Packers 47-yard line, and then does it again with a 3-yard reception on third-and-3 at the Packers 33. That catch moved him past Kyle Rudolph for fifth in Vikings history.

The clock ticks under three minutes as Minnesota faces another third-and-3, this one at the 23-yard line. In field goal range, the Vikings are aggressive and go for the score, not just the first down.

Justin Jefferson's second-to-last catch of the day goes for a touchdown, highlighting a marvelous eight-catch, 169-yard day that included two scores.

Jefferson said he recognized Green Bay was playing "in and out" coverage, meaning he knew it was man coverage. He high-pointed the throw from Kirk Cousins and tumbled into the end zone.

"I knew it was [a] 1-on-1 matchup," Jefferson said. "It was all about Kirk giving me the opportunity that he did and making the most of those opportunities."

Dalvin Cook cruises into the end zone on the ensuing 2-point conversion to give the Vikings a 31-24 lead with 2:17 left in regulation.

2:17 left in 4th quarter, Vikings lead 31-24

Minnesota's lead was, uh, short-lived to say the least.

Minnesota's defense allows a 75-yard touchdown pass by Aaron Rodgers on the one-play drive that lasts all of nine seconds, and the ensuing extra point ties the game at 31.

"We were a bit aggressive," said Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson. "That's all I'm going to say."

On the sideline, the Vikings offense suddenly perks up and is ready to once again go back on the field for another potential game-winning drive.

View game action photos of the Border Battle between the Vikings and Packers during the Week 11 matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"I thought it wasn't real," Cook said. "I was like, 'Hold up, that was fast.'

"But it just goes to show the type of quarterback we played against," Cook added. "Quick-snap, quick offense, they're going to score fast, and we have to be ready to go."

Cousins said: "It's just kind of the NFL. When you play long enough, you've been in these situations so many times you just realize this is life in the NFL you got to react and play through it all."

2:08 left in 4th quarter, game tied at 31

The Packers defense is called for 12 men on the field, meaning the Vikings now face first-and-5 at their own 30.

Cousins, looking to add to his stellar day, goes deep for Jefferson yet again but the pass is picked off by safety Darnell Savage at the Green Bay 37.

Or is it? A packed U.S. Bank Stadium holds its breath before replays show the interception actually hit the ground.

"Yeah, I was gonna challenge it, but they told me it [would be reviewed because it was initially ruled] a turnover," Zimmer said.

Cousins explained his mindset in the wild roller coaster of events.

"I think the read wasn't necessarily a bad read, but maybe obviously the throw didn't give him that chance," Cousins said. "I certainly thought, 'Now the Packers are getting the ball back and they have good field position,' and it wasn't a good feeling walking to the sideline.

"But [Vikings quarterbacks coach Andrew] Janocko told me that he may have dropped it, and you're just waiting for the answer," Cousins added.

1:57 left in 4th quarter, game tied at 31

Jefferson's final catch went for 6 yards and moved the chains as the game hit the 2-minute warning.

Minnesota now has first-and-10 at its own 36, with both teams holding two timeouts.

The Vikings offensive stars go to work again, with Cook gaining 19 yards on a catch-and-run that included a broken tackle.

Adam Thielen then somehow hauls in a pass down the left sideline and motors for a 26-yard gain. Cook follows with a 12-yard run — staying in bounds — as Green Bay burns its second timeout with 1:19 left.

The Vikings, who have the ball on the Green Bay 7, don't take any chances as Cousins kneels twice to drain the clock. Minnesota calls its second timeout with just two ticks remaining.

"Well, we hadn't stopped them the whole second half, and I didn't want [Rodgers] to have the ball," Zimmer said. "So, I figured the best place to win the game was him on the bench."

Greg Joseph doesn't flinch when the Packers try to ice him, nailing his second walk-off winner of the season at home.

"It feels absolutely amazing, being able to put a 'W' in the column for the guys in the locker room and to see how happy everyone is," Joseph said.

0:00 left in regulation, Vikings win 34-31

And, exhale.

Minnesota improves to 5-5 on the season, and is now 4-5 in games decided by one score or less. But the Vikings have found a way to win those contests recently, getting a 7-point win against the Chargers last weekend before Sunday's close thriller against the Packers.

"It just shows, I know we've lost a couple of these close games, but we've got a lot of heart and a lot of fight," Zimmer said. "Hopefully we'll keep winning these types of games as opposed to when we were losing them earlier."

He later quipped: "Yeah, they're very experienced at the last play of the games."

Minnesota is on the road in Week 12 against San Francisco. Kickoff is at 3:25 p.m. (CT).

Both teams currently sit at 5-5 and are in the thick of the NFC playoff race.