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Vikings vs. Packers Week 17 Rehash

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings fell 33-10 at home to the Packers on Sunday.

A couple more turnovers in the first half set up a pair of touchdowns by Green Bay, which built a 23-3 lead by intermission in the fifth consecutive Border Battle decided by 14 or more points.

Minnesota (7-9) ended its 2023 home slate with a 2-6 mark at U.S. Bank Stadium, the worst showing in one season at the venue that opened in 2016. The Vikings were plus-4 in turnover margin in two home victories and minus-11 in the losses.

The Vikings must win at Detroit (11-5), which has already clinched the NFC North, and receive help in the form of the following to make the playoffs:

Arizona win against Seattle


Chicago win at Green Bay


Atlanta win at New Orleans OR Carolina win against Tampa Bay

Minnesota can still finish second, third or fourth in the NFC North.

A Vikings win and a Bears win positions Minnesota in second.

A Vikings tie or loss and a Packers win positions Minnesota in third; a Vikings tie and a tie between the Packers and Bears positions Minnesota in third.

A Vikings loss and a Bears win positions Minnesota in fourth.

Reminder that part of the Vikings 2024 schedule (home games against a team from the NFC South and AFC East and a road game at an NFC East team) will be determined by division order of finish.

Before turning attention to the 2023 regular-season finale, here's a look at some of the deeper elements from the game against the Packers.

Next Gen Stats

Under duress

Much will be made about rookie Jaren Hall's second career start lasting only a half and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell turning to Nick Mullens, but the Packers were able to get pressure fast and continuously be around Minnesota's quarterbacks.

Green Bay recorded three of the 13 fastest sacks of Week 17, according to Next Gen Stats.

Preston Smith reached Hall in just 2.94 seconds to force the key fumble before halftime, the second-fastest sack across the league in Week 17.

A blitz by Keisean Nixon allowed the DB and defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt to reach Mullens in 3.4 seconds, and a blitz by Quay Walker on a second-and-6 from the Minnesota 46 resulted in a sack in 3.57 seconds.

Minnesota did not record a sack of Jordan Love and struggled to make the quarterback uncomfortable.

The NFL average separation by defenders from quarterbacks is 4.54 yards this season.

Only Pat Jones II (4.35 yards) was below that among four defensive players highlighted by Next Gen Stats. Danielle Hunter (4.95), Harrison Phillips (5.39) and Jonathan Bullard (5.69) were the other three players.

Wyatt frequently pushed the pocket and recorded an average distance of 3.07 yards. Smith (3.52), Kenny Clark (3.97) and Rashan Gary (4.22) all were well below the season league average.

Green Bay was credited with creating pressure on 50 percent of Minnesota's dropbacks, good for the third-highest rate by the Packers in a 2023 game.

A different approach

The Vikings had success in Week 8 stymying Love with some max coverage (dropping eight defenders) and blitzing him only 38.8 percent of the time, which is well below Minnesota's season average.

On Sunday, however, the Vikings blitzed Love 63.6 percent of the time, and he completed 15 of 21 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns against blitzes.

All three of Love's touchdown passes occurred on in-breaking routes. He was 6-for-9 with 119 yards on such throws.

YAC attack

Despite only playing one half, rookie receiver Jayden Reed set career highs in yards (89), yards after catches (44) and yards after catches over expectations (21). The backbreaker was Reed's 25-yard touchdown with eight seconds remaining in the first half. He logged 23 yards after the catch on the play that was expected to gain 3 after the ball arrived. The plus-20 on the play ranked eighth across the NFL in Week 17.

Jones provides an edge

Packers running back Aaron Jones rushed 20 times for 120 yards, an average of 6.0 per carry. He did most of his damage outside the tackles, with 83 yards on 12 such rushes.

Snap Counts

Receiver Justin Jefferson and four starting offensive linemen — left tackle Christian Darrisaw, left guard Dalton Risner, center Garrett Bradbury and right tackle Brian O'Neill — played all 53 offensive snaps.

Right guard Ed Ingram played 35 snaps before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. He was replaced by Blake Brandel (18).

Receiver Jordan Addison (49 offensive snaps), tight end Johnny Mundt (41), receiver K.J. Osborn (33) and running back Ty Chandler (30) each played 57 percent or more of Minnesota's offensive snaps.

Mullens played 29, and Hall played 24.

Running back Alexander Mattison was in the game for 21 snaps.

Rookie linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr., and cornerback Akayleb Evans played all 74 defensive snaps. Pace also played 20 on special teams.

Jones (70) led Minnesota's outside linebackers with an increased role in filling in for D.J. Wonnum, who was lost for the season in Week 16.

Linebacker Jordan Hicks and safeties Camryn Bynum, Josh Metellus and Harrison Smith each played 66 defensive snaps.

Hunter played 63, Phillips was in for 53 and Bullard took 46.

Rookie cornerback Mekhi Blackmon played 37 defensive snaps.

Rookie safety Jay Ward played 17 defensive snaps with Theo Jackson inactive because of a toe injury.

From the Inbox

Obviously a lot of disappointment from fans making its way to the inbox overnight and Monday. The final game of the 2023 calendar year featured a bad outcome against a rival and made it highly improbable the Vikings will return to the playoffs this year. The 0-3 start, combined with losses by 1 (at Denver), 2 (against Chicago) and 3 (at Cincinnati in OT) left little wiggle room down the stretch. Since Monday's Mailbag was a little shorter than normal, I've included a few more comments below.

As the season flames out spectacularly, there are a lot of folks calling for the Vikings to bring back Kirk Cousins for 2024 and beyond. He is a very good QB, but it seems that he comes with some version of cap hell. QB is probably the most important piece of the 53-man puzzle, but by no means the only piece. Since his arrival, the Vikings have had cap problems, which impact the ability to build a competitive roster. Of course, drafting and free agent mistakes haven't helped any. It is worth noting that the Vikings weren't exactly tearing up the league prior to Cousins' injury, and he does have the same number of playoff wins in his career as Joe Kapp. So, in my view the Vikings should drop the word "competitive" and just go full rebuild in 2024. Also, (O'Connell) should really think about handing off play-calling duties.

— David Sinclair in Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Cousins started the season well. He attempted enough passes to be among the qualifying leaders and ranks third with a passer rating of 103.8. He also threw 18 touchdown passes in his eight starts. Giving him the full season, that's on pace to lead the NFL in touchdown passes this season, which would be particularly helpful for a Vikings team that has been so inconsistent with its run game.

Re-signing him to match the value and length of contract could present some cap challenges, and it balances the duality of a 35-year-old who is returning from his first major injury against his consistent level of production and his expertise within O'Connell's system.

I know why wins are tied to quarterbacks, but there are also multiple other factors, particularly when facing playoff-caliber teams.

It's hard not to project a couple more wins to the Vikings if Cousins had not gotten injured, which would firmly have Minnesota in the playoffs and possibly with a chance to win the NFC North at Detroit this weekend, particularly with the numbers he's put up against the Lions over the years.

View game action photos from the Vikings vs. Packers Sunday Night Football Matchup in Week 17 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

I had to turn the game off in the fourth quarter as I was embarrassed at the way the Vikings played on national television, again. I think it's time to offer up (Jefferson) for some high draft choices and move on from Kirk. In other words, rebuild. Other than a couple of players on both sides of the ball, we are at best an average team with average NFL caliber players due to the draft position afforded to average teams and the tendency of our GM to trade down in the draft. I think we already proved that a competitive rebuild only brings average results. I hate the thought of losing Jefferson. He's my favorite player, but he deserves to be on a good team with a chance to win a couple of championships.

I have followed this team for 55 years, but let's start over again and do it the right way. SKOL VIKINGS!

— Mike in Oklahoma

What Mike is proposing is one way of approaching things, but so far, the Vikings have publicly said they plan to have discussions with Cousins this offseason and have inclinations of Jefferson being with the team for years to come.

He's correct about the lack of reward baked into the draft for teams who do seem to land in the middle of the league standings/make the playoffs.

I'm sure O'Connell and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will meet with the Wilf Family Ownership Group to recap the season and outline plans for moving forward. The stripping-down-to-the-studs model has not been one favored by the Wilf Family because they want to consistently field teams that can compete for championships. Adofo-Mensah has previously said in multiple settings that he doesn't ascribe to the tanking model.

There's no guarantee that an incredibly bad season will lead to a quick turnaround, either.

View pregame photos as the Vikings get set for the Week 17 Sunday Night Football matchup against the Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Kirk is not the answer in 2024. He will be a sitting duck with the OL in place now. Vikings need new OC who can get them out of first gear. What a waste [for Jefferson and Addison].

— Robert Hernandez in Anaheim, California

We've seen the kind of production that Jefferson and Cousins can post together when healthy. Addison caught at least one score in seven of his first eight pro games with Cousins at QB, but then went until the Week 15 game at Cincinnati without getting back to the paint. His two scores that day were incredibly impressive, and his strong first season should excite folks about the combination of him with Jefferson going forward.

That was one of the worst Viking losses I've seen in a while. It looked to me like the team quit. I know we have had many injuries this year. We seem to be lacking depth. Would we be better to totally rebuild this team? We have so many questions going into next year, quarterback, offensive line, defensive line, defensive secondary, running back, signing Justin Jefferson. I don't envy the decisions that you're going to have to make in the offseason. Best of luck!

— Larry Partlow

It was no 40-3 against Dallas last year in the week after the Buffalo game, but because the Vikings had such little wiggle room, and because it was at home against the team's arch nemesis and because it involved "waiting all day for Sunday night" and yielded such disappointing results, I get the sting.

I don't think "quit" is the term I'd choose. I don't know if players are out of gas from playing 14 one-score games, but I'll frankly say I'm personally exhausted from the 2023 season (and I am not counted on to block, tackle, throw, catch or run).

Injuries may have reached the point of an insurmountable situation, but I think there were just too many guys having bad nights and not enough being done to offset those issues. Green Bay played better than Minnesota in many aspects of that game, much like Minnesota did at Green Bay in Week 8.

There's going to be no shortage of questions the Vikings must answer this offseason.

View photos of the Vikings arriving at U.S. Bank Stadium ahead of the Week 17 Sunday Night Football matchup vs. the Packers.

I've been a Vikings fan since my youth (days of Fran Tarkenton). I've never seen a Vikings team change its strategy or game plan on the fly when things don't go their way on offense and defense, over the years. All the best teams have that capability. We are not the best.

I saw lately in the last three games that the opposition's offensive line gathers our defensive ends and biltz and corrals them to the middle, buying time for QB. How does our defense get caught in this situation? This is a no-no in any team defense plan. Why do we continually do it?

58 years old and counting.

— Mike Sivilla from Montreal, Canada

I guess the best example of changing on the fly was in Atlanta in Week 9 when Joshua Dobbs needed to relieve Hall after the rookie's concussion.

Not recording a sack and only having three quarterback hits in a home game is disappointing. Wonnum recorded four hits and 2.0 sacks of Love at Lambeau Field in Week 8.

It seemed like Green Bay found better ways to prevent Minnesota from putting heat on Love in the rematch.

Going to be an interesting offseason with so many free agents on the roster and management trying to figure out who the Vikings are and where they are going.

It strikes me that ownership took a real leap of faith when they fired both [Rick] Spielman and [Mike] Zimmer.

They hired a Wall Street GM who sees the world through analytics, and a head coach who really had not been an offensive coordinator before his new job.

With that combination, you are going to see some glitches going forward.

The Vikings really got hit in the last few years of Zimmer's reign by having musical chairs at offensive coordinator, and the college scouting staff not having the ability to see college students due to COVID.

Additionally, the Vikings got slammed over the past few years of Zimmer's reign at cornerback, losing some very good ones to free agency and injury. They never recovered from that.

The hiring of their Defensive Coordinator (Brian Flores) was a touch of gold, but will he be the head coach at New England next year? Will the wideouts coach get promoted to offensive coordinator?

When you have continuity at the coaching and general management levels and at the college scouting level, you can build a program that consistently is in the hunt to win the Super Bowl, and not just get into the playoffs.

Seems like this year, the Vikings hit on some unexpected draft pics, but also missed out on some to other teams.

Looking at the upcoming draft, there is some pretty good talent at QB, DE or edge rushers, but a lack of talent at LB, RB, and IDL (interior defensive line).

I think the Vikings are in rebuild mode.

— Bruce Malby

The Vikings have said under Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell they are in a rebuild, but they've chosen "competitive" instead of "complete" as their preferred adjective.

The 2022 squad was able to better its outcomes (11-0 in one-score games from a 6-8 mark the previous season). As 2024 unfurls, the Vikings will weigh a 6-8 mark so far in one-score games this season.

Not trying to kick the can down the road too far, but we'll have plenty of pre-draft content opportunities in the coming weeks.

Protecting the QB has to happen and has not for years "period." How many quarterbacks have we gotten injured this year alone?? When Cousins is healthy, he can make miracles happen, but he is running for his life six of eight plays, and if we only get three-and-punt where do we go?? A team should not need four or five QBs, but we set up one after another for injury! The FIRST thing we need to do is grow, buy, or steal an offensive line. Protect the QB, and our WRs, TEs and RBs make magic. Just a thought.

— 25+ year season ticket holder

The injury to Cousins occurred without contact from anyone else. He was just conducting a dropback. It was incredibly unfortunate that he joined Brian O'Neill as the second Vikings starter in as many trips to Lambeau Field to suffer an Achilles injury.

The QB shuffling since has occurred with a desire to try to make the most of O'Connell's offensive system available for the rest of the group, while emphasizing the need to protect the football.

Minnesota allowed 14 quarterback hits in a home game. That's not going to cut it against many teams and not good for anyone under center building comfort and confidence in the system.

I wanted to experience two things before I die: the Red Sox winning a World Series Championship and the Vikings delivering a Super Bowl Championship. The Red Sox have delivered three so far during my life, and the Vikings have delivered zero. I have been a Vikings fan for over 50 years. It does not look like a Super Bowl ring or an appearance in the foreseeable future.

— Keith Kleinschmidt in Clinton, Connecticut

The Boston airport is nearly out of room with the sports championship banners displayed there, but it was a long-time coming for the Red Sox. The Vikings inability to fulfill your other request isn't for a lack of desire.

Well, last night was the current disappointment in a year of disappointments. It's interesting that some teams are competitive year after year. I know we've had a lot of injuries this year, but the turnovers are either a lack of conditioning or coaching. But other teams do well in the draft, but when you have a GM who trades down 20 spots to a division rival and we get nothing out of that 2022 draft, it's pretty frustrating. None of those players have had any impact. If it were me, I would replace the GM with someone who knows what he's doing. A frustrated long-term Vikings fan.

— Doug L.

The turnovers have been so problematic all season and have kind of made the rounds throughout the roster. Minnesota has suffered 17 interceptions, including several off deflections that have bounced to defenders, and 15 fumbles lost. That's 2.0 giveaways a game. The 32 total are 10 more giveaways than the 22 takeaways Minnesota has recorded.

The 2022 draft class has received a couple of years of criticism. First-round pick Lewis Cine was active for the first time since Week 6 and played eight defensive snaps Sunday. Second-round pick Andrew Booth, Jr., played eight defensive snaps, with Minnesota relying more on fourth-round corner Evans instead of Booth. Brian Asamoah II played 11 defensive snaps. Ingram was a second-round pick, and Chandler was a fifth-round selection.

O'Connell has repeatedly mentioned excitement for Jalen Nailor, but he's dealt with multiple injuries this season. Nick Muse, a seventh-round pick, made his 2023 debut after being the team's fourth tight end.

Shame on Kevin O'Connell for waiting until halftime to take Hall out of the game. Hall was NOT ready to play. What was O'Connell thinking? He should have STARTED with Nick Mullens.

With gratitude,

— Angela Simonelli in Annapolis, Maryland

Given the weight that O'Connell placed on the decision last week and the amount of prep work it takes to ready a quarterback, I think it's reasonable to try to give Hall an entire first half.

Take away the strip sack on which Preston Smith quickly defeated a 1-on-1 against Darrisaw, and Hall is likely able to hit Jefferson in space down the middle of the field. A completion there puts Minnesota in field goal range with time to continue attack toward the end zone and try to cut into a 17-3 lead. The risk, however, led to the Packers going up 23-3.

O'Connell will be second-guessed about the decision to start Hall in a prime-time rivalry game instead of Mullens, who had success moving the football at Cincinnati and against Detroit but also committed some critical mistakes.

Is it just me, or does it take too long for the routes to develop in [O'Connell's] offense? Also, we got to see glimpses of the screen game when we use it, and I am scratching my head why we don't use it more, especially with Chandler. Even our run game seems to have a delay more often than not in getting the ball to our backs, which makes it hard to get Chandler in space or Mattison a head of steam, which he obviously needs.

Recent weeks our defense has had all the holes found and punched, and our pass rush has steadily fallen off and become either predictable or non-existent. (Donatell 2.0) sums up our defense. Pile on the worst showcase of tackling and tenacity, and you have now a defense which is back at the bottom of the league.

Last night was the worst outing I have ever seen by a Vikings team. And am ashamed and angry that I drove nine hours and spent hard earned money to watch that debacle.

— Kori Benander

I felt like there's a relationship between the answer to the previous question and this one. Jefferson was streaking down the field and Hall was winding up, but the speed with which Preston Smith reached him was faster than the extra tick needed for Jefferson to reach the zone between Packers inside linebackers and safeties.

Screens with Chandler seem like they'd be a way to help quarterbacks and slow down an aggressive blitz by an opponent. Minnesota actually designed one for Mundt, the tight end, off of play-action early in the third quarter, but the 12-yard gain on first-and-15 from the Green Bay 37 was negated because Ingram drifted too far beyond the line of scrimmage before the completed pass.

How soon after the season ends can the Vikings begin talks with their pending free agents about new contracts?

— Brian in Pierre, South Dakota

Teams and players can negotiate deals with their own players to prevent them from reaching free agency at any point, but there's usually a sequence of events that takes place.

The coaching churn across the league occurs. Once the dust settles on that and coaches and coordinators are in place (either remaining from previous seasons or new hires) the roster is evaluated with regard to offensive or defensive systems.

Then, there's usually a prioritized order of operations for re-signing players.

If you have been following this team for any amount of time, you know this next season, WATCH OUT! We will be back. SKOL and Happy New Year!......

— Rick in Stillwater, Oklahoma

Happy New Year (and thanks for the spark). It seems like the odd-year seasons yielded the best results during Zimmer's tenure. O'Connell's had 2022, which resulted in a division title and 13-4 record, with Minnesota reaching that win total for just the third time in franchise history. He's also had the 2023 campaign that has been full of challenges.