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Plenty of Questions Exist as Race for Playoffs Approaches

The Vikings enter Week 12 with a 7-3 mark and an upcoming trip to Atlanta (6-4) in a contest that will be important to the NFC Playoffs race.

Greg Bishop of Sports Illustrated writes that Minnesota's loss to Green Bay (7-3) on Sunday raised more questions about both NFC North teams:

*The Vikings had entered a pivotal NFC North contest earlier Sunday morning against the Packers, and Minnesota was ahead by a game, at home, their season full of promise, ready to assume the mantel of new division king. *

*They exited in a tie for first place after the Packers' resounding 30–13 victory, and while no one in the locker room appeared shattered, it also seemed clear that the Vikings knew what this loss meant. They knew, for instance, that it put the Packers back in control of the division race, with an early tiebreaker and a far less daunting schedule over the season's final six weeks. They knew, also, that their five-game winning streak appeared that much less impressive, because it came against teams with records no better than 5–5. *

"We've got to find ways to win tough football games," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We've done that."

Welcome to the NFL in 2015, in this strange season, where the Patriots are undefeated and the Panthers are undefeated, and where the Bengals and Cardinals look capable of contending, and where every other team looks seriously flawed. That includes the Packers, who on Sunday had an 18-yard punt and yielded a 47-yard touchdown pass and were outgained by the Vikings … and still managed to win, and not by a small margin, but by a deceivingly large one.

Shared responsibility

The Vikings did a good job of playing complementary football during their five-game winning streak, but suffered from collective lapses in all three phases (offense, defense and special teams) on Sunday.

Ben Goessling of writes that Adrian Peterson recommends that the Vikings "take a comprehensive look at what they can do better" in the final six games of the season.

"I think it's from the top to the bottom," Peterson said. "It's from the coaches on both sides and the players, as well. No matter what position we were in, we had calls, and we didn't execute on a lot of plays. It came back to hurt us. But it's the coaches' job to put us in the best position, as well."

Peterson later said he wasn't referring to a specific element of the Vikings' game plan but felt like a loss such as Sunday's warranted a thorough review of what everyone could have done better.

Protection during completion

Mark Craig of the Star Tribune noted in his Five Extra Points that Peterson "might have had his best day as a pass protector" and made a key blitz pickup on Teddy Bridgewater's 47-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph. Craig wrote:

*Teddy Bridgewater's 47-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph in the first quarter would have likely been a sack or a throwaway if Peterson hadn't picked up a free blitzer – linebacker Nate Palmer – up the middle. Peterson also picked up linebacker Clay Matthews on Bridgewater's 17-yard strike to Stefon Diggs during a touchdown drive. *

"I don't think it was my best [pass protection]," Peterson said. "But when those opportunities present themselves, I just do my job and try to get it done. I was able to do that on my opportunities."

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