MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings have built themselves into playoff contenders on a nearly annual basis during Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's five seasons in Minnesota, mainly on the back of a defense that constantly harasses and annoys opposing quarterbacks.
The performance by the Vikings defense on national television on Sunday night might have been one of the best to date under the Vikings Head Coach, especially considering who was on the other side.
The Vikings secured a 24-17 win over the Packers, limiting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his offense to just 254 total yards — the lowest output by Green Bay against Minnesota when Rodgers has played the entire game since Zimmer took over in 2014.
The Packers had averaged more than 330 yards per game in the seven full games Rodgers had played against Zimmer and the Vikings defense in recent years.
"He can make plays, so we knew we had to get to him," Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said of Rodgers. "Much respect to him, it was a big win for the defense."
Zimmer said Minnesota's defense switched things up on the future Hall of Fame quarterback who has a Super Bowl ring and is a two-time NFL MVP. Rodgers had 198 yards passing on 28 attempts.
"We gave him a few new looks, yeah," Zimmer said. "Somebody asked me this week if we could have some new looks. But we did."
While most of the players in Zimmer's scheme have played against Rodgers for a few years, Richardson is in his first season with the Vikings. But the jovial and quick-witted defensive tackle might have had the biggest impact on keeping Rodgers at bay on Sunday night.
Richardson finished with a pair of sacks — his first multi-sack performance since a three-sack game for the Jets, against the Vikings of all teams, in 2014.
"Sheldon's played well all year long," Zimmer said. "I don't know all the sacks because I'm usually watching coverage, but I know one of the sacks was a game we had and he came around the outside and got it. I don't remember the other one.
"But Sheldon's done a great job of coming in here and kind of fitting into our culture and the way we do things," Zimmer added. "It's a credit to him and the way that [Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson is] coaching him."
Added Richardson: "It felt good, it felt real good. Honestly, it just feels good that we won."
Everson Griffen and Tom Johnson also had sacks on Rodgers, but it was another one of Minnesota's defensive linemen that stood tall against Green Bay.
The Packers rushed for just 82 yards against the Vikings and were stuffed on a handful on third- and fourth-and-short plays as Pro Bowl defensive tackle Linval Joseph made his presence felt.
"Just like Coach Zimmer preached … change the line of scrimmage," Joseph said. "Get your pads down low and change the line of scrimmage and do your job."
Vikings safety Harrison Smith had a big tackle on fourth-and-1 midway through the third quarter as he stopped Packers running back Aaron Jones for no gain at the Packers 44-yard line.
"It was big for the team and a lot of us were in on it," Smith said. "It was kind of a turnover. We knew we would get three points off of it."
The teams were tied at 14 at the time of Smith's clutch play, and Minnesota added a field goal on the ensuing possession.
The Vikings didn't relinquish the lead, holding the Packers offense to just two conversions on 10 third-down tries on the night.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Packers under the lights for Sunday Night Football at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Rodgers, who didn't have a rushing attempt, completed just one of five third-down passes for 36 yards and was sacked three times on third downs.
"We just had to get pressure up the middle and keep our ends on the outside," said Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. "It was the game plan to keep him contained in the pocket because he's a guy that can make plays with his legs."
Added Richardson: "We always smell blood in the water. We don't go out there and think that we're not going to get the quarterback. That's a mindset we usually carry with us."
The Vikings are now at 6-4-1 heading into a Week 13 road matchup against New England.
They vanquished one of the game's best quarterbacks on Sunday night, but now have to prepare for another in Tom Brady this time around.
"It's a good win. We knocked off a good quarterback this week, but next week is [already] up," Richardson said. "Playoff-mentality for me and the team, that's what we need to carry."