MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings defense forced three fumbles and recorded 3.0 sacks and an interception of Aaron Rodgers, who had thrown just two picks through the first 14 games.
But it didn't matter in the end, because Minnesota couldn't put points on the board, and the Vikings gave up enough plays to Rodgers and Co. to suffer their first loss at U.S. Bank Stadium this season.
The Packers won the game – and the NFC North – with a final score of 23-10 on Monday Night Football.
Vikings defensive lineman Ifeadi Odenigbo celebrated his third-quarter sack of Rodgers with his signature "sword plant," but he didn't revel in the takedown after the game.
"It was cool to hit Rodgers, but we couldn't get the win. That's the most important thing," Odenigbo said. "It's a team sport, so it doesn't matter what I do. If it doesn't show a W on it, [it doesn't matter]; if I had zero stats but it showed a W, that's a win in my book."
Minnesota's defense dominated early and throughout much of the first half.
Anthony Barr forced a fumble by Packers running back Aaron Jones that was recovered by Eric Kendricks and returned to the 10-yard line to set up a Dan Bailey field goal.
On Green Bay's next drive, Minnesota forced a punt; on the next, the Packers settled for a field goal.
And on the Packers fourth possession of the night, Vikings safety Anthony Harris picked off Rodgers to bring his season interception total to six. The turnover set up the Vikings at the Green Bay 26, and three plays later, Kirk Cousins connected with Stefon Diggs for a 21-yard touchdown.
The score marked Minnesota's lone trip to the end zone.
"I'm just going to play, really. Just trying to take the coaching that I'm getting, putting in the work during the week, just trying to be in the right spot and just try to execute," Harris said. "Being in the right position and finishing the play with a pass breakup or interception. Just being aggressive, attacking.
"I mean, that's the entire team's mindset on defense," Harris added. "Everybody's just flying to the ball – you see it with the guys today, punching at the ball."
Later in the evening, safety Harrison Smith – who recently was named to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl – forced a fumble by Packers receiver Davante Adams. The ball was again recovered by Kendricks, but he unfortunately suffered a quad injury on the play and was sidelined for the remainder of the night.
"We'll see," Kendricks said postgame when asked about the extent of his injury. "It's early, so we'll see as the week goes on."
Kendricks was replaced at Mike linebacker by Eric Wilson, who has been filling in at Will for an injured Ben Gedeon in Minnesota's base defense.
"It's not my usual spot, but I think for what it was, I think I did a good job," Wilson said. "There's a couple plays I need to do a lot better on, but overall, I think I was just finding the ball."
He said it hurt to lose Kendricks.
"He's a great player. He's the leader of our defense, and he makes plays everywhere," Wilson said. "We'll see if we get him back next week. Hopefully we do."
The Vikings also lost linebacker Anthony Barr late in the game; at that point, Kentrell Brothers came in, and Wilson took over Barr's job of relaying calls for the defense. He explained that he had to swap out helmets for his with the speaker system inside.
"I don't think that was an issue, getting in the calls, even when AB went out for a couple plays," Wilson said. "I had to get the plays, but that wasn't an issue."
Jones was able to get to the outside and break free for a 56-yard touchdown run on the next play; Harris wasn't sure without watching the film exactly what went wrong.
"Everything's going fast, a lot of bodies around," Harris said. "He was able to spring free for a long touchdown, which was obviously not what we want to do and the identity we want to have."
Jones finished the night with 154 rushing yards and two scores on 23 carries; fellow back Jamaal Williams added 33 yards on six attempts.
The Vikings also were hurt by Packers receiver Davante Adams, who racked up 13 catches for 116 yards. Rodgers' numbers were pedestrian, finishing the evening 26-of-40 for 216 yards and an interception with a passer rating of 68.3.
"I feel like we did a decent job in the first half; we just have to know what their plan of attack is and to execute better," Kendricks said.
Unfortunately, the Vikings defense wasn't complemented by their offense in either half. The unit struggled to turn Minnesota’s takeaways into points, and the Vikings went three-and-punt five times. On two other occasions, they went four-and-out.
When all was said and done, Minnesota's defense was on the field for 37:32.
Harris won't use fatigue as an excuse, though.
"When we're on the field, it's about performing well, performing at a high level," Harris said. "So regardless of the amount of time on the field, our goal is to go out there and execute and try to get off the field [by giving] the ball back to the offense."
Is there an immediate takeaway from Monday night's loss before reviewing the tape?
"Obviously emotionally, just staying together," Harris said. "Continue to believe in one another, continue to believe in yourself, and then just getting ready to work. Coming back, getting your body ready to go, getting on the film, looking to see where you can improve. But the most part is just keeping the right mindset."
Several players emphasized the importance of moving on from the tough outing and turning the page to Week 17, when the Vikings will host the Bears in the regular-season finale.
But Kendricks said there's also value in experiencing the sour taste.
"Honestly, I think today and tomorrow, we should let it sting a little bit. We've gotta let it sting," he said. "We've gotta know what we did wrong – watch the film, make corrections, things like that, but we should definitely let it sting.
"And then we should let it go after 24 hours or so and get back to work," Kendricks continued. "We're blessed to be able to play again. We've worked hard all season, and we've put ourselves in this position, but we've gotta play better in these games, for sure."