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Action Reaction: Vikings Bounce Back, Use Pivotal 3rd Q vs. Packers

The visiting teams in each of the Border Battles of 2020 were able to play the games on their terms.

Minnesota upset Green Bay 28-22 on Sunday at Lambeau Field, avenging an opening season loss to the Packers and snap a three-game skid in the rivalry series.

The Vikings improved to 2-5, and the Packers fell to 5-2.

Pre-game questions: Could the Vikings bounce back from a disappointing effort against the Falcons in Week 6? Would Dalvin Cook be at full-strength in his return from a Week 5 groin injury? What role would severe winds play in the game?

In-game action:

The Vikings defense opened with a rocky start, allowing touchdown drives of 13 and 15 plays by the Packers.

Minnesota's defense, however, was buoyed by an offense that answered with touchdown drives of 10 plays and 12 plays to knot the score at 7 with 47 seconds left in the first quarter and 14 with 31 seconds remaining in the first half.

That latter factor was key, because of the way that the Vikings plodded down the field and only left less than a minute on the clock for Aaron Rodgers' third possession of the game.

In Week 1, Rodgers had burned the Vikings for a pair of touchdowns in the final 39 seconds of the first half for a 15-point lead at intermission. On a Sunday with 25 mph winds and stronger gusts, however, Green Bay simply opted for an 8-yard run before heading into the locker room.

Both teams took a conservative approach in the passing game, with Vikings QB Kirk Cousins going 7-for-8 with 75 yards in the first half and Rodgers completing 11 of 12 passes for 78 yards.

Minnesota opened the second half with a 37-yard run by Dalvin Cook, converted a third-and-8 with a 16-yard pass to Chad Beebe and capitalized on a pair of pass interference penalties by Green Bay that extended the opening possession on two third-and-6s.

Cook, who was full-throttle, punched in his third touchdown of the day two plays after the second penalty.

Harrison Smith recorded a pass breakup in the end zone to stop the ensuing drive on a fourth-and-10 from Minnesota's 37, rather than Green Bay attempting a 55-yard field goal.

Packers kicker Mason Crosby had been dealing with an injury and only attempted extra points on Sunday.

Minnesota built on its momentum with a 50-yard touchdown on a screen pass to Cook. The running back capitalized on key downfield blocks by Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland and Brian O'Neill, then dazzled in the open field.

Cook became just the third player in Vikings history with four total touchdowns in a game, joining Chuck Foreman and Ahmad Rashad on his way to 226 scrimmage yards.

The 14-point lead with 5:52 remaining in the third quarter proved to be enough on a day that was tough to rely on deep passes, despite injuries to the Vikings and late-game theatrics that had Head Coach Mike Zimmer wanting a bottle of Just for Men.

Postgame reaction:

"I think I've got to get some of that, what's that hair for men stuff called to get the gray hairs back out? It was very, very hectic on the sideline today. We had a rookie run out there, and he wasn't supposed to be out there and had to get off the field, so we got a penalty on that. We had corners that were gone, hurt. We had to play with a nickel back that wasn't there. Try to manufacture all those things and get the calls they could execute, as well. But there's so many things I see during the game: Rodgers scrambling around and the corners underneath the receiver and he's staring at Rodgers instead of getting underneath the receiver, you know, so many things hopefully we can teach off of this tape and be better for it in the future."

— Zimmer

"We had a lot of rookies out there today on defense. They played very hard. They didn't always play well, but they played hard and they made some mistakes and hopefully we can correct those tomorrow."

— Zimmer on playing through rookie mistakes

"We had guys that shuffled in. It was almost like a revolving door. There were different people in at different times. We just had to communicate and see who's where and act calm. Let plays that happened happen and then get back to it."

— Kendricks on sustaining injuries

"We had a few stops. We had a fourth down stop. Differently? We had a similar game plan but the stakes kind of change when our offense scores and they stop scoring. It gets kind of one sided and forces them to throw the ball a little bit more and gets more in the defenses favor so we can start dialing things up."

— Kendricks on seizing momentum

"It's been the opposite for us all year. In the first game of the year, they came out and controlled the time of possession by more than 20 minutes I think. So it was the opposite for us. Just us going out there and matching score for score at the beginning was an ideal situation for us going into the halftime. That was big. But that time of possession and keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field as much as we can, that was big. The running game was big today."

— Cook on playing the game on the Vikings terms

"It was a third down, so if we don't get the first down we're punting there. Not only do we get the first down, but he takes it all the way to the house. That's just ability. It's a talented player showing what he can do. Great job by our offensive line. They got two really good cut blocks right after Dalvin caught the ball that sprung him, and then great blocking down the field for him to be able to do that and run away from the defense. Huge play in the game."

— Cousins on the 50-yard touchdown on the screen pass

"The wind was kind of the story of the day from warmups on, just trying to manage it and understand it. It was coming in from one end zone, you could see the flags at the top of the stadium, but then when you're on the field, it was actually swirling and flipping, so the way we were going in the fourth quarter was actually the challenge, and the way we were going in the third quarter was the preferred way to be going, but it was actually the opposite of the flags at the top of the stadium, so you were just kind of always paying attention to it and being aware of it, and usually you just trust your instinct when you're playing with the wind, and it was a challenge today, especially then when you add the temperature.

"Our guys do a great job. Dennis [Ryan], Aaron [Neumann], Adam [Groene], and Terrell [Barnes], they're on top of it. They take pride in it. They've got the longer-length cleats for us every time we come here because this grass can be a little different, you can slip a little bit. They know all the ins and outs, they've been doing it a long time, and I trust what they say."

— Cousins, who credited the Vikings equipment staff for their help in understanding and dealing with the windy conditions