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Vikings Defense Shows Up in Crunch Time vs. Packers

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —When the Vikings arrived at Winter Park in May for offseason workouts, one specific area the defense wanted to address was its performance in crunch time.

Months of hard work and focus came to fruition Sunday night, as Minnesota kept Green Bay off the scoreboard late in each half to come away with a 17-14 win.

"That was one of our points of emphasis this year," said linebacker Anthony Barr. "Two-minute situations, end-of-game situations … we needed to be stronger and play better at the end of games. We were able to do that."

The Vikings struggled at times in two-minute situations in 2015. The Vikings defense allowed points in the final two minutes in 13 of their 16 regular season games last season and in 15 out of 32 halves played. (Minnesota also intentionally took a safety late in a win at Detroit).

In all, the Vikings surrendered a total of 90 points (including the safety) during those time spans. That includes a pair of game-winning field goals in losses at Denver and Arizona, plus a game-tying field goal by the Rams in a game the Vikings eventually won in overtime. 

Against Green Bay on Sunday night, the Vikings led by a field goal with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half.

Instead of allowing the Packers a chance to get in field goal range, Minnesota clamped down and went into the half with a three-point lead.

The Vikings also held firm late in the fourth quarter, protecting a three-point cushion. The Packers ran just two plays in the game's final two minutes, an incompletion and a third-down pass that was picked off by Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes.

The week before, however, Tennessee scored a touchdown with 47 seconds left in the first half and another six-pointer with 32 seconds remaining.

Minnesota cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said Waynes' clutch moment against Green Bay highlighted an effort from a defense that is determined to limit scoring opportunities late in each half.

"We just try to go out there and compete at a very high level," Munnerlyn said. "Go out there and get your hand on some passes, and Trae came away with the big interception. It was like, 'Wow.'

"That shows you all the hard work we put in at practice, in training camp and going forward," he added. "We know we still have a lot of work to do, and we're ready for it."

The Vikings will face another tough test this week in the Panthers, a team that is highly capable of scoring late in a half. Carolina has scored in the last two minutes of a half in 13 of its past 18 regular-season games for a total of 76 points.

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