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Vikings-Packers Notebook: Aggression, Defensive Heroics

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Vikings took a deep shot on their third play of the game and implemented trickery on their sixth snap.

The first was an incompletion, the second was a 41-yard rush by Adam Thielen on a fake punt. The drive stalled thereafter, but it allowed Minnesota to put points on the board on its first drive.

The Vikings never trailed, although, they did have to hang on tight with huge defensive plays down the stretch. The early aggression also helped establish a tone that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer wanted his team to play with as it pursued its first division title since 2009.

"We didn't come here to finish second," Zimmer said. "Let loose, take our swings, and if we get knocked out, we get knocked out."

The Vikings (11-5) defeated the Packers (10-6) at Lambeau Field for the first time since 2009.

"I think you have to have the mentality to play to win. We've got to play these games to win," said linebacker Riley Reiff, who is one of three Vikings that was a member of the 2009 squad. "There's no point in coming in and trying to win the division if you're going to wish you had done something. I think you credit coach for having the [courage] to call it in this situation, in the first drive of the game and knowing that points early is critical."

Thielen said: "Coaches put me in a good position, we got the perfect look we wanted, and the guys up front did a great job blocking. I didn't have to do a whole lot – just run."

"When you play for a coach like that that's aggressive and wants to win a game as much as he does, it makes it easier for us players to make sure that first of all we do our job and make it work, because he won't do it again if we don't make it work," Thielen said. "So, make it work and try to do the best we can."

Thielen added a 26-yard rush on a jet sweep to set up NFL rushing champ (1,485 yards) Adrian Peterson's 11th touchdown of the season.

Defensive score: For the second time in as many weeks, the Vikings appeared on Sunday Night Football and the defense found the end zone. Everson Griffen forced a fumble by Aaron Rodgers that was recovered and returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Mackensie Alexander.

The week before, in a 49-17 blowout over the Giants, Harrison Smith returned an interception for a touchdown, and Munnerlyn nearly did the same. This time, however, the nickel back had enough juice — and blocks — to get into the end zone and provide the points that proved to be the decisive margin.

"Those guys had just had an interception, so they were taking the momentum back," Munnerlyn said. "Defensively, we knew we had to go out there and make a stop, and we got it.

"If you look at the past couple weeks, we've been playing outstanding on defense, and that's what's been getting us over the top," Munnerlyn added. "It's definitely been team wins, and at the same time we've been playing 'lights-out' on defense. I'm always a firm believer that defense wins championships. If you stop the opponents from scoring, you can get to the big dance and win a championship."

Double-digit vision:Griffen's sack fumble, and another takedown of Rodgers gave him 10.5 for the season, which is tied for 12th-most in the NFL. It gave Griffen 22.5 over the course of the past two seasons.

The Vikings sacked Rodgers a total of five times, including 1.0 each by Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr and a sack that was shared by Harrison Smith and Tom Johnson. Griffen was credited with four quarterback hits, and Johnson was credited with three of the Vikings 11.

Most makes in NFL: Vikings kicker Kevin McDermott scored the first six points, connecting on field goals of 39 and 32 yards. He added two extra points for eight total to end the regular season with 135 points (fourth-most in the league). Walsh also finished with 34 field goals, which led the NFL and was one shy of his franchise-tying mark of 35 as a rookie that led the NFL in 2012.

"It's kind of cool," Walsh said. "It shows our offense is moving the ball."

Third down and red zone defense: The Vikings limited the Packers to 2-for-15 on third-down conversions (13 percent) and 1-for-4 when Green Bay drove inside the Minnesota 20-yard line.

ICYMI: The Vikings claiming of the NFC North title finalized all of the opponents Minnesota will face for the 2016 NFL season.

Non-playoff teams know their selection order for the first 20 slots of the 2016 NFL Draft.

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