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Xavier Rhodes Stood Tall Against Aaron Rodgers, Packers

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Xavier Rhodes had a hunch to what the Packers were going to do on their final offensive drive Sunday night.

With less than 30 seconds left in the game, Rhodes noticed a quick pass into the flat for Green Bay tight end Richard Rodgers.

Rhodes immediately pounced on Rodgers, keeping him in bounds near the sideline on third down, allowing the seconds to continue ticking away.

"I expected their guys to try to get out of bounds and stop the clock," he said. "I expected someone to go outside and get a quick out route.

"I went with my gut feeling."

Although Green Bay was able to get one final play off, Rhodes stood tall once again as he defended Aaron Rodgers' last-second Hail Mary attempt.

The end result? A 20-13 Minnesota win and the NFC North championship.

"I just jumped up to try to make a play on the ball," Rhodes said.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer credited his defense for knowing it was fourth down and there was no time left on the clock.

"That was one of the most impressive things, to me, of the night," Zimmer said. "As soon as the play before was over … they took off and went back to the end zone. They knew it was the last play."

Added Rhodes: "You realize the receivers are running down the field so you have to run and look for the ball and play the ball." 

As he recalled the emotional win Monday morning, Rhodes also had a laugh when talking about one of his other big plays.

After intercepting Rodgers in the end zone in the fourth quarter, Rhodes attempted to try for a return but was tackled by teammate Anthony Barr, a linebacker.

Rhodes said it was Barr and not himself who made the right decision.

"He was pretty smart for doing that," Rhodes said. "I still was trying to run and he pushed me down, too. I thought about it, and he did good on that one."

Impactful loss: Vikings tight end Nick Easton will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered in Sunday night's win.

The loss of Ellison was felt by players and coaches alike.

"Rhett is a guy who does an awful lot of things," Zimmer said. "He helps in protection, he helps in blocking and the running game. He's done a good job with really everything."

Ellison has 11 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown this season but is revered by his teammates for his hard style of play and gritty attitude.

"He's a heck of a player and a great leader," Thielen said. "He does the dirty work that nobody else can do. He's a tough guy to replace but we'll do our best."

A chance for payback: Sunday's noon (CT) playoff game will be a rematch of Week 13, a contest in which the Vikings fell 38-7 to Seattle at TCF Bank Stadium.

Zimmer said his team will undoubtedly watch film from the loss, but Thielen said a chance at revenge will also be a mental component as well.

"We just need to bring a totally different mindset," Thielen said. "We have to come out and make sure we play our best football."

Zimmer said the Vikings, who finished the regular season on a three-game win streak, have found their identity of late.

"I think they've just figured out how to play," Zimmer said. "We haven't earned anything, really. We have to go out and take it."

Victory Monday: Zimmer gave players Monday off, as well as their normal Tuesday. Vikings players will return to Winter Park on Wednesday.

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