Packers defense couldn’t stem the tide against Vikings in the second half
GREEN BAY – Jaire Alexander was still rows deep into the south end zone at Lambeau Field, celebrating his first career interception and a likely victory, but nearly 80 yards away Clay Matthews nearly doubled over in exasperation.
The relief, the emotional release, the Packers' defense felt in that moment thinking it had made a final stop of the Minnesota Vikings had to be bottled up again after Matthews’ roughing penalty with less than two minutes left in the game hit reset on a game that ended in a 29-29.
It was like they were trying to catch water from a broken glass.
"It crushed us just knowing that we did a good job out there,” outside linebacker Nick Perry said. “To see it, it just sucks that it happened.”
By the time Alexander untangled himself, he had to regroup as well.
“I was like dang, this is last week all over again,” he said. “I just had to tuck it away and get back on the field. That’s all. It’s not the first time that’s happened. Just get back on the field and try to do it again.”
The problem was they couldn’t.
The Packers had contained Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen for the better part of three quarters in Sunday’s tie — but that water began seeping out as the afternoon wore on.
The Vikings had 154 yards of offense in the first half when they were held to seven points, with Cousins throwing for 132 yards. By the end of the third quarter, while it was 20-7 Packers, the defense was losing its grip.
Diggs scored from three yards out just 43 seconds into the fourth quarter and it was the start of a 22-9 Vikings run that sent the game to overtime. By the end of regulation the Vikings had added 224 yards of offense.
By the end of the game, they ran that total to 480.
“Big plays, big plays, we gotta stop the big plays,” said Packers corner Davon House, noting the 75-yard touchdown from Cousins to Diggs over him at the 7:29 mark of the fourth quarter was one of them. “I’m sure they’re tired too though, you know what I mean? Fatigue was a factor on both sides of the tie.”
The Packers ran two more plays than the Vikings (70-68) and had the ball for longer (34:24 to 25:36), but after Matthews’ roughing penalty extended the game the Vikings ran 22 plays in three full possessions from the final 1:45 of regulation through the overtime period.
“That was probably the most grueling, tiring game I’ve ever played in, in my life,” Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark said. “I was tired as hell. I ain’t gonna lie.”
Of those 22 plays (including the successful two-point conversion), seven were for 10 yards or more and three were for more than 20 yards.
And after the penalty on Matthews, the Packers didn’t bring down Cousins once.
“It’s a disappointment to me,” Packers linebacker Reggie Gilbert said. “I feel like we had a few things, a few moments to win in that game and we didn’t do it. It’s disappointing. We haven’t looked at the film as a defense yet so I couldn’t really speak on (how the Vikings moved the ball) but we just gotta do better as a defense, so whatever that may be, whatever things we messed up on, we’ll make sure we get that tuned up (Monday).”
In the end, it’s not a loss — the last time the Packers tied the Vikings it set them up for a division title in 2013 — but the Packers know there will be plenty to draw from in the coming week.
“For the most part, we did well,” Matthews said. “We just didn’t close it out. We had ‘em at bay for some time. It’s just that that fourth quarter got away from us.”