GREEN BAY, Wis. – That was a wild, weird and controversial edition of a historic rivalry.
There is a lot to unpack from the Vikings’ 21-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
The long list includes the Vikings’ horrendous start, Stefon Diggs’ overturned TD, a million penalties, OPIs galore, Dalvin Cook’s brilliance, the defense’s 180 and Kirk Cousins’ turnovers.
Cousins’ mistakes were killer, especially his final interception in the end zone with the Vikings in position to take the lead late in the fourth quarter.
Throwing into double coverage on first down was either a panicky or overly daring move that shouldn’t happen with a veteran quarterback in that critical situation.
Here are other key decisions that created an eventful game:
Scenario 1: Green Bay’s game plan early
Decision: Aaron Rodgers used play-action on the first play of the game to hit a wide-open Davante Adams for a 39-yard catch.
Reaction: Xavier Rhodes had coverage on Adams but released him so not sure if this was busted coverage/miscommunication or what. But it was the start of Rodgers’ masterful first half in which he exploited the Vikings’ thin secondary in building a 21-0 lead.
The Vikings were without nickel corner Mackensie Alexander and Mike Hughes, forcing Jayron Kearse to start at slot/nickel. Kearse gave too much cushion on a 21-yard completion to Adams on the second possession, which caused Mike Zimmer to insert Nate Meadors at nickel. Rodgers promptly went at him on a 12-yard TD catch by Geronimo Allison.
Rodgers completed eight of his first nine passes (the lone incompletion was a throwaway) for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
Scenario 2: Dalvin Cook’s 75-yard TD run
Decision: Down 21-0, Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski didn’t panic and start throwing the ball every down. Yes, the game was still early and the line was having problems protecting Kirk Cousins. But Stefanski wisely put the ball in Cook’s hands.
Cook eluded two tackles on a run up the middle that resulted in a 75-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 21-7 and breathe life into his sideline.
Reaction: Cook is a game changer, capable of scoring any time he touches the ball. With Cousins struggling, the Vikings had to stick with the game plan despite falling into a deep hole.
Scenario 3: Cousins INT
Decision: Late in the first half, with the Vikings gaining some momentum, Cousins forced a throw to Diggs in the middle of the field with four Packers defenders around him. Four! The ball was deflected and then intercepted by linebacker Preston Smith, giving the Packers the ball back around midfield.
Reaction: That can’t happen. Period. Bad decision by Cousins.
Scenario 4: The Packers were in position to capitalize on Cousins’ mistake with third-and-1 from the Vikings’ 25. Rodgers completed a pass to Allison, but Kearse and Harrison Smith tackled him at the line for no gain.
Decision: Rodgers rushed the offense to the line and did a quick handoff to Jamaal Williams, who was hit by Linval Joseph behind the line for a 2-yard loss. Rodgers complained to referee John Hussey as he ran off the field.
Reaction: I assume that Rodgers either thought Allison had gotten a first down on his catch, or that he knew it was close and wanted to beat a review. Presumably, the Packers would have kicked a field goal in that situation if they had known it was fourth down.
Whatever happened, it was a bad mistake because the Vikings used it to get late points right before halftime.
Scenario 5: Cook’s OPI
Decision: Stefon Diggs scored on a 3-yard TD catch at the end of the first half, but it was overturned when a booth review signaled Cook for pass interference at the goal line.
That pushed the Vikings back 10 yards and they settled for a field goal, cutting the halftime deficit to 21-10.
Reaction: Two thoughts: 1) I honestly didn’t know a PI could be called on a booth review in that situation; 2) I don’t agree with the call.
My colleague Mark Craig is the pool reporter and will get explanation from referee John Hussey after the game on the penalty.
Scenario 6: Diggs’ celebration penalty
Decision: Diggs caught a 45-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter on a beautifully thrown pass by Cousins. One problem. Diggs took his helmet off to celebrate. The penalty moved the extra point back, and Dan Bailey’s kick was blocked, putting the score at 21-16.
Reaction: I hate the rule, but it is a rule.
Scenario 7: Cousins’ INT
Decision: With the Vikings at the Green Bay 8 on first down, Cousins scrambled to his right and floated a pass to Diggs into double coverage in the corner of the end zone. Packers cornerback Kevin King made a leaping interception with 5:10 remaining.
Reaction: Another poor decision by Cousins.