Almost one month ago this Minnesota Vikings team was all but counted out of the playoff hunt. The Vikings had just left Lambeau Field, licking their wounds after a 23-14 loss. QB Christian Ponder put the loss on his shoulders, after a dismal showing and Head Coach Leslie Frazier said every game after that would have to be treated like a playoff game.
And the Vikings were ready. They went on to win their next four games; home against the Bears, at the Rams, at the Texans and home against the Packers, to sneak into the playoffs, nabbing that last wildcard spot.
“Just a great job by our football team,” Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said moments after the game. “I’m so proud of our guys. A complete team effort all the way across against a very good football team. For our guys to be as resilient as they were throughout this ballgame…our fans were terrific throughout this game. It’s the first time in a long time I felt like, playing against Green Bay and being at home, we truly had home-field advantage because our fans were loud, they made it hard for their team to really function at times, and we needed that. I’m very, very grateful to our fans that really had an impact on this ballgame at Mall of America Field.”
The Vikings 37-34 win over the Packers had every aspect of a big-game matchup. With Adrian Peterson needing 208 yards to beat Eric Dickerson’s all-time NFL rushing record and the Packers having a first-round bye on the line, Mall of America Field was rocking. Peterson, who ended the day with 199 yards and two touchdowns, came within eight yards of Dickerson’s record, but Peterson was more than adamant that it was about a team win and playoff berth, rather than a record.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling inside,” said Peterson. “It is what it is. It wasn’t meant to happen, but ultimately we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs.”
With Peterson’s great day, Ponder also had one of his best games of the season managing the ball. He ended the day 16 of 28, with 234 yards and three touchdowns and a 120 QBR. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings had a tough day stopping Rodgers, who finished 28 of 40, with 365 yards and four touchdowns, but they came out with big stops at important moments. The defense stopped Green Bay on their first three possessions, allowing the Vikings to step out to an early 13-0 lead. The Vikings were able to get sack Rodgers five times with Everson Griffen registering three, Jared Allen with one and Brian Robison with one.
After a 3-13 season in 2011, not many would have put money on a 2012 playoff spot. The Vikings fought the last four games of the season to grab the final wildcard spot. They will, ironically enough, head to Lambeau Field to play the Packers next Saturday night.