EditorsNote: updates with Easton broke ankle in NOTES
Vikings stop Packers cold 16-0
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Minnesota Vikings’ defense has dominated most opponents this season.
It dominated the shorthanded Green Bay Packers on Saturday night.
The Packers, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers on injured reserve, receiver Davante Adams inactive and receiver Jordy Nelson lost for the second half, simply lacked the horses to challenge the Vikings.
Minnesota won for the 10th time in 11 games by knocking off the rival Packers 16-0 in a game played in sub-10 degree temperatures.
For the fourth time in their last six games, the Vikings (12-3) allowed fewer than 10 points. It was their first shutout victory since 1993. Harrison Smith’s second interception of the night preserved the achievement.
“It’s about winning the ballgame but for us to get a shutout going into the last week of the season is huge,” defensive end Brian Robison said.
Green Bay (7-8) was blanked for the second time this season, also losing at home to Baltimore 23-0 on Nov. 19.
Brett Hundley, making his eighth start for Rodgers, was ineffective, going 17 of 40 for 130 yards and two interceptions. He wasn’t helped by a handful of drops, a makeshift offensive line and the lack of two of the team’s top weapons.
“We didn’t play well enough tonight to win the game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We didn’t score any points on offense. We had opportunities. I don’t know, six, seven drops. You’ve got to handle the football. They handled the ball better than we did.”
Case Keenum threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs, and running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 111 rushing yards for Minnesota.
Green Bay trailed 10-0 midway through the third quarter when it faced a fourth-and-7 from the Vikings’ 36-yard line. Without Adams, who ranks second in the NFL with 10 touchdown catches but was out with a concussion suffered last week, and Nelson, who exited late in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, Hundley threw the ball to Michael Clark.
Clark, an undrafted free agent, recently was promoted from the practice squad. A former college basketball player, he played one year of football at Marshall. The ball sailed over Clark’s head.
The Vikings tacked on a 20-yard field goal by Kai Forbath on the ensuing possession to extend the lead to 13-0. The key play on the drive came when Keenum ran toward the line of scrimmage, backpedaled and threw a short pass to tight end David Morgan, who broke three tackles for a gain of 23.
On fourth-and-4 from the Vikings’ 14 early in the fourth quarter, Hundley threw a back-shoulder pass to Clark in the end zone but Xavier Rhodes was in position to prevent the touchdown. Late in the fourth quarter, on fourth-and-10, Hundley went deep to Clark but was incomplete against cornerback Trae Waynes. The Packers pleaded for interference but the only flag was for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing the non-call.
Set up with a short field, Forbath booted a 27-yard field goal to make it 16-0 with 2:56 remaining.
Smith’s second interception, on fourth-and-1, put the game away.
“I’m not sure we played our best game tonight,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We left some things out there offensively. Green Bay, for having some guys out, I thought they played well defensively. It was good to be able to come in here and get a win.”
The Vikings struck first, taking their opening possession and getting a 49-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.
Minnesota’s defense forced back-to-back three-and-out punts from Green Bay. After the second, Minnesota extended its lead to 10-0.
Three consecutive runs totaling 23 yards by Murray set up a play-action pass to Diggs. Diggs got behind cornerback Josh Hawkins and drew an interference penalty for a gain of 39 to the 6-yard line. One play later, Case Keenum lofted a pass to Diggs in the back of the end zone, with Diggs getting both feet down for the touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
Green Bay got past midfield only once in the first half. On third-and-3 from the Vikings’ 15, quarterback Brett Hundley had tight end Lance Kendricks immediately open but waited too long, which allowed safety Harrison Smith to get under the route for an interception.
In home games, Hundley finished with zero touchdown passes, seven interceptions and a 50.6 passer rating compared to eight touchdowns, three interceptions and 97.6 passer rating in road games. All three of the road interceptions came at Minnesota, when Hundley played the final three-plus quarters after starter Rodgers had suffered a broken collarbone.
“It’s so frustrating just because of the fact that I know what I can do,” Hundley said. “I know what my expectations of myself are. They’re higher than anybody who is watching TV at this moment (or) any coach. I’m putting in the work, I’m doing what I have to do. But to go out there and not be consistent and (not) give our team an opportunity to win each game, that hurts.”
NOTES: The Packers had five starters among their inactives: RG Jahri Evans (knee), WR Davante Adams (concussion), OLBs Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder), and CB Damarious Randall (knee). Evans had played every snap this season. ... On the first play from scrimmage, the Packers lost their other right-side offensive line starter when RT Jason Spriggs sustained a left knee injury and missed the rest of the game. Plus, RB Aaron Jones (knee) and TE Richard Rodgers (shoulder) dropped out. ... Vikings LG Nick Easton suffered a season-ending broken ankle in the first quarter. ... Packers QB Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone during the Week 6 game at Minnesota when he was tackled by LB Anthony Barr. Barr was booed when he made his first tackle of Saturday’s game.