The Minnesota Vikings weren’t getting embarrassed on the national stage for a second straight game.
Badly needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, they came out and handily defeated the division rival Green Bay Packers 24-17 to improve to 6-4-1 on the season.
This was an extremely important victory because next week the Vikings travel to New England, where wins don’t come easily.
Here are three things we learned Sunday night.
1. The Vikings get it
Mike Zimmer’s players understood the importance of this game and knew they had to attack with the sense of urgency. They got off to a sloppy start, but as the game progressed, the team got key stops from the defense and put together productive drives on offense.
Minnesota had the look of a squad that knew it needed to win to keep playoff hopes alive. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was coming off of his worst game as a Viking (two interceptions to go with two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 76.5) and he had all eyes on him Sunday night because the Vikings fans wanted to know he would respond. The quarterback bounced back in a big way, completing 29 of 38 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
Helping matters for Cousins was the fact that the Packers’ pass rush is nothing like that of the Bears. Minnesota’s line did a good job of protecting the quarterback, and Cousins held up his end of the deal. He had some of his best throws in the second half with his team needing first downs and points.
2. Defense does still matter
This phase of the game is often overlooked in today’s NFL where teams produce video-game-like scores and rack up record-setting yardage totals. But strong defensive contributions do indeed still have a place in this league.
The Vikings generated good pressure on Aaron Rodgers with defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson leading the way with two sacks. The disruption made it hard for the Packers to get anything going in the final three quarters of the game. Green Bay was a woeful 2-for-10 on third downs and managed only 14 first downs compared to the Vikings’ 22.
Give the Vikings credit for the way that they regrouped after offering little resistance to start the game. After surrendering two early touchdowns to the Packers, Minnesota limited Green Bay to just 23 yards in the second quarter and kept Rodgers and Co. out of the end zone the remainder of the game.\