GREEN BAY — All talk is cheap unless you back it up. The Vikings have never won the Super Bowl. They haven’t won the Championship since 1961. In an early-season critical test between rivals of who would control the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers — 13-time NFL champions with 78,416 fans roaring — sent the Vikings a message on us-them: Packers 21-Vikings 16.
It was a spectacular sun-splashed Sunday with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and many great Packers including Brett Favre on hand to honor the late great Bart Starr in a special halftime ceremony. In the heart of cheese country in the red state of Wisconsin, Packers faithful roared in the smallest city in professional sports, Green Bay.
The Packers improved to 2-0. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw two first-quarter touchdown passes in helping the Packers build a 21-0 first-half lead. He also protected the football with zero interceptions and no fumbles.
The Vikings underestimated the Packers. They won the game’s opening coin toss and deferred until the second half, instead giving the ball to Green Bay. The Packers seized the moment, grabbed the momentum, and established that they were ready to stick it to the Vikings.
And they were physical, knocking the Vikings off the ball. The Packers had better balance, throwing for 209 yards with Rodgers and rushing for 144 yards, led by running back Aaron Jones.
The Vikings were not physical enough defensively; they never touched Rodgers in the first half, missing tackles, no pressure or sacks. Yes, the Vikings shut out the Packers in the second half, but the game was decided in the first half.
Delvin Cook again had a spectacular day. He put the Vikings on the board with a brilliant 75-yard touchdown run. He was unstoppable with 154 yards on 20 carries.
Offensively, quarterback Kirk Cousins played inconsistently. He had three turnovers, a fumble and two interceptions. He never looked comfortable or confident and made critical mistakes. He threw for 230 yards on 14 of 32; his QBR was just 52.9. He missed receivers and had some receivers drop balls.
Late in the second quarter, Stefon Diggs grabbed a touchdown from Cousins that cut Green Bay’s lead to 21-13. It was taken away on a strange reversal by the replay official. On the touchdown, the official claimed that Cook committed pass interference.
It was a bizarre call. I looked hard and never saw the penalty on video. The Vikings were robbed.
Diggs also hurt his team after a spectacular 45-yard touchdown from Cousins, when he showboated by taking his helmet off in the end zone. That’s a violation; the Vikings were penalized 15 yards on the extra point attempt for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Packers then blocked Dan Bailey’s extra point. Bailey also missed a first-half 47-yard field goal. The Vikings had eight penalties for 100 yards, the Packers just six for 35 yards. The Vikings had the ball for just 25 minutes; the Packers had it for 35 minutes. This game was there for the taking.
We can’t put it all on Cousins, but he has to shoulder most of the blame for that horrible interception with a Vikings first and eight at the Packers’ eight-yard line. He threw the ball into coverage with three Packers all over Diggs. DB Kevin King saved the game for the Packers with the interception. Turn out the lights. It’s over, it’s done.
The Packers are now 2-0 with Division wins over the Bears and Vikings. They are in firm early control of the Division. They play four of their next five games at LamBeau Field.
When you lose a big game to a rival as the Vikings did, they have to now check themselves. The Vikings play three of their next five games on the road. Oakland is here Sunday. Good luck.