1. Upon further review, uh, what happened?
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was asked what in the world the officials were reviewing with 1:17 left in regulation. “That was my question to them,” Frazier said. Packers QB Matt Flynn threw an incompletion on third-and-6 from the Vikings 40. But as the Packers were going for it on fourth down, the officials stopped the action to announce that the previous play was under review. No public explanation was given. The official game book said the “Replay Assistant challenged the fumble ruling.” Frazier said the official told him they were looking to see if Flynn’s arm was moving forward. But it wasn’t ruled a fumble and no one recovered during the course of the play anyway. “I don’t think I’ve ever, ever seen it,” Frazier said. “The play clock was down to two seconds. Then [the officials] run in and stop it. That’s a clutch situation. I don’t know how that happened. I’m puzzled by that. Really puzzled. I’m at a loss.”
2. Did Cole create a middle linebacker controversy?
Audie Cole certainly didn’t play like a guy who had been released just 17 days earlier to make room for a third offensive tackle. Nor did he play like a man making his first NFL start. The seventh-round draft pick from 2012 played more like a guy who deserves another start at middle linebacker. Stepping in for Erin Henderson, who was out because of personal reasons, Cole had 13 tackles, a sack on the game’s opening snap, and two more key quarterback hurries late in the game. And, oh yeah, he also relayed the play calls from defensive coordinator Alan Williams and set up the defense with some help from outside linebacker Chad Greenway. “Audie did a terrific job,” Frazier said. Cole had two huge knots and a cut on his forehead. Asked how many stitches he took, Cole said, “I don’t know. I haven’t even looked in the mirror yet.”
3. Rhodes shows skills in press
It was nice to finally see the Vikings use cornerback Xavier Rhodes in a way that more consistently utilized his strength. Rhodes was drafted because he’s a big, physical press corner. Sunday was the first time we’ve seen him in that role for an extended stretch. He responded with a career-high four passes defensed, including one in the end zone and two on back-to-back plays to almost single-handedly force a three-and-out late in the first half. “He’s a long guy, and there were times today where his length really helped him,” Frazier said. “And I think he’s growing as a rookie in our league. There are still some moments there. But it was without question his best game as far as getting his hands on balls and not letting things get him flustered.”
4. Vikings forced to play 3 safeties
After being switched from cornerback to safety coming out of Notre Dame a year ago, Robert Blanton was asked to play the majority of the second half in a cornerback’s role as the slot cover guy in the nickel. Blanton’s holding call on Jordy Nelson in overtime negated Greenway’s third-down sack and allowed the Packers to stay on the field en route to a field goal. The Vikings came into the game without starting corner Josh Robinson. Then they lost A.J. Jefferson to a neck injury early. That would have forced punt returner Marcus Sherels to play more snaps on defense than the Vikings are comfortable with. “We’re so deep into our depth,” Frazier said. “You know with Marcus, you have to be careful how many snaps he gets because he’s going to wear down, and he’s our No. 1 punt returner.”
5. Going for two the wrong call?
Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s decision to go for two with 11:42 left in regulation ultimately blew up on him when Matt Flynn’s pass fell incomplete. That left the Packers down by 10, 23-13. Had they kicked the PAT, that game-tying field goal with 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter would have been the game-winner. Yes, McCarthy was trying to make it a one-possession game. But there was a lot of time left and Flynn had just moved the ball 80 yards in 2:40.