Green Bay, Wis. – Vikings left guard Nick Easton will require season-ending surgery after fracturing his right ankle in Saturday’s 16-0 victory over the Packers, according to coach Mike Zimmer.
Easton left in the first quarter after his right ankle was rolled onto from behind by Packers defensive lineman Quinton Dial, who was trying to tackle Latavius Murray. Easton couldn’t put much weight on his right leg, and need assistance to the sideline before being carted into the locker room.
Long snapper Kevin McDermott will require a magnetic resonance imaging scan on the shoulder he injured just before halftime, according to Zimmer.
“We’re going to have to juggle some things around,” Zimmer said, “but that’s kind of what we’ve done all year.”
The Vikings also lost defensive tackle Shamar Stephen to an ankle injury in the first half. Tight end David Morgan stepped in as the replacement long snapper. Jeremiah Sirles, who has already made three fill-in starts this season, stepped in for Easton and will likely start moving forward. Sirles has dealt with knee injuries of his own this season.
“He’s aching sometimes, he goes in there and he fights,” Zimmer said of Sirles. “He figures out a way to get it done. I’m glad we have him.”
The banged-up Packers deactivated five starters before kickoff and lost another five players during the game. Right tackle Jason Spriggs (knee) was injured on the first snap. Tight end Richard Rodgers, running back Aaron Jones, defensive back Josh Jones and receiver Jordy Nelson all were forced from the game because of injuries.
Before kickoff, the Packers signed linebacker Reggie Gilbert from the practice squad and put cornerback Demetri Goodson on injured reserve. Green Bay was already without linebacker Clay Matthews, receiver Davante Adams, cornerback Damarious Randall and linebacker Nick Perry.
An officiating gaffe
Quarterback Case Keenum’s incompletion — thought by the Vikings to be on first down – was actually on third-and-1 due to an officiating error just before halftime.
Receiver Adam Thielen’s previous 3-yard catch was short of the marker on second-and-4, but the down marker was switched to incorrectly denote a first down. After the next play – an incompletion to receiver Laquon Treadwell – referee Carl Cheffers corrected the down marker from second down to fourth-and-1, forcing a Vikings punt. “Luckily it didn’t bite us,” Zimmer said.
“I said to him, hey is this a first down?” Zimmer recalled. “Because if not, I’m going to call a timeout. Then they started moving the sticks down there and so we let it go and then they said it was fourth down. Carl came up to me and he said they screwed the whole – they screwed it up.”
Catch rule favors Vikings
Two weeks after the NFL’s infamous catch rule took a touchdown away from Thielen in Carolina, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer used the rule to Minnesota’s advantage.
Nelson’s 25-yard catch, which would have been the game’s biggest play, was overturned after review showed the ball shifting and hitting the turf as he hit the ground.
Zimmer has now won five of his eight challenges for the Vikings this season, a 63-percent success rate that would be his best in four years at the helm.
Safety Harrison Smith made his Pro Bowl statement after he was snubbed from this season’s original roster last week.
Smith stepped in front of an ill-advised Brett Hundley pass intended for tight end Lance Kendricks, ending in Smith’s team-leading fourth interception of the season. Smith finished with seven combined tackles, four resulting in gains of 2 yards or fewer for Green Bay.
Bad footing at Lambeau
With a temperature of 10 degrees at kickoff, the soft grass at Lambeau Field didn’t provide much stability for either team. Vikings defensive backs slipped in coverage while Packers receivers also couldn’t maintain their footing.
Before he left with a shoulder injury, Nelson caught a third-down Hundley screen pass and slipped before a Vikings defender touched him. Hundley also slipped in the backfield on a read-option play before Smith could make the tackle.
Kicker Kai Forbath has now converted six consecutive field goals after he made all three attempts for the Vikings on Saturday night. He has made 32 of 37 field goals this season, or 86.5 percent.
Forbath was good from 49, 27 and 20 yards against the Packers.