GREEN BAY, Wis. – With 14 minutes, 22 seconds left in regulation, the Vikings defense had forced the Packers to punt six times in eight possessions.
In other words, things were going exactly as the Vikings defense had hoped they would when facing a Packers team without Aaron Rodgers. Former third-stringer Scott Tolzien was rendered ineffective, and his replacement, Matt Flynn, who was reunited with Green Bay only two weeks ago, wasn’t much better in his first possession, going 2-for-3 for 4 yards as the Packers punted yet again.
How the Vikings defense went from being in complete control — and ahead 23-7 — to a 26-26 tie left more than one defender not feeling too satisfied in the visitor’s locker room at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
“It’s that same shoot-yourself-in-the-foot kind of feeling we’ve had before,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “We get in a position where we need some stops and we can’t get them. Or we get them and then there’s a penalty.”
At the 14:22 mark of the fourth quarter, the Packers had 11 first downs, 207 total yards and were just 2-for-8 (25 percent) on third downs. In seven possessions after that, they scored four times while racking up 19 first downs and 287 total yards. They converted only one of eight third downs but also converted twice on fourth down.
In the fourth quarter alone, the Packers had three consecutive possessions in which they drove 80 yards for an Eddie Lacy 3-yard touchdown run, 76 yards in 12 plays for a 6-yard Jarrett Boykin touchdown reception and 60 yards in 10 plays over 1:41 for Mason Crosby’s game-tying field goal with 46 seconds left in regulation.
The field goal was set up when James Jones beat Marcus Sherels for a 28-yard reception on fourth-and-6. On the throw, Flynn had the comfort of knowing it was a free play since defensive lineman Everson Griffen had already jumped offsides.
After winning the overtime coin toss, the Packers were on their way to a three-and-out possession when Chad Greenway sacked Flynn on third-and-9 at the Green Bay 22-yard line.
But a defensive holding penalty was called on safety Robert Blanton. The Packers kicked the go-ahead field goal seven plays later.
Blanton was forced to play a lot of snaps as the slot cornerback in the nickel defense because of injuries to Josh Robinson, who didn’t play because of a fractured sternum, and A.J. Jefferson, who left the game because of a neck injury. Sherels, who had been splitting time with Blanton in the slot, was playing outside at that point because Xavier Rhodes was out because of a concussion.
Replays also showed he clearly held receiver Jordy Nelson on the play.
“I just have to have better technique,” said Blanton, who played corner at Notre Dame. “That was a heartbreaker right there.”
It appeared the Vikings would lose when the Packers had first-and-goal at the 7. But the Vikings defense held.
“The one thing about our guys is they didn’t let [the penalty] keep them from standing up and making a play down in the red zone,” Frazier said. “That was the good thing. That’s what you like to see.”