1. The Vikings defense put forth a gutsy effort in the final moments Sunday night.
A cynical or uneducated observer might argue that coach Mike Zimmer’s defense nearly squandered a 17-point deficit and that the Packers simply ran out of time. But what that group did in the latest stages was nothing short of remarkable. The Packers reeled off 38 plays in the final 20 minutes of the game. That included what was basically 16 consecutive plays for the Packers after kickoff returner Cordarrelle Patterson’s fumble denied the defense a chance to catch a breather. In the end, the defense was on the field for a season-high 79 snaps and the Packers’ breakneck no-huddle offense often prevented them from making substitutions, which led to eight Vikings regulars playing their highest snap totals of this season. No wonder at least a couple of them vomited on the sideline, according to Zimmer. But the Vikings hung in there, kept their composure and twice kicked the door shut on potential game-tying drives from the Packers.
2. Preparation helped the Vikings defend the Hail Mary on the frantic final play.
The Vikings showed tremendous awareness on the fly to prevent Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from completing his second crazy Hail Mary pass in recent weeks. After cornerback Xavier Rhodes tackled Packers tight end Richard Rodgers at the 38-yard line on third down with 10 seconds remaining, the Packers, who were out of timeouts, scrambled to the line to try to get one last play off. Zimmer considered calling a timeout himself to set up his defense for the final play, but he figured the clock would run out on the Packers. It did not, and they got the snap off with 1 second left. His Vikings were prepared, though. Both safeties, both linebackers and slot corner Captain Munnerlyn wisely retreated toward the goal line and Rhodes and outside linebacker Anthony Barr batted down Rodgers’ desperation heave in the end zone. Credit Zimmer for making sure that the Vikings already knew what needed to be done in that key situation.
3. Adam Thielen, right, has become more than a special-teams stud with a great story.
Everybody loves a long-shot story, especially when it involves a local kid. Thielen (right) turned a tryout with the Vikings into a spot on the practice squad, worked his way onto the active roster last season and became one of the team’s best players on special teams. The Detroit Lakes, Minn., native and former Minnesota State Mankato standout finished second on the Vikings in special-teams tackles this season. But he showed again Sunday that he is capable of taking on a regular role on offense. While he only got seven offensive snaps in this game because the Vikings couldn’t stay on the field, Thielen tied running back Adrian Peterson for the team lead with 67 rushing yards. He wove his way downfield for 41 yards on that fake punt. He added 26 on a third-quarter end-around, patiently waiting for his blocks to set up then slipping a tackle to tack on an extra dozen yards or so. The Vikings would not have won without Thielen’s big plays on offense Sunday.