The last time the Vikings beat the Packers was in Week 17 of the 2012 season, when Adrian Peterson rushed for 199 yards and a touchdown and Christian Ponder passed for 234 yards and three scores in a 37-34 victory at the Metrodome, a victory that also gave the Vikings their most recent playoff berth.
So it’s only fitting that this great rivalry gets another big chapter Sunday when the Vikings travel to Green Bay with a chance to win the NFC North for the first time since 2009, when they were quarterbacked by one-time Packers legend Brett Favre.
Yes, there are few rivalries as great as the Packers and Vikings, even if the Vikings’ 1-10-1 record against the Packers this decade has been tough to stomach.
The series always has revolved around the key quarterbacks such as Favre, Bart Starr, Fran Tarkenton, Daunte Culpepper and Aaron Rodgers, and now the Vikings hope they have a young star in Teddy Bridgewater.
Going back to the start of the rivalry, the two teams featured future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Starr and Tarkenton, but Starr had a much deeper squad and was 27 years old compared to Tarkenton, who was just 21 when the Packers won the first matchup against the Vikings 33-7 on Oct. 22, 1961, at Met Stadium. They played again the following week at Milwaukee’s County Stadium and the Packers won again 28-10.
It wouldn’t get better for some time. Starr won 10 of his first 12 matchups with Tarkenton before the Vikings QB was traded to the New York Giants in 1967.
Starr had a lot more trouble as the Packers aged and the great Vikings teams under Bud Grant started beating them regularly in the 1970s. Starr ended his career going 2-5 against the Vikings before retiring.
Starr threw for 3,001 yards, 25 TDs and 14 interceptions against the Vikings, completing 59.8 percent of his passes.
When Tarkenton returned to the Vikings, he posted a 10-2-1 record against Green Bay from 1972 to ’78.
Next great star QB
Over a 20-year stretch beginning in 1973, the Packers made the playoffs only once. But the arrival of Favre changed that, as his tenure with the Packers featured an astounding 32 starts vs. the Vikings between 1992 and 2007.
And even though that era seemed to be dominated by Favre, who reached back-to-back Super Bowls in 1995 and 1996, the Vikings had decent success against him. Favre was 17-15 against the Vikings, including a playoff loss at Lambeau Field in 2005. He averaged just 230.5 yards passing per game against the Vikings and had a marginal 86.3 passer rating.
In the four starts he made for the Vikings against the Packers, Favre went 2-2, winning both games in 2009 and losing both in 2010. He threw for seven touchdowns and 515 yards in the first two games with no interceptions while throwing for only one touchdown and four interceptions in the two losses in 2010.
Interestingly, Culpepper probably has been the best Vikings QB against Green Bay in recent history, even though he posted a 4-7 record in the regular season. That record wasn’t indicative of just how great Culpepper was, posting a 96.3 passer rating with 23 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. More importantly, he played one of the best games of his career in the Vikings’ 31-17 playoff victory in Green Bay in January 2005, going 19-for-29 for 284 yards and four touchdowns.
Still, with the exception of 2009 when Favre was with the Vikings, the Packers have owned the series since 2000.
Rodgers has gone 12-4 overall against the Vikings in his career, including the playoff victory over at Lambeau in January 2013, when Joe Webb had to play quarterback for the Vikings after not playing all season.
To get an idea of Rodgers’ domination of the Vikings, consider that he has a career 116.5 passer rating in the regular season over 15 games. The highest passer rating in the NFL this year is 109.3 by Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Rodgers has thrown for 34 touchdowns and just four interceptions against the Vikings, a staggering career number. The last time the Vikings intercepted him was in 2012.
Still, there are signs that this is going to be one of the Vikings’ best chances to beat Rodgers at Lambeau.
He has looked shaky this season without the injured Jordy Nelson. Rodgers’ 6.7 yards per pass attempt is a career low, and not even close to previous seasons, and his 235.3 yards per game are the lowest since his first year as a starter in 2008.
Meanwhile, Bridgewater has started to look more and more confident with each week, and over his past three games has played the best football of his career, completing 57 of 81 passes for 734 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions for a tremendous 123.2 passer rating.
So while this decade has belonged to Rodgers and the Packers, that’s no different from the 1960s when Starr was dominating, or the ’70s, when Tarkenton was in control. The series always has gone in runs for each squad, and maybe with coach Mike Zimmer and Bridgewater, the Vikings can take back the NFC North.
• Emotions are important in winning football games, and coach Mike Zimmer thinks the Vikings have learned that. “I think we have learned what kind of mentality that we have these last four weeks,” he said. “I think that we have learned what type of mentality we need the past four weeks. After we got beat by Seattle and the Green Bay team, the mentality of our team changed and for the better, in my opinion. I talked to them about it. This is the type of mentality we have to have going forward. And really the Arizona game we had the right mentality. … Going forward from that game on, we we’ve played with the mentality that I like to play with.”
• Harrison Smith said he, Linval Joseph and Anthony Barr are all big-time competitors who returned to action after spending time together in the training room while they had to sit out because of injuries. So they got geared up as a group when they came back, and they played that way vs. the Giants.
• Vikings wide receiver Jarius Wright on how well quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been playing the past three weeks: “I don’t think words can explain it. He has been outstanding the past three weeks dating back to the Arizona game. He’s playing lights-out football — playoff football is what we call it.”
• Bridgewater said things haven’t changed much with regard to the way he has played since the first Packers game. “I just continue to stay within the system, I guess,” he said. “And getting the ball out much quicker to allow our guys to make plays on the outside. Those guys [receivers] have been doing a great job for us.”
• Looking back to the Giants game, it was impressive that despite the cold, there were fewer than 5,000 no-shows at the Vikings’ final regular-season game at TCF Bank Stadium.