GREEN BAY, WIS. - The ovation seemed appreciative more than exuberant. As the Packers headed for their home locker room at halftime, still unbeaten and totally untested Monday night, the Lambeau Field crowd seemed thankful but also a tad bored.
Another big lead at intermission? Yaaaawn.
Hey, at least the weather in mid-November was unseasonably warm.
And who would ever complain about a 17-0 cushion against the Vikings? So the Green Bay faithful clapped and shouted a bit but did so with a modest shrug as their Packers coasted toward 9-0 without breaking a sweat.
By night's end, Green Bay's pinball scoring spree had produced a decisive 45-7 victory, the most lopsided victory in series history and most impressive in how easy it seemed.
Life at the top of the NFL must be nice.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the NFC North, the Vikings continue to experience all the agonizing headaches of a below-average team with so many flaws it's hard to know which to correct first.
"We took this one on the chin," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "And we've got to man up. We didn't come to play. They outplayed us. Period."
On the big stage of "Monday Night Football," the Vikings seemed like the disconcerted neighbor, soaked in oil and trying to fix a faulty engine and a damaged carburetor on a 1987 Cutlass Ciera.
The Packers? They stood in their driveway applying another coat of wax to the new Aston Martin.
For the ninth consecutive game, Green Bay scored at least 24 points, then went well beyond.
Aaron Rodgers did nothing but bolster his MVP candidacy, throwing for 250 yards with four touchdowns without even needing to play the final 10 minutes.
The Packers' total-yardage victory was decisive, 356-266. Yet it wasn't as lopsided as it could have been as the Vikings lost for the 17th time in 25 games, again dominated in every phase.
"You're trying to use this game as a gauge of how far it is we have to go," coach Leslie Frazier said. "And if the score is any indication, we have a long ways to go."
What most expected to be a mismatch needed only 78 seconds to take shape. That's when Packers rookie Randall Cobb completed a nifty 80-yard punt return for a touchdown, leaving the Vikings to play a hopeless game of catch-up for the final 58:42.
And with the clumsiness and lack of focus they showed, one could only wonder if they'd acquired a rare case of second-hand stumbles from the cheery Lambeau tailgaters.
Truthfully, how many times Monday did we see a Viking sprawled out powerless on the grass? First, receiver Percy Harvin tripped while taking a first-half handoff from Christian Ponder. Loss of a yard.
Later, Asher Allen wound up in some sort of new yoga pose as Packers receiver Jordy Nelson sprung open for an easy 12-yard gain.
Then it was cornerback Cedric Griffin down, put into the ground at the Vikings 13-yard line by an inhospitable Nelson shove. From there, Nelson dashed to the end zone for the third Packers touchdown.
And it got even worse. Later, Antoine Winfield saw his season end when he fractured his clavicle.
Frazier had talked all week about the disciplined effort it would take to upset Green Bay. Instead, his players repeatedly committed costly penalties, 10 of them in all, thwarting their own scoring threats and prolonging the Packers'.
"It's hard enough to have success [against Green Bay]," Frazier said. "To have those self-inflicted wounds makes it a lot tougher."
On top of that, after Frazier's repeated requests for his defense to deliver "splash plays" as a way of neutralizing Green Bay's explosive offense, the Vikings created less splash than a Froot Loop landing in Lake Michigan.
Their lone takeaway in the first three quarters was a Cobb fumble on a punt return. Ryan D'Imperio recovered that at the Green Bay 14. And two plays later, Adrian Peterson (14 rushes, 51 yards) allowed the Vikings to avoid a shutout with a 3-yard touchdown run.
But it was far too little and far too late.
And only moments later -- five plays and 2:20 of game time to be exact -- fullback John Kuhn answered Peterson's score with a 9-yard TD reception from Rodgers.
The Packers had the Vikings in a sleeper hold. And the visitors seemed like they might be in that comatose state for some time.
"We didn't come to play," Shiancoe said. "I have no excuses for you guys right now. ... We have a lot of talent. But talent doesn't win games. It's heart. Heart wins games. Heart, effort and taking care of your assignments."
Dan Wiederer • firstname.lastname@example.org