1. Hochuli jinx busted as flags rain on Packers
Mark it down, Vikings fans. You survived the Shawn Hochuli jinx! And you did it with flying yellow-colored flags raining down upon the Packers in Sunday's 34-31 victory at U.S. Bank Stadium. Home teams had gone 1-8 with an eight-game losing streak in games officiated by referee Shawn Hochuli and his crew. The Packers were the second-least penalized team in the league. But … Green Bay ended up with eight penalties for 92 yards compared to three for 25 for the Vikings, one of the most penalized teams. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Kingsley Keke negated a Kirk Cousins red-zone interception and led to a touchdown. A 37-yard defensive pass interference penalty came three snaps earlier. Green Bay's offense had five penalties. "Every drive in the first half was a second-and-plus-10," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. The final penalty was against the defense for having 12 men on the field to open the game-winning drive with the clock stopped after a kickoff. "That's embarrassing," LaFleur said.
2. This is Kirk's team now
Cousins sidestepped when asked if the Vikings' search for an offensive identity has led them to being a passing team with him, not Dalvin Cook, leading the way. "I think [the identity] is week to week, maybe even quarter to quarter, series to series," he said. "But we've certainly been fairly aggressive the last couple weeks." This is Kirk's team now. And he's proven gutsy enough to handle it the past two weeks. Sunday, he threw six balls that traveled between 22 and 42 yards. He was only one of six for 56 yards on those throws, but his aggressiveness set the tone. It also created a 37-yard defensive pass interference penalty. Old Kirk wouldn't have thrown that ball, or one for a touchdown off his back foot to Jefferson against an all-out blitz. New Kirk isn't without risk. Packers safety Darnell Savage had what looked to be a game-ending interception on a 34-yard deep ball with 2:01 left, but the call was overturned.
3. Cook's quiet half included one loud block
Cook had a quiet first half with 21 yards on 11 touches. But his impact was felt. Just ask Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell. Aside from maybe his easy 1-yard touchdown walk, Cook's best snap of the first half came on the Vikings' first third down of the game. The Packers led 3-0 and the Vikings were in danger of answering with a three-and-out. It was third-and-6 when Campbell had what he thought might be a free run at Cousins up the middle. But Cook showed he's not just a premier runner. He stonewalled Campbell, giving Cousins time to hit Jefferson for a 43-yard gain. Cook was back to being a focal point to open the second half. He had seven touches for 40 yards and three first downs, including two third-down conversions, on the 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter.
4. Richardson was dominant at DE
No longer should we call Sheldon Richardson just a tackle. The way he played Sunday in his most extensive action at left end, he's become the team's most versatile weapon up front. The Packers lost by three points in part because Mason Crosby clanked a 32-yard field-goal attempt off the upright in the second quarter. Well, Richardson is the reason Crosby had to attempt the field goal. It was Richardson's dominant bull rush from left end in a four-man rush that caused Aaron Rodgers to essentially throw the ball away on third-and-9 from the Vikings 14-yard line. Richardson still played some tackle, but also played a lot of snaps at end with D.J. Wonnum moving inside. Rodgers' 10-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams in the third quarter came against no pressure. Richardson wasn't in the game. The next series, Richardson entered the game and should have been given half of Harrison Smith's sack. Richardson also drew penalties for holding and illegal hands to the face.
5. A toss sweep to … C.J. Ham?!
Offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak put up 34 points against a defense coming off a shutout. His guys posted 408 yards while throwing the ball 35 times and running it 29 times. And Kubiak's crew was very good on third down, converting 9 of 13. But, having said all that … a toss sweep to fullback C.J. Ham!? You cannot be serious! It was third-and-1 from the Vikings' 29-yard line with 4:57 left in the first half. A dive to Ham, maybe. But a toss? He had no chance. The Vikings led 16-3 and could have kept the ball away from Rodgers. Instead, Rodgers drove the Packers 74 yards in nine plays to make it a 16-10 game. Yes, Mike Zimmer's defense did give up another 7 points in the final two minutes of the first half, raising the total to 63. But this latest score can be traced back to a bad third-down play call by the offense.