For the seventh time in 10 games this season, kicker Greg Joseph was in position to help the Vikings take the lead or tie the score in the closing minutes of regulation. For the fifth time, Joseph made the clutch kick by booting a 29-yard, game-winning field goal during Sunday's 34-31 victory over the Packers.
His teammates hoisted Joseph onto their shoulder pads, carrying him off the U.S. Bank Stadium turf for the second time in a season full of wild finishes.
"A memory I'll have for a lifetime," said Joseph, who has made 21 of 25 field goals (84%) this season. "I'm ecstatic to put a win in the column for the Vikings at home against a division rival. You can't beat it."
Not bad for a journeyman 27-year-old kicker who had to win a training camp competition with an undrafted rookie to earn the Vikings' job this summer. Team brass stuck by Joseph through early struggles, including end-of-regulation misses in Arizona (a 34-33 loss) and Carolina. He responded after that Panthers miss, which ended in a 34-28 overtime victory, with 15 consecutive successful field-goal and extra-point attempts.
That streak ended Sunday when Joseph pushed an extra-point try wide right in the first quarter, but his rebounds have become as familiar as his late-game kicks. He made his final three kicks against Green Bay, converting two extra points and the game-winner before getting swarmed in the celebratory chaos.
"It all becomes a blur pretty fast," Joseph said. "I just try to go to my linemen, because they're up front helping me make the kick. I wouldn't be able to do it without them. I always try to high-five everyone, but before you know it, you're swarmed. Some of the guys were picking me up. I don't even know who — the pictures will tell."
Starting center? TBD
Former first-round pick Garrett Bradbury watched from the sideline in his return from a bout with COVID-19 as coaches stuck with Mason Cole at center for a third consecutive game. But that doesn't mean Bradbury will stay on the bench, according to coach Mike Zimmer, who boiled the decision down to Cole playing well in two starts and the need to slow down Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark.
Clark was held to three combined tackles — including two run stops — but he also affected quarterback Kirk Cousins by collapsing the interior pocket a couple of times. The Packers had two sacks and five quarterback hits. Zimmer said he doesn't know who will start at center next week in San Francisco.
"[Cole] played well the last two weeks," Zimmer said. "Their nose tackle is a really good player as you probably saw [Sunday] a bunch of times. We'll see this week how it goes."
Not seeing yellow
Regarding the offensive line, the Vikings were penalized only three times (for 25 yards) against the Packers, tying a season best. The offense wasn't flagged at all, which is a first this season; offensive holding and false starts remain the Vikings' most frequent infractions. They led the league with 23 offensive holding penalties entering Week 11.
"We've had some games with some tough downs and distances, first- and second-and-20s, which aren't a lot of fun," Cousins said. "It makes a big difference for our play caller, it makes a big difference for me."
One of the new looks Zimmer threw at Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn't last long. Rookie safety Camryn Bynum made his third consecutive start, while safety Harrison Smith aligned as a slot defender on the game's opening play. Packers receiver Davante Adams caught a 37-yard pass on that snap, and Bynum didn't see the field again as Zimmer went back to Smith at safety and Mackensie Alexander as the slot defender.
"Sometimes to have a bigger body in there, as opposed to a nickel [corner] when they're doing all these rockets and things like that, where the nickel gets into the run fits, we're trying to get Harrison Smith in, that's all," Zimmer said.
Inside the numbers
455: Career receptions for Adam Thielen, including eight Sunday, which allowed him to pass Kyle Rudolph for sixth on the Vikings' all-time list.
11: 100-yard receiving games for Justin Jefferson in his first two seasons, tying Randy Moss' franchise record. They are tied for second in the Super Bowl era with Juju Smith-Schuster behind Odell Beckham Jr.'s 15.
59: Points the Vikings have allowed in the final two minutes of the first half this season, worst in the NFL.
30-30: The Vikings' home record against Green Bay.
8: Missed field goal attempts by Packers kicker Mason Crosby this season, including four in the last three games.
66,959: Sunday's announced attendance, the second-largest crowd in U.S. Bank Stadium history. The largest crowd — 67.157 — was also against the Packers, on Dec. 22, 2019.