Vikings Start 2023 on a Sour Note, Losing to Packers in Blowout Fashion
The Minnesota Vikings went into Green Bay with a chance to not only eliminate the Green Bay Packers from playoff contention but also a chance to tie the Eagles for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Instead, the Vikings start 2023 on a sour note, allowing the Packers to keep their hopes alive by falling, 41-17.
Things got off to a great start when Minnesota blocked a punt on Green Bay’s opening drive, setting themselves on the goal-line with a chance to steal an early touchdown. Instead, they were forced to settle for a field goal, and then Keisean Nixon took the ensuing kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown.
After that point, things just went downhill for the Vikings. They were outscored 27-0 for the remainder of the first half after their field goal and went into halftime down 27-3. We’ve obviously seen the Vikings overcome deficits such as this before, but this was not such a day for the Vikings. Instead, the Packers lead ballooned to 41-3 in the second half before the Vikings scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to its final score of 41-17.
Overall, the defense faced many of its usual woes, but that is hardly the only group at fault for this loss. Kirk Cousins turned the ball over four times, including a pick-six in the first quarter. Overall, Cousins had just 205 yards passing, 1 passing TD, 3 interceptions, and completed just 18-of-31 passes.
Justin Jefferson also had the quietest day of his year, catching just one pass for 15 yards. Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander called Jefferson’s Week 1 performance a “fluke” earlier this week, and he backed up his talk with a strong showing against the Vikings receiver.
However, perhaps the worst portion of this loss comes from two other notes. Firstly, the 49ers finding a way to beat the Raiders in overtime officially means that the Vikings do not hold control of the No. 2 seed in the NFC anymore.
Both teams stand at 12-4 heading into the final week of the season, but the Niners have a better record against NFC opponents than the Vikings. In order for the Vikings to reclaim that second seed, the Niners would have to lose to the Cardinals in Week 18, and the Vikings must beat the Bears at Soldier Field. Minnesota has won four of their last five games against Chicago, but San Fran dominated the Cardinals 38-10 back in November.
Apart from losing control of the No. 2 seed, the Vikings also lost backup center Austin Schlottmann for the rest of the season with a fractured fibula as head coach Kevin O’Connell announced after the game. Chris Reed filled in for the rest of the game, but it became very apparent that the third-string center was not on the same page as the rest of the offense for much of the game.
In addition, star right tackle Brian O’Neill left with a calf injury, and he is set to undergo an MRI to see how severe his injury is. With Blake Brandel on IR, it was Oli Udoh who stepped in for O’Neill. Last year, Udoh was the Vikings right guard, and notoriously had the most penalties in all the NFL during the 2021 season.
However, Udoh’s natural position is tackle, which should give some hope that he can be a decent fill-in player if necessary. It’s hard to fully replace O’Neill’s impact, though, so the Vikings likely need him to return in order to have a chance, especially on the road, against Nick Bosa and the 49ers come playoff time.
The Vikings (12-4) will close out their regular season next Sunday against the Chicago Bears (3-13) at Soldier Field. Meanwhile, the Packers (8-8) will try to officially make their playoff dreams a reality as they host the Detroit Lions (8-8) in a fight for the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC.
2023 NFL Draft Rankings: Safeties
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.