Former backup Matt Flynn entered to a standing ovation in the second half and then proceeded to rally the slumping Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) to force overtime Sunday, only to see the Packers and Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1) trade field goals during the extra period in a 26-26 tie at Lambeau Field.
It was over when…
...the overtime clock hit triple zeroes and the scored remained 26-26. Some will argue that no team deserves a win if five quarters and 75 minutes can't separate the two on the scoreboard. That idea might have applied Sunday. But what an anticlimactic end to a rivalry game. To play that long and still not leave the field with an actual result is a weird, unsatisfying feeling for everyone involved.
- Eddie Lacy: Remember when the Packers flirted with signing veteran Steven Jackson, and then originally gambled on moving back in the second round, despite Lacy being available? Green Bay lucked out that it worked out the way it did. Lacy is, without much doubt, the most talented Packers running back since Ahman Green. The Vikings couldn't handle his patience, vision and power, and Lacy even flashed some receiving ability. Numerous times the rookie running back created something out of nothing. And in the fourth quarter, Lacy all but willed the Packers back into the game. He's the real deal.
- Matt Flynn: I'll admit, there was real skepticism in my mind about a quarterback cut by both Oakland and Buffalo somehow saving the day against a two-score deficit. But against big odds, the Packers rallied around Flynn and the offense put together moments of revival under the former backup. Flynn didn't make any big time throws, but he also didn't turn the football over while managing three straight scoring drives in the fourth quarter. His gutsy performance didn't produce a win, but it staved off an embarrassing home loss to a bad football team.
- Jarrett Boykin: He's been the Packers best receiver since Aaron Rodgers went out. Add five more catches to his recent total, including a 34-yarder in overtime that should have set up Green Bay's winning score. Credit Edgar Bennett for transforming a former tryout player into a real asset at the position.
- Tim Masthay: Three of Masthay's eight punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. He routinely kept the Vikings facing long fields, and Marcus Sherels returned just two kicks for zero yards. Deep into the second half, it appeared only Lacy and Masthay were worthy of receiving a game ball.
The two teams combined for nearly 1,000 yards, with over 400 coming on the ground. The Vikings rushed for 232 yards, while the Packers tallied 196 on the ground (fifth time this season with 180 or more in a single game)...Scott Tolzien completed just 7-of-17 passes and took two sacks before he was pulled. Green Bay punted five times and had one possession end at the half after Tolzien's spinning touchdown in the first quarter...After the two teams traded field goals in overtime, the Packers and Vikings combined for just 44 yards over the game's final 13 plays...The Packers had six sacks, including two from Clay Matthews. Mike Neal had one sack and three tackles for losses...Audie Cole, an undrafted free agent starting his first ever game at middle linebacker, had a game-high 13 tackles and three quarterback hits...Eddie Lacy combined for 158 yards, including 48 receiving. He bowled over rookie Xavier Rhodes at the end of one long catch-and-run in the second half...The Packers were just 3-of-16 on third down, but 2-for-2 on fourth down...Green Bay didn't commit a turnover for the first time since beating the Vikings on Oct. 27. But the Packers still have just one game with more than one takeaway this season (at Cincinnati)...Cordarrelle Patterson's 57-yard kick return in the first half nearly matched Green Bay's output on three returns (63 yards).
– Morgan Burnett had a team-high 12 tackles, but he was mostly invisible. The fourth-year safety is probably the most disappointing player of this season, especially after the Packers handed him a $25 million extension this past offseason. Expecting a Pro Bowl-caliber season was more than reasonable. Instead, Burnett is leading a safety group that has taken a big step backwards. The Packers needed major development at the position but are now dealing with three players—Burnett, M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian—who are clearly regressing.
– For the second straight week, the Packers defense made big stops in the fourth quarter. While Flynn and the offense is receiving credit for the comeback, the defense played its best football late in regulation and gave the Packers a chance to rally. However, that fact was lost when the Vikings bullied their way down the field when all the defense needed was one stop to win the game in overtime. Such is life in a results-based business.
– I won't knock Mike McCarthy for two decisions he is taking some heat for now. Starting Scott Tolzien was an easy choice based on his previous two performances, even with the five picks included. He made big time throws but just needed to clean up the inexperience-based mistakes. Instead of piling on for starting Tolzien, credit McCarthy for acting swiftly in bringing in Flynn when Tolzien wasn't getting it done. The second decision under fire was the one to go for two down 16 in the fourth quarter. In theory, the Packers could have won the game by one had McCarthy kicked the extra point. But considering how the game was developing, did it really seem likely that the Packers were going to score three times in the fourth quarter? At the time, going for two gave Green Bay the best chance to get back into the game.
– Greg Jennings caught three passes on six targets for 38 yards in his two games against the Packers this season. He was booed loudly following each of his catches Sunday.
– There's little doubt in my mind that the Packers would be 9-2 and in contention for home field advantage in the NFC without Rodgers' injury. Hate playing the "what if" game, but that reality stings given the current situation. The good news? Nine wins and one tie might actually win this division.
– The Packers are still right in the thick of the division title race, thanks in large part to the inability of neither the Lions nor Bears to take advantage of a Rodgers-less NFC North. Who knows if Rodgers will be back Thursday, but a big part of the division will be decided when the Packers take on the Lions for some holiday fun in four day's time.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].
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