Packers' NFC North reign ends with 20-13 loss to Vikings
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Packers' four-year reign atop the NFC North is over.
If they don't figure out how to jump-start the offense soon, Green Bay's postseason will be over quickly, too.
Aaron Rodgers passed for 291 yards and a touchdown but threw an interception in the end zone with 2:09 left, and the Packers' frantic fourth-quarter push fell short in a 20-13 loss Sunday night to the Minnesota Vikings.
Minnesota's defense knocked away a desperation pass in the end zone from Rodgers on fourth down as time expired.
"Frankly, we didn't do enough of the things you need to do, especially in big games, to come out on top," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
The upstart Vikings made those plays.
Adrian Peterson ran for a touchdown and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned a fumble 55 yards for a score after Rodgers lost the ball when his arm was hit by Everson Griffen.
The Vikings (11-5), after winning their first division title since 2009, will host the Seattle Seahawks in a wild-card playoff game next Sunday. The Packers (10-6) will travel to Washington to play the NFC East champion Redskins, also on Sunday.
A team that started 6-0 and looked to be a strong NFC contender has stumbled into the playoffs with two straight losses.
But the Packers can take slight consolation from memories of their run to winning the Super Bowl in 2010, when they were the sixth seed.
"Playoff season is here. We know how to win, we know what it takes to win and we have a clear understanding of the things that you can't do to win," McCarthy said.
The Vikings took advantage of Green Bay's mistakes. They won in spite of a so-so day for the offense and some harrowing moments late on defense and special teams.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby forced a fumble on Cordarrelle Patterson's potentially field-flipping 70-yard kickoff return with 5:21 left. But the Packers' next drive ended with Rodgers being intercepted in the end zone by Xavier Rhodes.
"Coming here, it was always a fight, a dogfight," Peterson said.
The division championship was Peterson's second title of the day — he also finished the season with his third career NFL rushing crown.
"It's been since 2009 and that's too long of a stretch," Peterson said. "That drought is over."
Perhaps a bit ahead of schedule for the Vikings. Just two years after going 5-10-1, Minnesota is back in the playoffs under second-year coach Mike Zimmer.
"Did we get here faster? I don't know. I have pretty high expectations," Zimmer said. "I don't know, maybe."
The Vikings got the sterling defensive effort needed on the road to win their first game at Lambeau Field since 2009. Zimmer smiled and raised both arms after Rodgers' final pass fell incomplete.
Peterson ran for 67 yards on 19 carries. He gave the Vikings a scare after leaving midway through the third quarter with a lower back injury before returning late in the fourth.
Teddy Bridgewater was just 10 of 19 for 99 yards, and the passing game was rendered largely ineffective. But the defense stifled Green Bay's dysfunctional offense at nearly every turn until the hectic fourth quarter.
Griffen had two sacks, and the Vikings held on at the end after being left out of breath defending the Packers' late no-huddle attack.
"It wasn't fun, to be honest with you. It was nerve-racking," Zimmer said.
The previously dormant Packers scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a 16-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Richard Rodgers, and a 43-yard field goal by Crosby.
But a slow start doomed the Packers once again, as did a sluggish running game.
Eddie Lacy had a strong start, but finished with only 34 yards on 13 carries.
The loss left the Packers without a win over a division opponent at home for the first time since 1968.
"Yeah, we've got to play better. We've got to put it all together," Aaron Rodgers said.
NOTES: Peterson said he had an X-ray taken of his back to make sure there was nothing wrong with his spine. "Now I've just got to get up early tomorrow morning — I'm not looking forward to it — and I've got to do what I've got to do to get ready for Sunday," he said. ... Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times. The Packers played without starting LT David Bakhtiari (ankle). Pro Bowl G Josh Sitton slid over to replace Bakhtiari, and Lane Taylor started at guard.