Not a Merry Christmas for The Vikings
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns, Jordy Nelson shredded Minnesota's secondary for 154 yards and two scores, and the resurgent Green Bay Packers beat the Vikings 38-25 on Saturday.
The Packers' fifth straight win set up a winner-take-all showdown next week with Detroit for the NFC North title, while extinguishing the Vikings' faint postseason hopes.
Green Bay (9-6) built a 28-13 lead at halftime, with Rodgers accounting for all four scores in the half. He finished 28 of 38, and shrugged off his right calf injury after scrambling for a 6-yard touchdown late in the second quarter and making a rare Lambeau Leap .
Rodgers and Nelson connected for scores from 21 and 2 yards in the first half. The veteran receiver found seams in Minnesota's defense, despite the return of safety Harrison Smith from an ankle injury.
Playing again without running back Adrian Peterson, the Vikings (7-8) had success through the air after Sam Bradford threw for 382 yards and three touchdowns, including a 71-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen in the second quarter.
Thielen had a career-high 202 yards and two scores.
But the Vikings made too many other mistakes to catch up to the Packers.
Maybe they were sluggish after the team plane got stuck in the grass on the way to the gate at a Wisconsin airport on Friday night after making a safe landing, forcing a delay of more than five hours.
Whatever the reason, the Vikings will miss the playoffs after a 5-0 start.
The Packers cashed in on two Vikings turnovers in the second quarter with 14 points.
The first came with 9:50 left after center Nick Easton's bad snap was recovered by Kenny Clark at the Minnesota 42. Three plays later, Rodgers and Nelson connected on their 2-yard score.
Minnesota was threatening in Packers territory with 1 minute left in the quarter when linebacker Clay Matthews powered past left tackle T.J. Clemmings for a strip sack of Bradford recovered by Mike Daniels at the 46. Rodgers ran for his score five plays later.
Thielen went big play-for-big play with Nelson, finishing with 12 catches. The Packers secondary had shaky moments again a week after a porous fourth quarter in a win over the Chicago Bears.
Rodgers and Nelson set a Packers record on their 21-yard score in the first quarter. It was the 58th touchdown for the duo, breaking the tie with the Brett Favre-Antonio Freeman combination. Rodgers threw about a 10-yard pass up the seam to Nelson, who found a soft spot in the zone and then made safety Andrew Sendejo miss on a tackle before lunging forward to get the ball into the end zone.
Matthews looked like his big-play self for the first time in weeks.
He has been limited since hurting his left shoulder in late November during a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Packers' most dynamic pass rusher said during practice this week that he was feeling better and hoped to get more snaps.
The long-haired Matthews made a difference against the Vikings, including the strip-sack of Bradford late in the second quarter, along with two key pass deflections and another pressure by early in the third quarter.
Vikings: S Harrison Smith (ankle) played for the first time in two weeks. WR Stefon Diggs (hip) was active after being listed as questionable coming into the game, and finished with 29 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
Packers: CB LaDarius Gunter left the game with an elbow injury in the second quarter. RT Bryan Bulaga suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.
Vikings: Wrap up regular season by hosting the Bears on New Year's Day.
Packers: At Detroit on Jan. 1 in game to decide the NFC North title.