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Vikings-Packers: What we learned

The SportsXchange

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers' quarterback carousel continued. Might it wind up with Aaron Rodgers returning from a broken collarbone and starting a must-win game at Detroit on Thanksgiving?

"I have no idea," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after a 26-26 tie against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

The Packers have used four quarterbacks in the past four games, with Matt Flynn replacing ineffective Scott Tolzien in the third quarter. Flynn led the Packers to two touchdowns and a field goal on three consecutive possessions to force overtime. The teams traded field goals in the extra period.

The tie didn't leave either team feeling happy. The Packers (5-5-1) missed out on a chance to tie for first place in the NFC North following Detroit's home loss to Tampa Bay and Chicago's loss at St. Louis. The Lions and Bears are 6-5.

"We're looking for wins around here. We're in the business of winning," Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. "We didn't lose. That's about the only thing we can get out of it. We're still in the hunt; we've always felt that way. Our destiny's still ahead of us. We're going to keep pushing and hopefully everything turns around."

The Vikings (2-8-1) were led by running back Adrian Peterson's 146 rushing yards. Toby Gerhart added 91 as the Vikings piled up 232 rushing yards.

"We shouldn't have ties in football. It sucks," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. "The game should keep going like in college, sudden death. They should have another 5 (minutes) on there."

The Packers were 5-2 when Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone against Chicago on Nov. 4. Seneca Wallace played the rest of that game and started the Nov. 11 loss against Philadelphia but was injured after one series. Tolzien played the rest of that game, started the Nov. 18 loss at the Giants and again on Sunday.

Tolzien, however, was pulled in the third quarter with the Packers trailing 20-7. Minnesota increased the margin to 23-7 before Flynn's rally.

Green Bay won the overtime toss and looked headed to a three-and-out punt when Flynn was sacked on third-and-9 but safety Robert Blanton was flagged for holding. One play later, Flynn hit wide receiver Jordy Nelson for 15. Flynn then went deep to wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, who made a leaping catch against cornerback Chris Cook for 34 to the Vikings' 7.

The Packers settled for a field goal in overtime, however, when running back Eddie Lacy gained five yards on two carries and Flynn couldn't hit Nelson in the end zone against Blanton. Mason Crosby's 20-yard field goal gave Green Bay a 26-23 lead.

Minnesota's defensive stand meant its offense would get a chance. On third-and-9, Peterson ran for 15. From their 49, quarterback Christian Ponder hit tight end John Carlson for 10 on a bootleg and Gerhart ran for 12 on 11 to the Packers' 13.

Outside linebacker Mike Neal stuffed Peterson's second-down run for a loss of 5. On third-and-14, Ponder threw the ball over cornerback Davon House to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. House got a finger on the ball and Patterson bobbled the ball and caught ball well out of bounds. Blair Walsh kicked a 38-yard field goal to tie the game with 3:49 to play on overtime.

What the Vikings said

"There is definitely some disappointment. We were up at halftime, coming out and getting the ball to start the second half and we weren't able to score. We gave up the lead and we didn't score points when we should have and I think we let it get out of our hands and it's unfortunate that we aren't walking away with our third victory." -- Quarterback Christian Ponder

"It was great to play back here at Lambeau. I really wasn't looking for any type of reception (from the fans). I came here with my teammates in this locker room and that is all the reception I need." -- Wide receiver Greg Jennings, on playing his former team

What the Packers said

"Today's contest obviously is a little bit of an empty feeling. You go out there today expecting to win and we got halfway there. The performance was clearly not the standard we were looking for, but we're a football team that's playing through some peaks and valleys. I thought our team did a very good job of fighting through the valleys today, particularly I thought Matt Flynn coming in gave us the spark on offense that we needed." -- Coach Mike McCarthy.

"I don't think you can go in with a mind-set like, 'All right, we need a spark here.' Just play within the system, with high energy, confident in the huddle and play the play. Don't try to do anything special, don't try to chuck it 50 yards down the field just because you think we need a spark. Play the system. And you saw that a lot. There was a lot of checkdown, short passes where you get the ball in the guys' hands and let them run. People start getting energy and feeding off that." -- Quarterback Matt Flynn.

What we learned about the Vikings

1. Quarterback Christian Ponder didn't make any crippling mistakes but he simply hasn't shown the type of growth the team was hoping for after he beat the Packers in last year's regular-season finale. The final numbers were fine on Sunday -- 21 of 30 for 233 yards, with one touchdown and a passer rating of 103.9. His pocket presence, however, just isn't good enough. He was sacked six times. For a player with his athletic ability, he needs to avoid pressure, throw it away and keep the offense alive for the next play.

2. The Vikings paid a lot of money to sign wide receiver Greg Jennings away from the Packers -- five years, $45 million, $17.8 million guaranteed) but that hasn't paid big dividends. The 30-year-old Jennings has caught 36 passes for 439 yards and two touchdowns. For a fraction of the money, Jarrett Boykin has caught 34 passes for 513 yards and one touchdown for the Packers, despite barely getting on the field for the first month of the season.

What we learned about the Packers

1. Once again, it's obvious that this is a team built on the right arm of former MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. When these teams met on Oct. 27 at Minnesota, Rodgers turned in a brilliant performance. The Packers never punted and won 44-31. Without him, everything is such a challenge. The Packers piled up 494 yards but couldn't get the big yards when it counted. They were a woeful 3 of 16 on third down.

2. Green Bay's run defense was among the best in the league to start the season, with Minnesota topping 100 yards in the first matchup only because of some garbage-time yards. On Sunday, the Vikings ran for 232 yards. The Packers have given up at least 171 rushing yards in three of the last four games.
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