6 things we learned from the Vikings’ crucial NFC North win vs. the Packers

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The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers each desperately needed a win to keep playoff hopes alive. For the Vikings, that came true with an impressive 24-17 win.

With the win, the Vikings are 6-4-1 and in the top Wild Card spot in the NFC. They’re also in firing range of the Chicago Bears, who are sitting in the top spot in the NFC North at 8-3.

The Packers weren’t as fortunate, and it means their chances at playing into January have dwindled to a long shot.

Here were five things we discovered during the Vikings’ Sunday Night Football win:

Kirk Cousins can play in primetime, after all

Hide Cousins from national television with a 1 p.m. ET kickoff and that’s historically when you’ve seen him play his best football. Put him under the lights of an 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff and that’s when Cousins usually wilts.

That wasn’t the case Sunday, though.

Cousins finished with 29 completions on 38 attempts for 342 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The 129.5 passer rating for Cousins is the highest he’s recorded in a game since joining the Vikings.

The Vikings lost each of their first three primetime games of 2018, but those were matchups against the Rams, Saints, and Bears — the three top teams in the NFC. While Cousins struggled against Chicago, he did well against New Orleans and Los Angeles.

He showed against the Packers that his inability to play under the lights is probably a tad overblown, even if he’s now just 5-12 in primetime games.

Vikings have horrible kicking luck against the Packers

Minnesota went to halftime tied 14-14, but it could’ve been a lead for the Vikings if one or both of Dan Bailey’s second quarter field goal attempts were made.

Bailey missed from 48 and 56 yards, and that was enough for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer to threaten pulling the plug on the kicking game.

“After those two missed field goals, Mike Zimmer told me when the Vikings are in scoring position in this second half he’s going to half to go for it on fourth down, saying, ‘I am not going to put the game in the hands of the kicker,’” NBC’s Michele Tafoya reported before the beginning of the third quarter.

The Vikings have notoriously bad kicking luck that dates back decades. It was a huge part of Minnesota’s tie against the Packers in Week 2. Daniel Carlson missed three field goals in that game and was released by the team a day later.

So you can chock it up to the Vikings’ kicking curse when replays of Bailey’s second miss showed there probably should’ve been a penalty on the Packers for running into or roughing the kicker.

Bailey has mostly been reliable since joining the Vikings in September as Carlson’s replacement. He’s made 18 of his 19 extra points and entered the night with 14 successful field goals on 17 tries.

Zimmer didn’t stick to his promise and he gave Bailey the chance to kick a 37-yard field goal and an extra point in the second half. Bailey made both.

The Packers’ playoff hopes are doomed

Green Bay’s chances of keeping up in the competitive NFC race were already hanging by a thread. At 4-6-1, it’s probably safe to close the book on the Packers’ 2018 season.

Even if the Packers shook off four losses in their last five games to finish the year with five consecutive wins, that’d only get them to 9-6-1. The Bears only need two more wins to guarantee Green Bay doesn’t win the NFC North. After that, there’s the NFC Wild Card race led by the Vikings at 6-4-1 followed by a three-way tie between Washington, Seattle and Carolina, who each have 6-5 records.

The trip to Minnesota was a must-win for the Packers and they came up short.

Jaire Alexander is ready for the big stage

Cousins and the Vikings offense didn’t have much trouble carving up the Packers secondary, but Jaire Alexander was still a bright spot for Green Bay. The first-round pick has been one of the best defensive rookies in the NFL all season and he brought the heat again Sunday night.

He battled for most of the night with Adam Thielen and undoubtedly left the Vikings receiver with a few bumps and bruises. At one point in the game, he used Thielen as a human battering ram to take out Stefon Diggs on a screen.

Thielen finished with 125 yards on eight receptions, but much of that yardage came when he wasn’t covered by Alexander. When he was, the back-and-forth battle was a highlight of the game:

The Packers found a good one in the first round this year.

Green Bay struggles to convert in big moments

Mike McCarthy has been increasingly under fire for wasting an offense that has an otherworldly quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. Sunday isn’t going to help his case.

The Packers were just two of 10 on third downs and failed to convert their only fourth down try of the night.

That’s not all on McCarthy, of course. The last failed conversion of the night was this third down that forced the Packers to settle for a field goal.

But the lack of creativity was what cost the Packers offense for much of the day.

With the playoffs now looking out of reach, McCarthy’s seat is warmer than ever and the Packers may finally decide this is his last season as the team’s head coach.

The Vikings are excellent celebrators

If the Vikings aren’t the best in the NFL at celebrating, they’re certainly up there. I was impartial to their awkward dead arm dance from earlier in the season, but holding up Adam Thielen to play a game of limbo is easily one of the NFL’s best celebrations of the year:

The more touchdowns the Vikings can score, the better. Because clearly they’ve got great things prepared.

Source : https://www.sbnation.com/2018/11/25/18112024/vikings-packers-sunday-night-football-recap-kirk-cousins