Packers overcome Peterson’s big day to take over first place in NFC North
GREEN BAY, Wis. — If any more Green Bay receivers go down, the Packers could always use Morgan Burnett.
With Minnesota rolling behind Adrian Peterson, the Green Bay safety picked off Christian Ponder twice in the red zone in the second half Sunday. Mason Crosby converted the miscues into a pair of field goals, James Starks gave Green Bay its first touchdown on the ground in almost two months and the Packers overcame Peterson’s monster day for a 23-14 win.
“I thought Morgan Burnett’s interception in the third quarter in the end zone was the key play of game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “It shifted the momentum.”
The victory was Green Bay’s 10th straight over an NFC North opponent and gave the Packers (8-4) a share of the division lead after Chicago lost to Seattle in overtime. The Packers and Bears play at Soldier Field on Dec. 16.
“I can’t say there are many Seattle fans in the locker room,” Aaron Rodgers said, “but we appreciate the help.”
The Packers lost in Seattle earlier this year on the Inaccurate Reception.
Peterson finished with 210 yards rushing, the most he’s had since blowing out his ACL and MCL last December. That included an 82-yard touchdown, his longest of the season, that gave Minnesota a 14-10 lead at halftime.
But his big numbers weren’t enough to make up for the absence of Percy Harvin, who missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle. Ponder didn’t help matters with his interceptions, one in the end zone and the other around the Green Bay 10.
“As we walked into the tunnel, Everson Griffen was behind me talking. He was like, `Why does it feel like we won? But we’re leaving here with a loss,” Peterson said. “That’s the type of feeling it was. We know that it’s things that we did that cost us the game.”
The loss won’t cost Ponder his job, however. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he didn’t consider switching quarterbacks during the game and won’t consider such a move this week.
The Vikings (6-6) fell a game behind Seattle in the race for the second NFC wild card.
“We can win with the personnel that we have,” Frazier said. “We’ve shown that we can. We just have to do a few things better. There’s no reason to panic.”
The Packers didn’t panic despite injuries to Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and T.J. Lang (ankle) leaving the offense scrambling and Peterson almost single-handedly wiping out Green Bay’s early 10-0 lead. He put the Vikings in great position to pad that lead, ripping off a 48-yarder on the first play of the second half that gave Minnesota the ball at the Green Bay 12.
But two plays later, Ponder got flushed out of the pocket. Rather than take the sack or run out of bounds, he heaved the ball into the end zone — and right into Burnett’s hands.
“I’d seen it was a pretty spiral, and I made sure I got my paws on it,” Burnett said.
Rodgers overthrew Jarrett Boykin in the end zone on third-and-7 from the 29, and the Packers looked as if they were going to go for it. But after a Minnesota timeout, McCarthy sent out Crosby, who had missed six of his last 11, including one from 53 yards just before the half.
This one was good, however, the kick wobbling through the uprights for a 47-yard field goal.
Rodgers was picked off on a trick play, but the Packers defense bailed him out, stuffing Peterson for no gain on third-and-1. A bad Chris Kluwe punt gave the Packers the ball at their own 49 and, four plays later, Starks bolted 22 yards for the score and Green Bay’s first lead since the second quarter.
It was Green Bay’s first rushing touchdown since Oct. 7.
A 15-yard unnecessary roughness call on Tramon Williams gave Minnesota the ball on the Green Bay 25. But once again, Burnett was there, stepping in front of Kyle Rudolph and snatching the ball at the 13.
“This one definitely hurts,” Ponder said. “For what this game means to the team, to this state, it’s disappointing — especially with the way Adrian played — to go out and throw two interceptions.”
The Packers ground out an 11-minute drive before Crosby sealed the win with his third field goal of the day, a 31-yarder. Rodgers made three big third-down conversions to keep the drive alive, running for one and finding Jennings (8 yards) and Randall Cobb (33 yards) on the others.
Rodgers, who turned 29 Sunday, finished 27 of 35 for 286 yards.
“Everything’s right in front of us,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to go win our home games and get a couple wins on the road.”
Burnett’s two interceptions matched his single-game career high. He also had two last year against the Bears. … Peterson is the second player to gain 100 yards rushing against the Packers this year, and first since San Francisco’s Frank Gore in the season opener. … The 11-minute scoring drive was Green Bay’s longest of the season. … With 1 1/2 sacks Sunday, Jared Allen now has 14 of Rodgers. … Peterson’s 21 carries gives him 1,640 for his career, topping the previous Vikings record of 1,627. … Green Bay has won 24 of its last 26 regular-season games at home.