MINNEAPOLIS >> The ground game with Eddie Lacy was working so well for Green Bay that even Aaron Rodgers wanted a running play to try to put Minnesota away.
“I just kind of chuckled, because it’s usually the other way around,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Lacy and the offensive line delivered a 4-yard run on third-and-2 to take the clock to the 2-minute warning, and one more first down sealed a 24-21 victory for the Packers over the Vikings on Sunday.
Rodgers gave Green Bay his usual confident, accurate, productive game, but the biggest lift came from Lacy in the form of 125 yards on 25 powerful carries.
“He’s agile for a guy his size. He’s got a great spin move. He takes care of the football. He does all the things you want,” said Rodgers, who threw two touchdown passes and again avoided a turnover while the Packers (8-3) moved into sole possession first place in the NFC North.
Lacy scored twice, on a run in the first quarter and a catch in the fourth quarter. The Vikings (4-7) cut the lead to three with 3:23 remaining on Teddy Bridgewater’s second touchdown pass of the afternoon, but the Packers sent in their “Jumbo” set with a sixth offensive lineman to squelch a comeback.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he should’ve called for an onside kick from the 50-yard line, after a roughing-the-passer penalty on the Packers during the previous play.
“I figured they were going to run the ball three times, and I figured we could stop them,” Zimmer said.
That hasn’t happened lately. Three of Lacy’s six 100-yard games have come against the Vikings, and none of his carries were more demoralizing than those gains of 3, 5, 4, 5 and 10 yards when the Packers got the ball back late in this game.
“He doesn’t go down, man,” left guard Josh Sitton said. “It’s pretty fun to watch.”
He did all that sick, too. Lacy left the locker room without speaking to reporters because he was ill, the Packers said.
Green Bay beat Philadelphia 53-20 and Chicago 55-14 the last two games, so this was quite the contrast. The weather was a nonfactor at 49 degrees at kickoff, the first time these rivals played outside in Minnesota since 1981, but many of the next five games promise to be cold. Plus, the playoffs.
“You have to win close games this time of year,” said McCarthy, who passed Vince Lombardi for second place on Green Bay’s all-time regular season wins list. He raised his record to 90-48-1, including 14-4-1 with five season sweeps against the Vikings since arriving in 2006. The Packers are 9-1-1 against their border-state rival in the last 11 games.
Bridgewater finished 21 for 37 for 210 yards and an interception. He ran for 32 yards on five attempts, too, but far too many of his passes were off the mark. Bridgewater hit Greg Jennings on a short crossing pattern and Charles Johnson on the same play for the 2-point conversion that pulled the Vikings within three at 24-21, and he found Johnson from 22 yards out in the second quarter to tie the game at 7.
But after the third of four Packers punts, Bridgewater’s throw to Jennings sailed again into traffic where Micah Hyde made a leaping interception before landing hard on his back at his own 47.
“It was just a poor decision and a ball I should’ve thrown away,” Bridgewater said.
Rodgers needed only four plays to put the Packers back in the end zone. He rolled to his right and heaved a high throw across the entire width of the field to tight end Richard Rodgers standing alone in the far corner.
The Packers put up halftime scores the last two weeks found more often in video games, 30-6 over the Eagles and 42-0 against the Bears, so the Vikings had to be satisfied with a 14-10 deficit and the ball to start the third quarter. The reality was that better quarterback play could have given them a comfortable lead by that point.
Stopping the run has been a problem, too. For all the success the Vikings had covering Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson, holding them each under 100 yards for only the fourth time this season, Lacy was simply too much for them to handle.
NOTES: Rodgers has 32 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 14 career starts against the Vikings. … This was the first touchdown for Jennings in four games against his former team. He has a total of nine catches for 107 yards. … Vikings RT Phil Loadholt was scheduled for an MRI on his left shoulder.