On an NFL Sunday afternoon that saw their division rivals the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions both lose, the Green Bay Packers had to settle for a tie in overtime at home against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Pack’s fortunes on this coldest day of the season went from impossible to improbable to likely to iffy and finally to…ugh!
Green Bay is now within a half-game of the division lead with a 5-5-1 mark.
The Vikes are now 2-8-1 and long out of it.
The Lions (whom the Packers play on Thursday) and the Bears are at 6-5.
Suffice it say, the Pack was lucky to get a tie, but they could’ve easily been sent home whimpering with a huge loss.
When the Green & Gold got to OT and won the toss, it looked like they might actually pull this one off.
Did we mention that in the second half the Packers were using their fourth different QB in as many games?
Flynn didn’t set the world on fire, but he did move the chains and the team and the offense responded with two TD drives and a last-minute effort that led to the extra session.
It wasn’t as if Tolzien stunk up Lambeau Field. He did not.
But he couldn’t move the ball consistently enough to warrant sticking with him.
Tolzien’s legs, not his arm, made the biggest impact early.
Tolzien drove downfield and had another long hookup with Jordy Nelson.
After Eddie Lacy powered his way to a first and goal, Tolzien hit James Jones in front of the pylon.
That pass was broken up.
When his receivers were covered, Tolzien meandered to the right and cut back to the left willing himself across the goal line.
That made it 7-0 with 4:59 to play in the opening quarter.
A solid return by Cordarrelle Patterson yielded only a Blair Walsh FG and the it was 7-3 in favor of the Pack at the 1:57 mark.
Adrian Peterson got the run game going for the Vikes.
But he was stripped of the ball by A.J. Hawk and Andy Mulumba pounced on it at the Green Bay 45 yard line.
The Pack didn’t take advantage, going three and out.
Walsh drilled a 47-yarder to come within a point with 4:24 left in the half.
The Packers moved the ball somewhat, but a combinations of drops and poorly place Tolzien throws forced them to punt yet again.
This time, Viking QB Christian Ponder took advantage.
He used passes to Jerome Simpson in traffic to keep the defense honest and AP did the rest on the ground.
One pass that Simpson caught had 15 yards tacked on when Morgan Burnett got tagged with a “defenseless receiver” call.
Minnesota took its first lead, 13-7, with 50 ticks left ‘til intermission.
The second half didn’t yield any better results for Tolzien and the Packer ‘O’.
They gave the ball back to Ponder and their run-pass blend worked like a charm.
Ponder hit his TE Rhett Ellison for a 12-yard score and the Vikes were in command, 20-7, with 8:22 left in the third.
At first, he did not fare much better.
James Starks got a couple of first downs, but GB was forced to punt yet again.
The three-and-outs and stalled drives kept the Packer ‘D’ on the field and, in the cold weather, they started to break down a bit.
The Vikes took their lead into the fourth quarter and padded their cushion with a third Walsh field goal (29 yards)., 23-7, with 14:24 to go in the contest.
Credit the much-maligned Minnesota secondary for some great coverage on the Packer receivers.
Rarely was any catch made without a purple helmet in the vicinity.
Flynn had his best success since a record-setting day against the Lions a couple years back.
An interference penalty on a pass to Jones gave Green Bay an opportunity in the red zone.
A face masking infraction gave the Pack a first and goal and Eddie Lacy plowed in from three yards out.
The two-point conversion was picked off but the gap was now ten points, 23-13, with 11:42 left.
The Vikings knew it was AP time.
Time for Peterson to pick his way through the defense and erase precious minutes off the clock.
Despite almost being a scratch for today, Peterson answered the bell and knew what his role would be.
The ‘D’ responded with a stop at midfield.
And Flynn started to put the Packers in position to pull this one out.
Lacy showed why he should’ve been a first round pick with sheer will and determination to gain positive yards.
He racked up a couple of gritty first downs.
Flynn found Jarrett Boykin for a first down and then a nine-yard touch with a bullet as his knee touched just behind the plane.
All of a sudden, it was 23-20, Vikes, with 3:30 left.
A swarming defensive line racked up consecutive sacks of Ponder and the Packers got the ball right back.
Flynn had 2:27 remaining and 69 yards to go for either the tie or win.
A little dump pass to Lacy before the two-minute warning had the Pack in Minnesota territory at the 44.
On fourth and six, the Vikes were offside, but Flynn hit Jones at the 12 despite being hit at the time of release.
Three straight incomplete passes led to Mason Crosby’s 27-yard game tying field goal with 46 ticks left.
Ponder continued to be pestered by GB’s defense and the game went to OT.
The Pack’s field goal gave them the lead, but under the new rules, the Vikings had a chance to win outright.
A stout defense forced Minnesota to settle for a FG and neither team was in position for the game-winner before time ran out.
The Packers get right back to it when they travel to Detroit to take on the Lions at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day. Kickoff is set for 11:30 a.m.
Whether Aaron Rodgers makes his return to the field, which he has hinted at, remains to be seen.
Because of the logjam at the top of the NFC North, this is a particularly crucial game.
Tolzien has shown himself to be a capable leader and it looks like he is the replacement for Matt Flynn as A-Rod’s backup that GM Ted Thompson has been looking for since he signed with Seattle two years ago.