The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS–Once Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings took the lead on Green Bay, they played with a fierce refusal to let it go.
They held onto the ball with the same determination.
Cousins bounced back from his worst game of the season with 342 passing yards and three touchdowns without a fumble or an interception, and the Vikings overcame some early gaffes to outlast the depleted Packers for a 24-17 victory last night.
Completing 29 of his 38 attempts, Cousins found Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen for scores.
Diggs and Thielen had eight receptions apiece.
“It just kind of shows his character, shows what kind of player he is, to be able to just not really care what people talk about him, not really care about what happened last week,” Thielen said of Cousins.
“The throws he was making, his full game was really impressive,” he added.
“That’s what you expect out of him.”
Sheldon Richardson had two sacks to lead the defence’s game-long stifling of Aaron Rodgers, and the Vikings (6-4-1) pushed the Packers (4-6-1) further back in the NFC wild-card race.
The Vikings won a night game for the first time this season after losing to the top three teams in the NFC: to the Rams in L.A., at home to the New Orleans Saints, and then at Chicago in a two-interception game by Cousins against the first-place Bears.
The Vikings entered the weekend with the fourth-most turnovers in the NFL, and Cousins has been charged with 13 of the 16 giveaways.
Coach Mike Zimmer was so impressed by the way Cousins played against the Packers that he gave him the game ball in the locker-room afterward.
“Last week left a bad taste in our mouths,” Cousins said. “And the chance to come back on Sunday Night Football against a division rival at home was a great opportunity, and I’m glad we made the most of it.”
Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Davante Adams and Aaron Jones scored on a short run for a 14-7 lead early in the second quarter, but the Packers fell to 0-6 on the road this season and 1-5-1 against the Vikings in their last seven meetings.
Their final seven possessions produced only one field goal, with five punts and one turnover on downs.
“We’ve all got to play better, myself included,” Rodgers stressed.
“Started off the game nice. We had a couple good drives,” he noted. “We’re rolling there.
“[Then] we hit our unfortunate typical lull and didn’t get it going again.”
With Randall Cobb out (hamstring) for a sixth game this season, and rookies Equanimeous St. Brown (elbow) and Trevor Davis (hamstring) forced out in the second half, Rodgers didn’t have much to work with down the field.
Left guard Lane Taylor (quadriceps) departed in the first half and left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) was sidelined in the second half, leaving the protection shaky at best.
Rodgers finished 17-fo-r28 for 198 yards, without a turnover.
The Packers failed to move the chains on eight-of-10 third downs. Jones was stuffed on fourth-and-inches by Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, and Eric Kendricks midway through the third quarter, giving the Vikings the ball at the Green Bay 44.
That set up a 37-yard field goal by Dan Bailey for Minnesota’s first lead of the game.
“We’re definitely not in the position, record-wise, we thought we would be in coming into the year or even after this game. We thought we could get the victory. But unfortunately we ran out of gas,” Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews said.
“We’re beat up, no doubt about that,” he conceded. “But give them credit: they put in a full four quarters.”
Elsewhere in the NFL, New England beat the N.Y. Jets 27-13, Baltimore doubled Oakland 34-17, Seattle edged Carolina 30-27, Philadelphia shaded the N.Y. Giants 25-22, and Tampa Bay dumped San Francisco 27-9.
Cleveland upended Cincinnati 35-20, Buffalo nipped Jacksonville 24-21, the L.A. Chargers bombed Arizona 45-10, Indianapolis edged Miami 27-24, and Denver beat Pittsburgh 24-17.