GREEN BAY – The Packers cruised to a 37-10 victory over the Vikings on Sunday night at Lambeau Field to improve to 13-3 on the season.
Here are five takeaways from the blowout win.
1. The road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through Green Bay.
For the second straight year, the Packers have the No. 1 seed in the conference for the playoffs, having locked it up with one week left in the regular season. They'll have the first-round bye and home-field advantage, just like last year, except this year Lambeau Field will be a full house for the season's biggest game(s).
There might even be some more true winter weather, like Sunday night's below-zero wind chills, unlike last January.
"We know how important it is to have teams have to come through Lambeau," said running back AJ Dillon, who rushed for 63 yards and two TDs. "I say it all the time. We've got the best fans in football. We also have the elements, as you saw tonight. So, combine those two with all the talent and the team and the staff that we've got, and it's going to be tough sledding for anybody."
2. This chilly game was a mismatch pretty much from the start.
With the kickoff temperature of 11 degrees and dropping (wind chill minus-1) and the defense clamping down on Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (nine carries, 13 yards), backup quarterback Sean Mannion was overmatched. Mannion was filling in for starter Kirk Cousins (COVID-19 list), didn't have star receiver Adam Thielen (injured reserve), and never really got anything going.
The Vikings managed just 11 first downs, 206 yards of offense, and 21 minutes, 27 seconds of possession, losing that battle by over 17 minutes. They converted only 2-of-12 on third down and didn't cross the Green Bay 30-yard line until late in the third quarter, when the score was 30-3.
"We did what we said we wanted to do," said edge rusher Rashan Gary, who had one of the two sacks of Mannion, with Preston Smith getting the other. "We wanted to get off the field on third down and give back the offense the ball as many times as we can."
3. That offense picked it up after a slow start and really got rolling.
Green Bay let some red-zone opportunities get away early, but a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter turned into 20-0 after two more possessions. Then two TDs and a field goal to start the second half made it 34 points in a span of six possessions overall.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers removed any doubts (if there were any) about his worthiness for a fourth NFL MVP award in going 28-of-39 for 288 yards with two TDs for a 114.8 passer rating. Receiver Davante Adams had 11 catches for 136 yards and a score, breaking his own single-season franchise record for receptions by reaching 117. At a career-best 1,498 yards, he's also just 22 yards away from Jordy Nelson's single-season mark in that category (1,519).
"It was a really cold day out there," Adams said. "and we still went out there and handled business."
Meanwhile, Dillon and Aaron Jones combined for 139 yards rushing and 50 more receiving, with Jones busting two explosive runs of 27 and 28 yards in the first half. Both running backs are now over 1,000 yards from scrimmage on the season, the first Green Bay RB duo to accomplish that since 1980.
Lambeau Field hosted a Week 17 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022.
4. There might be a new return man for the playoff push.
Newly acquired David Moore, released nearly two months ago from Denver's practice squad, signed to the Packers' practice squad this week and was elevated to the roster for game day with rookie returner Amari Rodgers on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
All Moore did after just a couple days of practice was record the team's longest punt return of the season (21 yards, plus another 15 for absorbing a late hit out of bounds). He also protected the ball well and nearly drew a flag for fair-catch interference, though the officials, perhaps mistakenly, picked it up.
"I thought he did an outstanding job," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said of Moore. "He had a lot of success it looked like, from my vantage point. I was really impressed by him."
5. The team will have to decide how much to play its starters next week with postseason positioning already set.
Rodgers and Adams both expressed a desire to play at Detroit in Week 18 and not take two full weeks off before the divisional playoff round. Rodgers indicated his fractured pinky toe is feeling the best it has, and he didn't need a painkilling injection before Sunday night's game.
LaFleur said internal discussions would take place, with the players involved, to decide what's best for the team.
"If you ask me right now, my gut is these guys are going to play at least a little bit," LaFleur said.