Game Review: Another Tough Loss At The Wire

MINNEAPOLIS - For the second straight week, what could have been an immensely uplifting road win turned into a heartbreaking defeat in the final seconds of a tooth-and-nail ballgame. This one came against NFC North rival Minnesota, and when Mason Crosby’s 52-yard field goal try with just a few ticks left slid wide right, it allowed the Vikings to hang on for a 28-27 decision over the Packers. - More Packers-Vikings Game Center

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K Mason Crosby reacts after missing a 52-yard field goal wide right with 26 seconds left in Sunday's game at the Metrodome.

MINNEAPOLIS - For the second straight week, what could have been an immensely uplifting road win turned into a heartbreaking defeat in the final moments of a tooth-and-nail ballgame.

This one came against NFC North rival Minnesota, and when Mason Crosby's 52-yard field goal try with just 26 seconds left slid wide right, it allowed the Vikings to hang on for a 28-27 decision over the Packers in front of a bi-partisan crowd of 63,845 at the Metrodome.

The loss, coming one week after an overtime defeat to unbeaten Tennessee, dropped the Packers to 4-5 and leaves the team at a crossroads heading into next week's home game against another arch-rival, the Chicago Bears. The good news is that the Bears' loss to those same Titans on Sunday kept the Packers just one game out of the NFC North lead. But the bad news is Green Bay is now behind two teams, the Bears and Vikings, who are tied atop the division at 5-4.

"We just have to dig deeper," safety Nick Collins said. "We have to find some kind of way to win the close game. The five losses that we have, we were right in the game. At the end, we just can't pull it off. I don't know what we have to do, but we have to find a way to get the job done."

The job starts with stopping the run, and the Packers once again struggled mightily in that department.

Minnesota's All-Pro halfback Adrian Peterson was the runaway star of the game, carrying 30 times for 192 yards, including the game-winning touchdown on a 29-yard jaunt with 2:22 left in the game.

Moments after Green Bay linebacker Desmond Bishop, playing for an injured Nick Barnett, stopped Peterson on a fourth-and-1 run at the Minnesota 41-yard line with 8:58 left, Crosby booted a 40-yard field goal to give the Packers a 27-21 lead.

The Vikings then took over at their own 31 with 5:50 to go. Or more appropriately, Peterson took over. On the 69-yard touchdown drive, Peterson accounted for all but five yards, rushing four times and catching two passes.

Simply put, the Packers couldn't stop him with the game on the line. He added 33 yards in receptions to finish with 225 yards from scrimmage, 62 percent of Minnesota's 361 total yards on the day.

"He's a good back," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "You can't question that. You give him room, he'll hurt you. They fed him today, and he did his job."

The go-ahead touchdown came with plenty of time for the Packers to rally, though. Will Blackmon, whose 65-yard punt return for a score in the third quarter put the Packers on top for the first time in the game, returned the kickoff to the 41-yard line.

On the first snap, Aaron Rodgers pass deflected off the helmet of Minnesota defensive tackle Ellis Wyms, but Donald Driver still hauled it in for a 19-yard gain to the Vikings' 40. Two runs by Ryan Grant gained 3 yards and another short pass to Driver picked up three more, setting up Crosby from 52 yards with 31 seconds left.

But Crosby's kick, with more than enough leg behind it, leaked just far enough to the right to miss. And unlike Tennessee's Rob Bironas the week before, who missed a field goal at the end of regulation only to make the game-winner in overtime, the Packers got no second chances.

"It had plenty of distance," said Crosby, who was attempting a game-winner for the first time since his first game as a rookie last season. "I felt like I hit the ball well.

"It just moved right, right off the get-go, and didn't have a chance to come back. It's one of those I'm disappointed with because I hit my other two field goals right down the middle and I felt like I was doing really well. Whenever that happens in a crucial situation -- you feel like you hit the ball well, but it doesn't work out -- it's tough to deal with."

The dramatic finish capped a wild game with multiple momentum swings in the traditionally boisterous dome.

Rodgers was under siege all day, getting sacked four times by Minnesota defenders and hit at least a dozen times on his 26 pass attempts. The pressure helped produce two safeties that gave the Vikings a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter and were symptomatic of a rough day for the Green Bay offense.

The Packers produced just 184 total yards. Grant bulled his way to 75 on the ground on 16 carries (4.7 avg.) against one of the league's toughest run defenses, but Rodgers was only 15-of-26 for 142 yards for a 72.9 rating, spending much of the day dodging rushers and standing tall against the punishment.

"We were never in any type of rhythm and we didn't block very well," offensive tackle Mark Tauscher said. "You put those combinations together, ... they've got a good D-line, and obviously they took it to us today."

The performance was in stark contrast to the season opener, when Rodgers was an ultra-efficient 18-of-22 for a 115.5 rating with no sacks.

"You have to give them credit," Rodgers said. "The first week we did a great job protecting them up and keeping them off me. Today, a combination of not doing our fundamentals way we know how to and me probably holding the ball a little too long, they did a great job."

So did Green Bay's secondary, which picked off Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte three times, all leading to points. Frerotte was just 15-of-28 for 151 yards and a 53.4 rating, as leading receiver Bernard Berrian was shut out, and Minnesota wideouts caught just four passes all game.

{sportsad300}Woodson's fifth interception of the season set up a 48-yard touchdown drive that tied the score at 7 in the first quarter. Tramon Williams got a pick with 22 seconds left in the first half, leading to a 47-yard field goal by Crosby at the gun to make it 14-10 at intermission.

And then Nick Collins snagged his fifth interception of the season, returning it 59 yards for a touchdown and his third defensive score this year.

That started a seismic shift in a short period of time. The Vikings had just gone ahead 21-10 when Chester Taylor shook a tackle attempt by Bishop and took Frerotte's short pass 47 yards for a touchdown.

Collins' pick-six got the Packers right back in it, and after a three-and-out, Blackmon's punt return to paydirt came just 2 minutes, 12 seconds later, making it 24-21 in favor of Green Bay.

But even 14 points from the defense and special teams weren't enough in this one, by far the most frustrating of all the close defeats this season.

"Just finish, that's all it is," Blackmon said. "You look down the schedule, all the games we lost, there wasn't one game where we clearly got out-physicaled, out-hit, out-beat, out-anything. We lost by three points here, four points there, one point here. It's just finishing."

Which leaves the Packers focused on finishing the season strong, with plenty on the line in the last seven games, beginning Sunday against the Bears.

Two last-second losses in a row will make it tough to bounce back, but the Packers insist they aren't demoralized. Far from it.

"Not this team, definitely not this team," Rodgers said. "We've got the right veterans in place, we've got the right guys in place. We just need to play the way we're capable of playing.

"The season is definitely not over by any stretch of the imagination."

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