GREEN BAY—It felt like a loss, but with a win in Detroit on Thursday the Packers would be in the driver's seat to defend their NFC North title. That's the fallout from Sunday's 26-26 overtime tie with the Vikings.
"Little bit of an empty feeling. You expect to win. We got halfway there. The performance is not the standard but we're a team playing through some peaks and valleys. Matt Flynn gave us a spark," Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following one of the most dramatic comebacks in Packers history. It rallied the Packers from a 23-7 deficit to a 23-23 tie at the end of regulation.
Flynn ignited the rally. The quarterback whose record-setting performance in the 2011 regular-season finale landed him a big free-agent contract, revived his career on Sunday by throwing for 218 yards, one touchdown and an 85.2 passer rating in relief of starter Scott Tolzien.
"I think everybody would say it feels like a loss," Flynn said from inside a somber Packers postgame locker room. "This is too good of a team to be where it is right now."
Actually, at 5-5-1 the Packers aren't in such a bad place. The combination of the Packers' tie and losses by the Lions and Bears left the Packers a half game behind each, with a game left against each team. The Packers must finish with the best record in the NFC North to win the division's title.
All of that will be meaningless, however, if the Packers don't start winning. They haven't won a game since beating the Vikings in Minnesota on Oct. 27.
"No one is happy with the performance of our team, but the energy is good," McCarthy said. "It's the end of the third quarter of the season. It's been a rough road. We haven't handled Aaron Rodgers' departure. We all need to step up. I have great confidence in this group. I told them in the locker room that we need to flip the page. We have to go beat the Lions."
Immediately, Flynn becomes a candidate to start at quarterback in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. McCarthy wouldn't name a starter following Sunday's game, as he had two weeks ago when the Packers lost to the Eagles. When will McCarthy name a starting quarterback?
"We'll make it Thursday. We'll keep it a secret," he said, then added: "You guys know I don't play games like that. We'll do what's in the best interest of the football team."
Flynn handed the defense a 26-23 lead following a 77-yard drive that produced a 20-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 10:25 to play in overtime. The defense was unable to hold the lead, however, and the Vikings would've won the game had rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson not dropped a potential touchdown pass by Christian Ponder.
The Vikings settled for a field goal by Blair Walsh, and neither team would mount a scoring threat in the final 3:49 of overtime.
"Defensively, we had some big stops. The obvious difference was their ability to rush the football. This is not the standard," McCarthy said. "We had too many coming out of there. They rushed the ball for 200 yards. What can you say?"
Adrian Peterson rushed for 146 yards and backup Toby Gerhart averaged a shocking 11.4 yards per carry in adding 91 yards to the Vikings' rushing total. That combined performance overshadowed Eddie Lacy's 110 bruising yards.
Lacy was at his Packers best, bowling over defenders and refusing to be tackled. On a critical fourth-and-one play in the Packers' fourth-quarter rally, Lacy appeared to be stopped for a 2-yard loss, but dragged the Vikings defensive line for four yards and a drive-sustaining first down. It was one of the plays of the game.
"That's his run style," McCarthy said.
The Packers will need to recapture the style that saw them win four games in a row prior to the shoulder injury that has since sidelined Rodgers. Having squandered a chance to move into a three-way tie for the division lead on Sunday, it would seem the Packers have reached do-or-die time for Thursday's game in Detroit. Complete game coverage