GREEN BAY – A Vikings team that only three weeks ago took the Cardinals to the wire in a 23-20 loss in Arizona, was beaten by the Packers, 30-13, in Week 11.
"We had (eight) penalties, we got sacked six times, we turned the ball over and, really, they out-physicaled us, to be honest with you," Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer said in detailing the reasons for the Vikings' loss to the Packers.
This Sunday, in Lambeau Field, the Vikings and Packers will play for the NFC North title. It's a match between the division's new power vs. a team trying to win its fifth consecutive NFC North title.
"We understand it's a big game. It's for the division, it's against a great football team. We're just trying to get to where we can compete with them every year," Zimmer told Packers media on Wednesday.
In the Packers' win in Minneapolis, they held star running back Adrian Peterson to 45 yards rushing. They also forced him to fumble late in the game, which clinched the win for Green Bay.
Meanwhile, Eddie Lacy rushed for 100 yards, which was a breakout performance for him. Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and made big plays at critical times in the game. It was, by far, the Packers' best all-around performance since the bye week in late October.
"I think they played really well. They played physical. I think they just played better than we did," Zimmer said.
What about the Vikings? In just Zimmer's second season, has he brought his team far enough along to play at a championship level?
"This team has a lot of good guys on it. They work hard. I try to be demanding to them. I try to explain what I want, how I want to play. I try to teach them about winning, as much as I can about football. They're a pretty good group. I don't know that I did anything special," Zimmer said.
He said the Packers were not the target.
"When I came here, it was all about trying to get this team better. The better we got, the better chance we had to compete in the division."
Peterson and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater are the key performers for the Vikings. Peterson has to be more productive than he was in Week 11 for the Vikings to win this game.
"He continues to amaze me with the things he can do. He's a special kind of guy and I'm glad he's on our team," Zimmer said.
Take a look back in time at memorable photos from previous Packers-Vikings matchups. Photos by AP, Jim Biever, Vernon Biever,and Harmann Studios.
Bridgewater played well in the Week-11 game (296 yards, one touchdown, 100.7 passer rating), but he's a second-year quarterback matched up against one of the game's all-time passers.
"We don't put everything on Teddy's shoulders. It's not like he has to be the centerpiece of our team. It's not really about one guy," Zimmer said. "He's not perfect. He still has a long way to go. But Teddy wants to work to be good. He's not a stats guy; he just wants to win. He keeps improving. Last year in December, he played really well and we're hoping he is now."
With a win, the Vikings would host Seattle in the wild-card round of the playoffs; the Packers would be the No. 5 seed and would play at No. 4 Washington. A Vikings loss this Sunday would drop them to No. 5 or No. 6, depending on the outcome of Seattle's game at Arizona. Should the Vikings claim the No. 6 spot, they would return to Green Bay for a wild-card game.
"This is the time of the year you want to get on a roll, peak," Zimmer said.