GREEN BAY – Wild games just feel weird when they end this way.
One of the craziest finishes to a game in recent memory at Lambeau Field produced no winner on Sunday, as the Packers and Vikings are both lamenting what got away in a 29-29 tie.
For the Packers, it came down to numerous chances in scoring territory late that ended with either three points or none, and a costly penalty that has all of Packer Nation scratching its head.
For the Vikings, there were two field-goal tries in overtime that went awry and spoiled a furious fourth-quarter rally.
Both teams now exit Week 2 at 1-0-1, tied atop the NFC North.
"Obviously disappointed in the outcome," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "We had a number of opportunities to come away with the win, but the tie, as they say, it is what it is."
Added quarterback Aaron Rodgers: "It's close to an L, yeah. It doesn't feel great."
McCarthy declined to address the dubious penalty, which will be the talk of the NFL for the next week at least. With the Packers trying to protect a 29-22 lead with just under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins' deep ball was intercepted by rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander, presumably sealing the win.
But Green Bay's Clay Matthews was flagged for roughing the passer on a hit that was not late and was to Cousins' midsection. In a pool report, referee Tony Corrente said he ruled Matthews "lifted (Cousins) and drove him into the ground," an explanation that won't make the call any less controversial based on how the replay looked.
In any event, Minnesota's new life led to a 22-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen with 31 seconds on the clock. A two-point pass to Stefon Diggs capped the Vikings' 22-point fourth quarter to tie the game.
"I'm not really interested in taking any official questions or any of that nonsense," McCarthy said. He was later asked if Matthews could have done anything differently, and McCarthy replied, "I don't think so."
The Packers were up 20-7 at one point, getting an early special-teams TD as receiver Geronimo Allison blocked a punt at the goal line that rookie corner Josh Jackson plucked out of the air for the score. A 9-yard TD pass to Davante Adams (eight catches, 64 yards) in the second quarter ended up being Green Bay's only offensive touchdown, but even with some regrettable field goals, the Packers were still in command, up 23-14 with 7:35 left in the fourth.
Then Cousins hit Diggs for a 75-yard touchdown to make it 23-21, and the game was nothing but nuts the rest of the way.
"They hit their big plays," McCarthy said. "You have to have big plays in this league. You look at the analytics and it's been that way for years."
The Packers made some, too, but couldn't put the game away. Leading 26-21, Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix intercepted a deflected pass and returned it to the Minnesota 13-yard line, but the Packers took just 19 seconds total off the clock on either side of the two-minute warning, lost 5 yards, and kicked another field goal.
That left the Vikings just eight points down, and after they tied it, the Packers still had 31 seconds to work with. Rodgers handed off to running back Jamaal Williams for 11 yards, spiked the ball, and gained 27 yards on a strike to tight end Jimmy Graham (six catches, 95 yards) to set up a 52-yard field goal on the final play of regulation. But kicker Mason Crosby – who had tied a career-best going 5-for-5 to that point – missed wide left after a Vikings timeout nullified his first successful attempt.
The Minnesota Vikings traveled to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 of the 2018 NFL season
It would have been another classic game-winning sequence for Rodgers, who played valiantly on a bad left knee in completing 30-of-42 for 281 yards and a 97.4 passer rating. Only it wasn't to be.
"To get in position there at the end, with the run selection on first down, the clock, the protection adjustment (on the Graham throw), it was a big play to give us a chance to win there," McCarthy said.
With both defenses gassed on a long and hot 80-degree day, the chances were there in overtime, too. As Cousins surpassed 400 yards passing (35-of-48, 425 yards, four TDs, one INT, 118.8 rating) and Thielen (12 catches, 131 yards, one TD) and Diggs (9-128-2) added to their big days, Minnesota set up kicker Daniel Carlson from 49 yards out, but he was wide right.
The Packers had second-and-1 at the Minnesota 37 when Rodgers fumbled a fake handoff (leading to a sack and a punt), and then Carlson missed right again on the final play of the 10-minute overtime from just 35 yards away, his third miss on the day.
"We fought hard," Rodgers said. "We had some plays go our way and some plays didn't. Disappointed we had a lot of chances to win that game. It's better to be standing here with a T instead of an L."
It'll be two months and nine days before these two teams, who have combined for 10 of the last 11 NFC North titles, meet again. Even more could be at stake.
"We had some opportunities. We didn't get over the hump," McCarthy said. "But I really love the way our guys fought and fought and fought.
"I think it was an illustration of what this division is all about. It usually comes down to the last play of the game, last play of overtime, and that's what today was."