Vikings shut out Packers 16-0, keep eye on 1st-round bye
By GENARO C. ARMAS
Dec. 24, 2017
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — While winning at Lambeau Field means a lot to the Minnesota Vikings, the NFC North champions have bigger goals in mind.
A first-round playoff bye is well within reach, and could be secured as soon as Sunday.
The Vikings took care of business on their end with a 16-0 victory Saturday night over the injury-depleted Green Bay Packers, the team's first shutout in 24 years. Having already clinched the division title, Minnesota (12-3) can wrap up a first-round bye if the Carolina Panthers lose or tie on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
"I'm hoping we can get one more win, work on some things we need to work on ... and then go out and play our rear ends off in the playoffs," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
Stefon Diggs caught a 4-yard pass from quarterback Case Keenum just inside the back line of the end zone in the first quarter for the only touchdown. After the game, Keenum stopped before heading up the tunnel at Lambeau, clapping his hands above his head while Vikings fans chanted "Skol! Skol!"
They felt right at home in Titletown.
"Defense played absolutely incredible today, and we did enough. It doesn't matter how, it matters how many," Keenum said.
The Packers (7-8) managed to hold a 239-236 edge in total yards. They were still shut out twice in a season for the first time since 2006.
"I never felt more defeated, more embarrassed by a performance. Yeah, we had opportunities, and we didn't connect when we did," receiver Randall Cobb said.
In its defense, the team fielded a lineup that often looked like one coach Mike McCarthy might send out for a game late in the preseason. The Packers had already been eliminated from playoff contention.
Brett Hundley was 17 of 40 for 130 yards with two interceptions in taking over at quarterback again for Aaron Rodgers, who returned to injured reserve this week after missing seven games earlier in the year with a collarbone injury.
"It's so frustrating just because of the fact that I know what I can do," Hundley said. "But to go out there and not be consistent — which is my number one goal — and just give our team an opportunity to win each game, that hurts."
MINNESOTA MILESTONES: The Vikings forced an incompletion into the end zone on fourth-and-4 from the 14 early in the fourth quarter to turn away the Packers' last best effort to cross the goal line. Minnesota safety Harrison Smith ended another Green Bay drive with an interception at the Vikings 5 late in the second quarter. Minnesota left frigid Lambeau Field with its first shutout since a 13-0 win over Detroit on Dec. 5, 1993. It was the first shutout over the Packers since Nov. 14, 1971.
THAT HURTS: Starting outside linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) missed the game for Green Bay, along with cornerback Damarious Randall (hamstring). The Packers didn't have leading receiver Davante Adams, who is in the concussion protocol, and then lost wideout Jordy Nelson and tight end Richard Rodgers to shoulder injuries in the first half.
"Injuries are unfortunate. We had a lot of opportunities tonight. We didn't make the plays," McCarthy said.
FROZEN TUNDRA: The hard turf at chilly Lambeau didn't help, either, as some players had trouble with their footing early in the game. With the Packers unable to connect on medium-to-long-range passes, their best plays came when Hundley broke free for big gains on the run .
In the stands, fans bundled up in parkas, huddled under blankets and sipped on free hot chocolate to stay warm. Purple-clad Minnesota backers celebrated on a night when temperatures were in the single digits.
STAT WATCH: Diggs finished with five catches for 60 yards. Keenum was 14 of 25 for 139 yards. ... The Packers were also shut out 23-0 by Baltimore on Nov. 19. ... Hundley finished the home schedule having thrown no touchdowns and seven interceptions in six games at Lambeau.
INJURY REPORT: The Vikings said left guard Nick Easton will have surgery after breaking his right ankle in the first quarter. Long snapper Kevin McDermott (shoulder) left late in the second quarter, with backup TE David Morgan taking over snapping duties. ... For the Packers, RT Jason Spriggs was carted off the field with a knee injury on the first play from scrimmage. Justin McCray, who was starting at right guard for Jahri Evans (knee), slid over to tackle with Lucas Patrick taking over at guard. ... Green Bay RB Aaron Jones (knee) didn't return after getting hurt in the first half.
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