Vikings are in good playoff positioning but not satisfied with 5-5 mark
Thanks to some other playoff-hopeful teams losing Sunday, the Vikings are now in the No. 6 spot in the NFC, and the top seven teams will make the postseason.
MINNEAPOLIS -- With a two-game winning streak, the Minnesota Vikings have climbed back to .500 and into playoff position in the NFC. But head coach Mike Zimmer is far from content.
“We just have to keep going,’’ he said after a dramatic 34-31 win over Green Bay on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. “We can’t be satisfied to be 5-5.’’
Two weeks earlier, the Vikings were 3-5 and their season potentially was in trouble. But they’ve since won two games in which they were underdogs, the previous one a 27-20 road victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 14.
Thanks to some other playoff-hopeful teams losing Sunday, the Vikings are now in the No. 6 spot in the NFC, and the top seven teams will make the postseason. Minnesota was helped by New Orleans (5-5), now in the No. 7 spot, falling 40-29 to Philadelphia, and Carolina (5-6), now No. 10, losing 27-21 to Washington.
“Home game, division game, against a good football team, so it’s a step in the right direction. But 5-5 keeps you in the hunt,’’ quarterback Kirk Cousins said after Greg Joseph’s 29-yard field goal on the final play defeated the NFC North-leading Packers (8-3). “But you know it’s going to take more to be in the playoffs at the end, so we’ve got a lot of work up ahead to get done.’’
The Vikings have another big game next Sunday at San Francisco (5-5), which is in the No. 8 spot.
It was yet another close game for the Vikings. All their games but one this season have been decided by seven points or less.
“Sundays are not fun,” Zimmer cracked. “You know they say, ‘Sunday is fun day.’ It’s not, at all.”
Peterson returned after being on injured reserve for the three games due to a hamstring issue. He said he felt fine other than missing some time late in the first half.
“Was cramping up a little bit… Got some IVs and fluids into me, and I finished the game,’’ he said.
Peterson was part of a Vikings defense that gave up 467 yards for the game after allowing 213 in the first half.
“Defensively, we played really well in the first half, and then we really couldn’t get them stopped in the second half,’’ Zimmer said.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 13 of 22 passes in the first half for 188 yards and a touchdown before finishing 23 of 33 for 385 yards with four touchdowns. On his last throw of the game, he hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling down the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown that tied the score 31-31 with 2:08 left.
“We were a bit aggressive, and they blocked it up,’’ Peterson said.
Also back for the Vikings on defense were safety Harrison Smith, who missed the past two games while on the COVID-19 reserve list, and linebacker Anthony Barr, who sat against the Chargers with a knee injury.
Cole gets the call
Mason Cole started at center over Garrett Bradbury for the Vikings, but Zimmer said he’s unsure if that will remain the case.
Bradbury, taken with the No. 18 pick in the 2019 draft, had been the starter for 39 straight games until he went on the COVID-19 reserve list and missed the last two games. Cole took over as the starter in those two games and did well.
Zimmer said Friday he knew who would start but wouldn’t reveal his choice. Bradbury was activated off the COVID-19 reserve list on Wednesday and practiced throughout the week before not playing at all against the Packers.
“I don’t know,’’ Zimmer said of whether Cole has won the job for good. “He has played well the last two weeks. Their nose tackle (Kenny Clark) is a really good player. … We’ll see this week how it goes.”
Inactive for the Vikings were guard Wyatt Davis, who was ruled out Friday with an ankle injury, quarterback Kellen Mond, wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, cornerback Harrison Hand and linebacker Chazz Surratt.
After rushing for just 18 yards in the first half on 10 carries, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook finished with 86 yards on 22 attempts. … The Vikings opened the game using three safeties in Smith, Xavier Woods and Camryn Bynum, who had looked good starting for Smith in the previous two games. Zimmer said he wanted to give Rodgers a look with a “bigger body.’’ … Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson also was used at defensive end and was effective at times rushing the passer.