The drama was on high Sunday night in Green Bay as the Vikings held off a furious rally by the Packers in a battle for the NFC North division championship.
Unlike the Packers' last-second Hail Mary victory on December 3 over the Detroit Lions, Aaron Rodgers' 50-yard heave into the end zone with no time on the clock was batted down by the Vikings, ending Green Bay's four-year reign as division champs.
Minnesota will open the playoffs against the Seattle Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium this coming Sunday at noon.
Leading 20-3 in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had to survive a ferocious comeback and near collapse thanks to poor tackling and untimely miscues.
Cordarrelle Patterson's 70-yard kick return ended with him coughing up the football and turning it over to the Packers after he was stripped by Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby. Green Bay, trailing by a touchdown after rattling off 10 unanswered points, failed to score on the ensuing drive, falling just short when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was intercepted in the end zone on a fourth-and-10 pass.
The Xavier Rhodes interception gave the Vikings ball at their own 20-yard-line, only to see Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson fumble a hand-off exchange; Minnesota recovered, with the only drawback being thousands of Minnesota fans suffering heart palpitations.
Building a 17-point lead
The first half was a defensive struggle that ended with Minnesota taking a 6-3 lead into the locker room at the half.
Peterson, who suffered from back spasms in the second half of the game, capped a six-play, 58-yard scoring drive with a three-yard touchdown run – his 11th of the season – to put the Vikings up 13-3 with 10:32 to play in the third quarter.
Peterson finished with 67 yards to win his third career rushing title, finishing with 1,485 yards on the season.
The lead increased to 20-3 when Everson Griffen knocked the ball out of Rodgers' hand and it was returned by Captain Munnerlyn for a 55-yard touchdown.
Rodgers finished 28-of-44 for 291 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception while Teddy Bridgewater threw for only 99 yards on the day, including an ugly interception when he tried to throw the ball with his left hand.
Seahawks coming back to Minnesota
The Vikings earned the No. 3-seed in the NFC and will get a first-round home playoff rematch against the Seattle Seahawks, who devoured the Vikings 38-7 at TCF Bank Stadium on Dec. 6.
The game will kick off at 12:05 p.m. Sunday.
Green Bay had to settle for the No. 5-seed and will open the playoffs on the road against the NFC East champion Washington Redskins.