MINNEAPOLIS — Green Bay used a dominating defensive effort to beat Minnesota 23-10 and claim the NFC North title for the first time since 2016.
Offense: Aaron Jones
The third-year running back ran for a career-high 154 yards, but it was one of his last that proved to be the back-breaker. With the Packers clinging to a 17-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Jones picked his way through the Vikings defense, and with some help from a couple excellent blocks, broke free for a 56-yard touchdown. It was his second of the night and it gave him 19 total touchdowns on the year.
Defense: Za’Darius Smith
The Vikings had no answer for the Packers edge rusher. He wreaked havoc in the backfield all night, finishing with 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss. The sacks were he most by a Packers player since 2012. But Smith’s impact was more than just in the pass game. He met several Minnesota runners in the hole for minimal gains and seemed like a man on a mission. All of it led to a defense that held a fourth-straight opponent under 20 points for the first time since 2006-2007.
Special teams: JK Scott
The punter did his job well Monday night, averaging 46.8 yards per kick and routinely flipping the field in the Packers favor. His long went for 60 yard and Vikings’ returner Mike Hughes was able to return just one of the five punts.
Aaron Rodgers on winning the NFC North at US Bank Stadium:
“It feels great to win it in this stadium where a couple of years ago I was jeered leaving the field after breaking my collarbone. Feels pretty good.”
Za’Darius Smith when asked if his big night was the result of him not being named to the Pro Bowl:
“Nah, I’ve been telling these guys for the last two two weeks, we’re not worried about the Pro Bowl. We’re trying to go to a Super Bowl.”
More Smith on what his performance means in a division-clinching win:
“It means a lot. I told the guys earlier, ‘man, you know what. The only thing I want for Christmas is a hat and a t-shirt.’ And they came through with it. Man, my Christmas gift his here already.”
In Case You Missed It
— Safety Will Redmond suffered a hamstring injury and did not return. Running back Jamaal Williams suffered a shoulder injury and also did not return.
— After the game, Packers coach Matt LaFleur and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer met for the normal post-game handshake but it went much quicker than most.
— Minnesota played without their top two running backs — Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. The Vikings finished with just 57 yards rushing, the third-fewest they’ve had this year.
Inside the Numbers
278 — That’s how many passes Aaron Rodgers had gone without throwing an interception prior to his second quarter pick.
13 — That’s how many catches Davante Adams had. That tied his career-high and went for a game-high 116 yards.
5 — That’s how many interceptions Kevin King has this season after his key pick in the third quarter. King’s total leads the team and is tied for fourth in the NFL. King had just one interception in his first two years in the league.
7 — That’s how many first downs the Vikings had. It’s the fewest they’ve had in a home game against the Packers since 1971.
122 — That’s how many yards passing Kirk Cousins had. It was his second-fewest of the season.
2-2 — That’s the Packers record when losing the turnover battle this season. Green Bay was minus-2 on the night.
5-0 — That’s the Packers record against the rest of the NFC North. They can sweep the division for the first time since 2011 with a win at Detroit next week.
10 — That’s how many NFC North titles the Packers have since the division was created in 2002. That’s more than the other three teams combined.
1 — That’s how many wins the Packers need to clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs. If they beat the Lions, they will be no worse than the No. 2 seed. They can still be the No. 1 seed if they win and Seattle beats San Francisco.
Green Bay (12-3) will travel to Detroit (3-11-1) to face the Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.