Could Vikings have more tricks ready for Packers?
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings are desperate for a win. Does that mean coach Mike Zimmer might reach back into his bag of tricks? "You'll find out Saturday, I guess,'' wide receiver Adam Thielen said. Back in January, the Vikings clinched their first...
MINNEAPOLIS - The Vikings are desperate for a win. Does that mean coach Mike Zimmer might reach back into his bag of tricks?
"You'll find out Saturday, I guess,'' wide receiver Adam Thielen said.
Back in January, the Vikings clinched their first division title since 2009 with a 20-13 victory over the Packers in Green Bay. An early, 41-yard run on a fake punt by Thielen set the tone, loosening up a Vikings team that hadn't won at Lambeau Field since that '09 season.
"I think any time you have a big play, it's a momentum play, it's going to change the momentum in your favor," Thielen said. "I think that did give us a little confidence."
The Vikings (7-7) are back in Green Bay on Saturday for a must-win game against the surging Packers (8-6), who have won four in a row behind a rejuvenated Aaron Rodgers. If the Vikings lose, or if Tampa Bay wins at New Orleans, they'll be eliminated from the playoff race.
"I think we know what it takes to win these kind of games," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "We know the mindset we have to go in with. ... When you win big games, you gain confidence and experience."
The Vikings beat Green Bay 17-14 on Sept. 18, their first regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium and second straight victory over their archrival. In the 2015 regular-season finale, Thielen surprised everyone by taking the snap on a fake punt with the Vikings facing fourth-and-3 from their own 38-yard line. His 41-yard run set up a 39-yard field goal by Blair Walsh for a 3-0 lead.
Before last year's finale, the Packers were 10-1-1 in their previous 12 games against Minnesota, prompting linebacker Chad Greenway to say it no longer was much of a rivalry.
Plenty has changed since the Vikings' win in September, when the Packers were held to a season-low 14 points. After bottoming out at 4-6, Green Bay has improved considerably on offense.
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, has been looking better each week. During the Packers' four-game win streak, he has 29 receptions for 374 yards and three touchdowns.
After Eddie Lacy was lost to injury, Ty Montgomery moved from wide receiver to running back to provide a rushing threat in recent weeks. He carried 16 times for 162 yards and a touchdown in last Sunday's 30-27 win at Chicago.
The defense also has stepped up. The Packers have allowed an average of 15.8 points during their winning streak after surrendering an average of 27.6 points in the first 10 games.
"They had to just get back in their groove," Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "They're definitely back in their groove right now. We know the challenge is going to be even tougher."
Last season at Green Bay, Everson Griffen strip-sacked Rodgers and Munnerlyn returned the fumble 55 yards for a touchdown for a 20-3 lead in the third quarter.
With the Vikings returning, will there be any more surprises from Zimmer?
"You never know what we got in the bag for them," wide receiver Jarius Wright said with a laugh.