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GREEN BAY – Back in May, in the middle of the offseason program, he was an under-the-radar signing.

Down the stretch for the Packers in 2019, cornerback Chandon Sullivan is becoming a key piece to coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense.

A second-year pro out of Georgia State who played in five games with the Eagles last year as a rookie, Sullivan has seen a jump in his defensive snaps of late, and games like Sunday’s against the Bears show why he keeps earning more.

Sullivan was anywhere and everywhere, supporting the run, playing both hybrid linebacker and cover corner, dropping into zones like a safety, you name it – and highly involved in some of the game’s important defensive stops.

Here’s a sampling of the up-and-comer’s work.

Play No. 1: Second-and-9 from the Chicago 28, second quarter, 12:08 left

Result: 4-yard run by RB David Montgomery

This is pretty standard run support, but it’s Sullivan’s anticipation that makes the play and saves a potentially big run. Lined up across from WR Anthony Miller (17) in the slot, Sullivan is clearly expecting a run and starts to shift more toward the box right before the snap. The adjustment gives him a better angle to sidestep Miller’s block attempt and be right where he needs to be to drop Montgomery. If he gets blocked by Miller, Montgomery might be off to the races.

Play No. 2: Fourth-and-7 from the Green Bay 41, second quarter, 7:40 left

Result: Incomplete pass

There’s a lot going on here and Sullivan is in the middle of all of it. First, along with CB Jaire Alexander (23) and S Darnell Savage (26), the Packers effectively disguise their coverage. Sullivan seamlessly passes off WR Allen Robinson (12) on his upfield route and widens to the flat where Miller is headed. Once QB Mitch Trubisky starts to scramble and extend the play, it’s a “plaster” situation, and he’s taking Miller all the way. The key to staying with him is the quick turn of the head at about the 28-yard line. Sullivan glances over his left shoulder and sees Miller jetting up the sideline. He keeps himself in position to make it a very difficult catch for Miller, who comes down with the ball but is out of bounds.

Play No. 3: Third-and-4 from the Green Bay 32, third quarter, 10:23 left

Result: 2-yard sack by DL Kenny Clark

This goes as Clark’s second sack of the day, but give Sullivan his share of the credit. At the snap, he widens quickly to pick up Montgomery leaking out of the backfield. Then, as Trubisky starts to roll out, Sullivan effectively takes on Montgomery’s block, which combined with the pursuit of defenders from the inside, gives Trubisky no running lane or throwing opportunity to get the first down. Clark eventually runs him out of bounds for the loss, and the Bears turn the ball over on downs on the next snap.

Play No. 4: Second-and-10 from the Chicago 41, third quarter, 2:33 left

Result: 3-yard run by RB Tarik Cohen

Sullivan isn’t known for his speed, but he closes some ground fairly quickly here. At the moment Cohen (29) gets the handoff, he’s got a head start on Sullivan toward the boundary to turn the corner. As Sullivan tries to gain the angle on him, credit CB Kevin King (20) for getting off the block of TE Jesper Horsted (49) and getting a swipe at Cohen. Even though King misses, he alters Cohen’s path enough to give Sullivan the step he needs to square up and whack Cohen out of bounds for a minimal gain.

Play No. 5: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 28, fourth quarter, 11:02 left

Result: Incomplete pass

This play has Miller matched up in the slot against Savage – a safety not a corner – so it’s a natural spot for Trubisky to attack. Except there’s Sullivan again, getting enough depth on his drop to take away any throwing angle Trubisky has on Miller’s post route.

Play No. 6: Fourth-and-10 from the Green Bay 49, fourth quarter, 1:51 left

Result: Incomplete pass

This is great coverage all around by the Packers on the big fourth-down stop at midfield late in the game, but it’s worth watching Sullivan work the middle of the field. First, he recognizes Miller’s seam route and is perfectly in sync with S Adrian Amos (31) to take that away. Then, as Trubisky nears the sideline and tries to throw back over the middle for Robinson, Sullivan reacts well and almost ends his effective day with an interception.

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GREEN BAY – The Packers’ coordinators spoke to the media on Thursday. Here are highlights from their news conferences:

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett

On Washington’s defense:

During this time, you have the whole season. You want to pick and choose the ones you think resemble what we do, but you look at every situation. Every guy has a responsibility and you want to dive into it as much as possible. Whatever we can do to try to get a beat.

Do you review game first or cutups?

Always games. That’s one of the things I learned from my dad back in the day. You try to develop the plan as the game flow goes. Sometimes when you jump into the cutups, it doesn’t tell the whole situation of why they did something.

On offensive identity:

When you have to hang your hat on something, what do you want to do? What do guys believe in? To be able to do as much as possible effectively is always helpful. Late in the year, sometimes you don’t know who you’re going to have. You always have to be able to adjust. An identity is the foundation concepts you have and you have to do them in different ways. For us, we have a couple guys who can do a lot of different things. Whatever it takes.

On 50/50 balls:

Anytime you try to call a legitimate shot down the field, I’ve always looked at it as a 40 percent completion percentage. When you have a guy like Aaron Rodgers that can go up with his vision and ability to throw the ball downfield. That can make you want to do it more, especially when you can check it down to Aaron Jones.

On touchdown efficiency in the red zone:

We like to call it the ‘gold zone.’ We’ve been able to run the ball. If you focus on the pass, that hurts you or the run. The other thing is how many people have scored down there. The more people who score in the red zone, they have to cover every ounce of it.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine

On Adrian Peterson:

He’s one of the rare ones in the left who can defy his age. We have one here with Tramon Williams. Those guys are rare, especially at running back, to see him with his longevity is nothing short of amazing.

On seeing improvement from the run game:

It starts with the communication being on the same page, I think that’s important. Having an understanding if we have a stunt on, making sure guys know how that affects them. We’ve preached it and we’ve had some games where we’ve defended the run well and then we get hit with a big one. We’re continuing to grow with it and have a much better understanding of what we’re doing in the run game. This week will be one of our bigger mentalities defending the run. I’ve known Bill Callahan for a long time. He wants to run the football. It’ll certainly be a challenge for us given what they’ve put on tape the last few weeks.

On Washington’s run-heavy offense:

They play with a sixth offensive lineman more than anybody we’ve played this year. It’s like over 60 plays and that’s not including the goal line. If they put offensive linemen out there, we’re going to want to match big with big.

On bend-but-don’t-break defense:

You want to be dominant. But if that’s off the table, you want to make sure where you’re going to be good, it’s going to be keeping teams out of the end zone. That’s one area we have done a good job. You don’t like it too when you have No. 12 on the other side of the ball … you want him back out there. We have to get off the field. When we have opportunities to do it, we have to take advantage of it.

On Rashan Gary:

He’s graded out well when he’s been in there. He’s had some good rushes and gotten some pressures. Like Kyler Fackrell, he’s a victim of two other guys in that room playing extremely well and getting production. He’s on a progression, he’s on a path that we feel he’s made improvement from Day 1 and we’re certainly confident that’s going to continue. … He has the ability to play (inside or outside). That’s what I see in his ability, a guy who can rush outside early or bump inside.

Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga

On new KR/PR Tyler Ervin:

Extremely quick. He has really good short area quickness. Good feet and can make guys miss. He’s a veteran guy who has some experience back there. He has a good, calm demeanor.

On Ervin’s NFL experience:

I think your best experience is in game situations. The more you’ve done it, the more comfort for you are with it. Having game experience always adds to what you can do with your comfort level. … He has a lot of experience running what we run. He understands that and we talked to him about that. He’s been in the meetings. He’ll be ready to go. When you come in as a returner, you show them where it’s designed to go and they have a good feel for that.

On Mason Crosby:

I have the utmost faith in him. I think he’s been awesome for this organization and great for me. He’s really helpful with JK Scott and Hunter Bradley. Just being in the locker room, he’s a great leader. I can’t say enough about him.

On JK Scott’s performance in New York:

I thought he performed well. He hit the ball well. We had two inside the 20. I thought he punted well and keep building on that. The weather doesn’t really affect him. We’re just fine-tuning a few things. We’re trying to get him ready as best we can.

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Crosby made three field goals and missed his lone extra-point attempt in Monday’s victory over the Vikings.

Crosby missed his first kick of any kind since Week 3, but he also tied his single-game high on the season for field goals, which came from distances of 19, 33, and 42 yards. Crosby’s final matchup of the regular season will come against the Lions, who allowed opposing kickers to make 10-of-11 field-goal attempts and all 14 extra-point attempts they put in the air over the last five weeks.

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As the saying goes, you want to play your best football in December.

Did the Green Bay Packers do that? Did they begin to play their best football on the first day of December?

In snowy New Jersey, it would take more than three full quarters before the Packers would wrest full control over the New York Giants.

The glass-half-full point of view is that the Packers took care of business, beating a hapless Giants team starting a rookie quarterback by a score of 31-13.

The Packers’ bend-but-don’t-break defense rediscovered its thieving ways, setting up the Packers’ offense with three additional possessions via interceptions. The Packers would turn those into 10 points and cruise to victory.

The less-optimistic version goes like this: for a bulk of the game, the offense found itself stuck in too many unfavorable third-and-longs. They disappeared for stretches after a hot start. A few beneficial calls – some obvious, others more gratuitous – helped move the chains for a stagnant offense, too. Absent some terrible throws by rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, this game may have been too close for comfort considering the perceived talent disparities between the Packers and Giants.

Perhaps the pessimism is attributable to last week’s undressing. The Packers have the type of record that says they’re one of the NFC’s top teams, but, at least lately, they’re not showing that with enough consistency.

Is this just the first step towards forging the team’s playoff identity? We’ll see.

Onto the takeaways.
Secondary takes advantage of rookie quarterback

One of the early hallmarks of the Packers’ defense this season was its ability to force turnovers. In the first three weeks, the Packers created seven turnovers, which contributed to their hot start.

The Packers went back to playing that opportunistic brand of football, and it began when Kevin King intercepted Daniel Jones early in the second quarter.

The Packers would then intercept Jones in back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter. The first came by way of an overthrow. Jones targeted Sterling Shepard downfield on the right hash, but the ball sailed on him. Savage played the overthrow and came away with the pick. On the ensuing drive, Jones tried to hit Darius Slayton on the left sideline with Tramon Williams in one-on-one coverage. Williams’ stacked Slayton and played the ball as if he were the intended receiver.

It wasn’t the cleanest game from the Packers’ secondary, but the turnovers are great equalizers in football. The Packers did what they needed to do.
Aggressive Aaron Rodgers is the best Aaron Rodgers

Once again, Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass on a “free” play. This time, it was the too-late attempted substitution that got the Giants with a too-men-on-the-field penalty. Though it’s a bit gimmicky, No. 12 operates like IBM’s Watson at quarterback. No detail goes unnoticed, and the Giants’ sloppiness gave the Packers a big score.

We’ve seen the games where the Packers aren’t getting free plays at the snap or free first downs because of the NFL’s whimsical approach to pass interference, illegal contact, and defensive holding. For as nice as it is to get those calls, it’s not something the Packers should rely too much upon. It’s a nice jolt for the offense, but it can’t be the offense.

Today, Rodgers completed 64 percent of his passes (21-of-33) for 243 yards and four touchdown passes. It was a fine effort. It’s hard not to notice, however, his “free” play touchdown to Davante Adams.

With a Giants defenseman scurrying to get off the field, Rodgers gets the snap in a hurry and sees the yellow flag. From there, he rockets a ball into tight coverage in the middle of the end zone.

When he wants to be – or rather when he’s forced to be – Rodgers can be a deadly downfield thrower, fitting the football into tight windows and registering multiple explosive plays on a single drive. The offense seems to stagnate when Rodgers plays too conservatively; he’ll take “shot” plays on play-action, and he’ll throw it downfield in man-to-man coverage along the sideline. But he generally waits for receivers to break open, which exposes him to the pass rush and removes the rhythm of the play’s initial concept.

Rodgers hates to throw interceptions, but he’s going to have to trust his receivers to make plays in tight coverage. He has the arm. Tipped balls might happen. Interceptions might happen. But to beat the 49ers of the world, this team is going to have to grow a little more comfortable taking some chances.
Packers struggle running the football

Save for a few tough runs by Jamaal Williams in the second half, the Packers couldn’t do much of anything against the Giants today. Some of that was to be expected. Entering today’s game, the Giants had only been giving up 3.9 yards per attempt, which is the sixth-best mark in the NFL.

Williams finished the game as the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 10 times for 41 yards. Aaron Jones could muster just 18 yards on 11 carries. Rodgers added 24 yards on three scrambles.

Kudos to Matt LaFleur and the Packers for not completely abandoning the run game; much of the offense is predicated upon the team’s ability to at least look like they’re going to run the ball. Still, the Packers will need to find some more consistency in the closing weeks of the season. The weather isn’t getting any better.
Interceptions aside, defense struggles

Like pi, Za’Darius Smith is a mathematical constant. Regardless of the opponent, he brings energy, motor, and, more importantly, production. Today, he hit quarterback Daniel Jones five different times. There’s a little more ebb and flow with his still-productive counterpart, Preston Smith; however, the Packers can almost guarantee a strong performance from No. 55.

The same can’t be said for the rest of the defense, though. Giants rookie tight end, sixth-round pick Kaden Smith, led the team in receiving, catching six passes for 70 yards. The Packers’ struggles with tight ends again reflect the year-long trend where this defense cannot, for a few reasons, cover the middle of the field. Their middle-of-the-field zone coverage struggles to attach itself to receivers entering or crossing into zones, so opposing quarterbacks have easy completions with too much frequency.

A couple key players struggled today, too. Blake Martinez collected tackles (10 today, which led the team), but it’s more about what he doesn’t do that contributes to the team’s struggles. On a fourth and short, Preston Smith contacts the ball carrier short of the marker, but can’t make the tackle. The Giants convert because the Packers, specifically Martinez, don’t fill. He’s also one of the reasons for the porous middle-zone pass coverage, as he doesn’t close throwing lanes well.

Kevin King is another player who struggled. He did get redemption with an interception, but teams are clearly targeting King in coverage and leaving Jaire Alexander more or less alone. King was beaten by Sterling Shepard on a double move for an 18-yard touchdown. Against shiftier receivers, King gives too much cushion; he’s most susceptible on comeback routes.
JK Scott rebounds

JK Scott had been really struggling the past month or so, but he finally put together a good game.

Scott punted the ball three times, averaging 46.7 yards. His longest punt went for 47 yards.

His first punt was fair caught at the Giants’ 11-yard line. His second punt was caught at the 9-yard line and returned to the 21. His last was his best. Punting from just inside his own 50-yard-line, Scott’s last punt of the game would hit the turf and stay out of the end zone. The Packers downed the punt at the 6-yard line.

Early in the season, Scott had been a useful weapon to flip the field when the offense wasn’t playing particularly well. While he didn’t have any field-flipping opportunities, he did keep the Giants playing deep into their own territory.

If Scott is going to break out of his slump, December is a great time to do it.
Related
Good, bad, and ugly from the Packers’ victory over the Giants
Instant analysis of Packers’ 31-13 win over Giants in Week 13

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GREEN BAY – When the Packers made Darnell Savage the first defensive back off the board during the 2019 NFL Draft, the organization was hopeful it had found a first-round pick who could play right away as a rookie.

Eleven games into his NFL career, the 5-foot-11, 198-pound safety’s progression has matched his promise.

Only 21 years old at the time he was drafted, Savage has amassed 44 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles in 673 defensive snaps played over his 11 NFL starts.

He’s been part of a potent one-two punch on the back end with veteran Adrian Amos, one of the Packers’ four marquee free-agent signings this past offseason who also has been off to a strong start in Green Bay thus far.

Every rookie goes through his process and Savage has been no different. While an ankle injury cost Savage two October games, the rookie safety has continued to settle into his role at free safety alongside Amos.

“I definitely think I’ve improved,” Savage said. “Just as far as the mental side of it and taking care of my body throughout the week, having to battle back from the ankle, which is feeling a lot better now. I think I’ve improved in all aspects. My approach the game, I’ve got a routine now. Once you kind of settle in, then everything is a lot smoother.”

Savage started 37 of the 46 games he played at Maryland, recording 182 tackles, 22 passes defensed and eight interceptions. He rose rapidly up the projections leading up to April’s NFL Draft after clocking a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash and a 39½-inch vertical at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

After being selected at No. 21, Savage was thrown into the Packers’ starting secondary from the start of organized team activities. When the Packers opened the season against Chicago, Savage became the first rookie safety to start for Green Bay in Week 1 since Morgan Burnett in 2010.

Savage made his share of plays this year, with a forced fumble and interception in back-to-back weeks against Minnesota and Denver to start the year. Since shaking off the midseason ankle injury, Savage has returned to form and made an impact in solid defensive performances the past two weeks.

On Dec. 1, Savage picked off Giants quarterback Daniel Jones early in the fourth quarter and returned it 28 yards to the New York 38, which led to an eight-play Green Bay series that culminated in quarterback Aaron Rodgers hitting tight end Marcedes Lewis on a 1-yard touchdown.

This past Sunday, Savage forced a fumble of Washington running back Chris Thompson at the start of the second half. Terry McLaurin managed to recover the ball but Washington wound up going three-and-out one play later.

It should come as no surprise Amos also has shined as of late. Back in a traditional role after filling in as a box safety in sub-packages, Amos had an interception and sack in the first half against Washington. Amos’ 849 defensive snaps played currently lead the entire Green Bay defense.

“(Him) just taking that big brother role to me; half the time I don’t have to say anything or ask anything,” Savage said. “I can just kind of watch him and take notes off that just being observant. He’s meant a lot to me, my locker’s right next to him, so I can ask questions whenever I need to, watch film with him. His house is always open to me. He’s been a great role mode and just leader.”

The stakes don’t get much higher for Savage and the Packers with three NFC North games remaining in the 2019 regular season. Green Bay, sitting at 10-3 and seeking its first playoff appearance since 2016, will play host to the Chicago Bears this Sunday.

The game is rematch of the Packers’ 10-3 win in Chicago on Sept. 5, a game in which the defense allowed only 213 total yards, and stopped the Bears on 12-of-15 third downs and two fourth-down attempts.

“We’re just going to have to come out there and focus,” Savage said. “(Secondary) coach (Jason Simmons) always tells us just breathe. Sometimes you can be a little too excited and then just be all out of whack, so just breathe and just continue playing and just play in good technique, use your eyes, and just stuff like that, reading your keys.”

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Your Green Bay Packers are 12-3, NFC North champions, have swept two of three divisional opponents (with the full sweep imminent next weekend) and a chance for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.

Savor it.

As has been the case all year with this team, it wasn’t always pretty. But style points don’t show up on the scoreboard, and this Packers team just keeps finding new ways to win. On Monday Night Football in Minneapolis, their victory took the form of utter domination along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball until the Packers had fully worn down the Vikings and beaten the will to fight right out of them. They overcame three first-half turnovers of their own on the back of a tremendous defensive performance, showed patience with their offensive game plan and rode it to the team’s first divisional title since 2016.

It was a key takeaway of their own that allowed the Packers to swing the momentum in their favor, and once they had it they never let go.
The play

Kevin King has made several crucial game-changing plays throughout this season, and when he snagged a deep prayer by the overmatched Kirk Cousins out of the air, it felt like yet another turning point caused by the third-year cornerback.

Here’s a look at the play.

Watching it live, it almost looked for a second as though King had dropped it, but he just had it secured in one hand. Given all the fumble issues earlier in the night, it was a little nerve wracking watching King run the ball back with the ball so far away from his body, but he was just one man away from taking it to the house.

This play reeked of desperation on the part of Cousins. There had been nothing open downfield for the Vikings all game long. Even the touchdown pass to Diggs had to be dropped into near-perfect coverage by Jaire Alexander. With frustration mounting for the Viknigs’ offense, Cousins likely felt the pressure to make something happen.

However, it appeared on replay that he may not have noticed King coming back to the middle of the field from his side. Cousins may have thought Diggs had his man beat on the deep post, but simply didn’t scan the whole field before throwing. All King needed to do was get into a position to play safety, and he’d be able to come down with the ball. Great awareness on his part to put himself into position to make the play.

The importance of this play can’t be overstated. King’s runback gave the Packers the ball around midfield, still down a point. They were able to drive down the short field and get Aaron Jones into the endzone, plus score the two-point conversion. The way the defense was playing, any lead would have been safe, but the ability to get a touchdown there was massive for the confidence of the offense and gave the team all of the momentum. The Packers never relented afterward.

With one week to go, the Packers need a win to clinch a first-round bye, and a Seattle win at home over San Francisco to clinch homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Who would have ever thought this team, under a first-year head coach, would be in this position?

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Follow the action from today’s game between the Green Bay Packers (11-3) and Minnesota Vikings (10-4), with the latest updates at the bottom, and join the conversation.
PREGAME
Inactives

Minnesota will be without both of its top running backs. Pro Bowler Dalvin Cook was ruled out on Saturday and Alexander Mattison is among the Vikings’ inactives. Mike Boone, who has fewer rushing yards in 22 career games than Cook had against Green Bay in Week 2, will be the featured back.

For the Packers, defensive tackle Dean Lowry, who was the only player listed as questionable, is active. Who’s out? Receiver Ryan Grant, running back Dexter Williams, cornerbacks Tony Brown and Ka’dar Hollman, offensive linemen Alex Light and John Leglue, and tight end Jace Sternberger. Without Light and Leglue, who was claimed off waivers from the Saints on Saturday, veteran Jared Veldheer will be active for the first time in his brief Packers career.
What’s at stake

With a victory, the Packers will win the NFC North Division title and remain in control of at least a first-round bye. San Francisco and New Orleans are 12-3, and the Packers would improve to 12-3 with a victory. San Francisco and Green Bay each have two conference losses compared to three for New Orleans, so the Niners would be No. 1, the Packers would be No. 2 and the Saints would be No. 3. The Packers could earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs if they win tonight and at Detroit on Sunday and if San Francisco loses at Seattle on Sunday night.
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Offensive decline was years in making

Inside the Vikings: Who will replace Cook?

Rodgers vs. Zimmer, Round 13
Game time
First Quarter

Packers 0, Vikings 0 (14:00 remaining)

The Packers got crushed at San Francisco after Aaron Rodgers was stripped on the opening series to gift-wrap an opening touchdown for the 49ers. On third-and-5, a quick pass to the left to Aaron Jones resulted in a fumble. Anthony Barr’s strip and Eric Kendricks’ recovery and return set up the Vikings at the 10.

Vikings 3, Packers 0 (13:11 remaining)

The score: Dan Bailey kicked a 23-yard field goal.

Key play: On second-and-goal at the 5, Za’Darius Smith tossed aside left tackle Riley Reiff to force a throwaway by Kirk Cousins. On third down, Cousins threw too high and too hard to fullback C.J. Ham for an incompletion. So, while the Vikings took an early lead, at least the Packers avoided a disastrous start.

Vikings 3, Packers 0 (8:37 remaining)

The Packers were on the move, highlighted by an 18-yard reception by Davante Adams. On third-and-7 from the outskirts of field-goal range, Aaron Rodgers took a chance on a deep ball to Allen Lazard against cornerback Mackensie Alexander. It was a one-on-one to a receiver with a 7-inch height advantage. Lazard, however, apparently didn’t see the ball and it fell harmlessly incomplete.

Vikings 3, Packers 3 (2:00 remaining)

The score: Mason Crosby booted a 42-yard field goal.

Key plays: It’s not the plays the Packers made but the ones they missed. On third-and-3, Aaron Rodgers just missed fullback Danny Vitale, who had a step on linebacker Eric Kendricks. At worst, it would have been first-and-goal inside the 5. Rodgers wanted a hold on Kendricks but didn’t get it. On third down, Rodgers flipped a pass in the flat to Jones but Jones bobbled the off-target ball and couldn’t make the play. Missed opportunities have been the difference for the offense for most of the season – the opening pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and missed deep passes to Jimmy Graham and Aaron Jones vs. Washington as recent examples – and cost the Packers a touchdown on this series.
Second Quarter

Vikings 10, Packers 3 (13:33 remaining)

The score: Kirk Cousins, 0-8 for his career on “Monday Night Football,” threw a perfect deep ball to Stefon Diggs for a 21-yard touchdown against cornerback Jaire Alexander. Alexander’s coverage was good; Cousins’ throw was perfect.

Key play: On the first play of the second quarter, Aaron Rodgers’ streak of 277 consecutive passes without an interception came to an end as Vikings safety Anthony Harris ran underneath a route to Davante Adams and made a leaping interception. It was his sixth pick of the season and gave the Vikings the ball at Green Bay’ 26.

Vikings 10, Packers 6 (7:00 remaining).

The score: Mason Crosby made a 33-yard field goal.

Key plays: The Packers nickeled and dimed their way down the field. The biggest play was a third-and-1 completion to Davante Adams that gained 11. It was a quick pass in the flat, with Geronimo Allison making the key block on Xavier Rhodes to allow Adams to gain 12 after the catch. In the red zone, Rodgers had to throw it away on second down and his throw into traffic on third down was batted down by cornerback Mackensie Alexander.

Vikings 10, Packers 6 (4:52 remaining)

This week, David Bakhtiari called Za’Darius Smith the team’s best player. He’s been the best player in the first half. On first down, Mike Boone had a big hole off the left side but Smith got off the block and stopped Boone in his tracks to limit the play to 4 yards. On second down, he thrashed left tackle Riley Reiff for the sack.

Vikings 10, Packers 6 (4:07 remaining)

If Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams are the best players on offense and the team’s only hope of moving the ball consistently, how on Earth are they supposed to win a big game when they each have a turnover? This time, Rodgers fired a laser to Adams, who didn’t catch it cleanly but finally pulled it in but got it stripped by Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith. The Vikings took possession at the Packers’ 48 – their third drive starting on Green Bay’s side of the field.

Vikings 10, Packers 6 (2:37 remaining)

On third-and-4 from the 42, Minnesota turned to some trickery in hopes of taking a commanding lead before halftime. It almost worked. Receiver Stefon Diggs got the ball on a reverse and flipped a pass to quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was wide open up the right side of the field but the ball was overthrown. On fourth down, Cousins’ deep pass to Adam Thielen was overthrown. Green Bay’s defense, for the second time, escaped a disaster.

Vikings 10, Packers 9 (0:00 remaining)

The score: Mason Crosby made a 19-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

Key plays: Again, it’s the plays the Packers didn’t make more than the plays they made. On second-and-10 from their 45, Aaron Rodgers hit wide-open tight end Jimmy Graham for a gain of 18 but Graham appeared to give up on the play before running out of bounds and cornerback Mike Hughes punched the ball loose. Receiver Geronimo Allison recovered but it cost the Packers a timeout. A screen to Jamaal Williams gained 11 but burned a lot of clock, a quick out to Davante Adams picked up 13 and short completions to Adams (6 yards) and Williams (8 yards) set up first-and-goal from just inside the 2-yard line with 7 seconds remaining. With one timeout, the Packers could have run the ball. Instead, Rodgers had to burn a timeout rather than take a delay of game. Coming out of that second wasted timeout, Rodgers’ pass to Adams was too far inside. Adams dropped it. So, it was a bad pass, a bad drop and a hard-to-swallow field goal.
Halftime

The Packers had overwhelming advantages of 221-68 in yards and 13-2 in first downs but trailed 10-9 thanks to three turnovers and a couple missed red-zone opportunities. Aaron Rodgers was 18-of-30 passing for 156 yards with one interception and a 59.9 rating. Counterpart Kirk Cousins was 4-of-12 passing for 39 yards with one touchdown and a 71.2 rating. Za’Darius Smith was a force with one sack and three tackles for losses.
Third quarter

The Packers forced a three-and-out to start the second half. Meanwhile, Minnesota linebacker Eric Kendricks has been ruled out. He leads all NFL linebackers with 12 passes defensed.

Packers 17, Vikings 10 (2:03 remaining)

The score: Aaron Jones put the Packers in front with a 12-yard touchdown run. Receiver Allen Lazard’s block on cornerback Xavier Rhodes was the key to make it happen. Green Bay went for two, with Aaron Rodgers connecting with a sliding Geronimo Allison.

Key plays: With Minnesota moving the ball for the first time the entire game, Kirk Cousins went deep to receiver Stefon Diggs against cornerback Jaire Alexander. Fellow corner Kevin King bolted to the middle and made the interception – his fifth of the season – and returned the ball 39 yards to the 47. On third-and-2 with the Packers in position for a long field goal, Rodgers connected with Davante Adams for 6 yards and a first down.
Fourth quarter

With the Packers back on the field, Jamaal Williams (shoulder) is questionable.

Packers 17, Vikings 10 (7:40 remaining)

Green Bay’s defense delivered again. On first down, Kevin King dropped tight end for minus-1. On second down, Jaire Alexander limited a pass to Ameer Abdullah to 3 yards. On third-and-8, defensive tackle Kenny Clark sacked Kirk Cousins to force a punt.

Packers 23, Vikings 10 (5:51 remaining)

The score: Aaron Jones scored on a 56-yard touchdown run to potentially send the Packers to the NFC North championship. The left side of the Packers’ line created a big hole, Jones ran through two arm-tackle attempts and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling delivered a block on the perimeter. Jones jogged the final 20-or-so yards.

Key play: It was rushing touchdown No. 16 – most in the NFL and second-most in franchise history. Jim Taylor rushed for 19 touchdowns in 1962. Ahman Green (2003) and Taylor (1961) had 15 rushing touchdowns.

Packers 23, Vikings 10 (3:34 remaining)

The Vikings had a long touchdown called back as left tackle Riley Reiff, who is having a miserable game, all but tackled outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell. On fourth-and-25, Mike Zimmer brought out the punt team to a chorus of boos from a record crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium.
FINAL: PACKERS 23, VIKINGS 10

Behind an absolutely dominating defensive performance and a heavy dose of Aaron Jones and Davante Adams, the Green Bay Packers rallied past the Minnesota Vikings 23-10 to win the NFC North.

Za’Darius Smith had 3.5 sacks and five tackles for losses to help limit the Vikings to 139 yards and seven first downs.

Meanwhile, Aaron Jones overcame a first-possession fumble to 154 yards and two touchdowns. Adams caught one short pass after another, turning 13 receptions into 116 yards.

Green Bay dominated statistically, other than three first-half giveaways. It played much better in the second half, though, to earn its first victory in four trips to U.S. Bank Stadium.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins fell to 0-9 on “Monday Night Football.” The more he struggled, the more he was booed; the longer the Vikings struggled, the louder the “Go Pack Go” chants rang through the stadium.

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GREEN BAY – Two are making noise with all the headlines, and the other two are very quietly doing what the Packers hoped they would, too.

Back in March, when General Manager Brian Gutekunst signed four unrestricted free agents practically before the opening bell quieted down, it was natural for Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith to turn heads.

They play the glamor position of outside linebacker, they get after quarterbacks, and they rack up sacks, to the tune of 21½ combined through 14 games.

The less-heralded free agents, guard Billy Turner and safety Adrian Amos, weren’t likely to compete for that kind of attention. But that’s perfectly fine.

In discussing these “other” two with position coaches and teammates, it’s fair to say they actually have more in common than their dissimilar positions and disparate personalities would suggest. Namely, they’re cerebral players whose brains bring as much to the table as their fellow free agents’ stats.

“His football IQ, in my mind playing next to him, that’s the biggest thing that stands out people may not see,” center Corey Linsley said of Turner.

Added cornerback Tramon Williams about Amos: “He’s very smart, and he’s always in the right place. He’s a person you can count on at the end of the day, you know what I’m saying?”

Intelligence and reliability. That’s precisely what the Packers have in Turner and Amos, and they couldn’t be happier about it.

Turner quickly stood out upon arriving in Green Bay for everything from his unusual haircut to his off-beat interests to a peculiar sense of humor. With everything in measured tones, he fit in as the new veteran on the Packers’ offensive line rather easily.

Starting every game at right guard this season, he’s been steady with a couple of standout performances against premier defensive tackles – Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox and Chicago’s Akiem Hicks in the rematch with the Bears this past week.

“He does a good job for us as a tone-setter,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. “He’s a guy you can lean on to go against big matchups.”

It’s his mind that supplements those physical, athletic traits, though. With Green Bay already Turner’s third team in a six-year career, upon arrival in the spring he was accustomed to absorbing a new playbook in the normal course of an offseason.

Linsley, tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari, and guard Lane Taylor, on the other hand, had only known one offensive system their entire NFL lives. It didn’t take long for Turner’s smarts to get noticed.

“When we got here,” Stenavich said of the Packers’ new coaching staff, “Billy had been in, I think, four different offenses in four years, or something like that, and I had bounced around as a coach.

“You come here and these guys had only done one thing for so long. With me installing new things, Billy was picking it up, like ‘OK, that’s what this is. And this is that.’ For the other guys it was harder. They hadn’t had that newness.”

Communication with his linemates has been smooth from the get-go, too.

“He’s easy to talk to. We’re on the same page a lot,” Linsley said. “There’s very few times when we’re not, but it’s very easy to fix stuff with him. If we’re coming off (the field) and had a little issue … ‘I thought you were going to do this,’ … OK, we’ll just fix it, like that.

“I could tell (early on) he was a very calm football player, very intelligent, had a feel for the defense and everything.”

Communication with a calming presence is Amos’ forte as well. The former Bears safety’s responsibilities are more wide-ranging in that respect due to his position, and he stepped into that role right away as a new veteran starter in coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense.

Defensive backs coach Jason Simmons, who played some safety himself during a 10-year NFL career, said it’s obvious his teammates respect Amos for his experience and knowledge. That’s important when directing traffic for a rookie safety starting alongside him and for a cornerback group that has only one player, Williams, with more than three full seasons in the pros.

“Whenever you play safety in this league, the No. 1 thing we talk about before we talk about physicality or anything else, you have to be a good communicator,” Simmons said. “We are the coverage quarterbacks. We are the guy that everybody looks to. Anybody moves, everybody now looks to the safeties to know what they’re calling, to confirm any check or to change any check.”

Amos is very soft-spoken and understated, not the rah-rah type. But there’s no mistaking his tone when he’s making a call for his teammates to follow. He communicates with confidence and conviction, and it has helped the defensive backs look much more in sync in recent weeks passing routes off to one another in certain coverages.

“His call command is one of the best things that he does for this defense,” Simmons said. “Guys know when he says it, there’s no hesitancy, there’s no apprehension, or not sure, no uncertainty. The whole thing with him is he says it, and if it’s wrong, play what I call, and that’s OK. Play what I call and we’ll get through the next down and get it coached up on the sideline.”

Put another way, “He’s seen a lot of football at this point,” Williams said. “He brings a state of stability.”

He also ranks second on the team with 81 tackles, tied for second with two interceptions, and fourth with eight passes defensed. Amos even has a sack, just the third in his five-year career.

Billy Turner’s 14 starts are a career high for a single season and he’s not done yet. He’s also played every snap this year but two, when he exited for a kneel-down sequence.

But that turns the conversation back to stats, and that’s not what these “other” two free agents are about. The Smiths bring more than the numbers as well, but if it’s harder to see what makes Turner and Amos so valuable, that’s OK.

The Packers got exactly what they were looking for with them, too.

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GREEN BAY – The Packers added guard/tackle Billy Turner to the injury report on Saturday with an illness. Turner is questionable to play in Sunday’s game against Washington.

On Friday, the Packers listed Kevin King and Tony Brown as questionable, though both cornerbacks were listed as full participants in practice Friday.

King (shoulder) was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday before being upgraded to full on Friday. Brown, who popped up on the injury report last week with a heel injury, has been a full participant all week.

The Packers removed 10 others from the injury report who are expected to be available: tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), running back Jamaal Williams (knee), receivers Davante Adams (toe) and Ryan Grant (illness), tight ends Jimmy Graham (calf/waist) and Marcedes Lewis (veteran rest), linebacker Blake Martinez (hand), defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster (neck/knee), cornerback Tramon Williams (veteran rest), and safety Will Redmond (foot).

Washington has ruled out receivers Paul Richardson Jr. (hamstring) and Trey Quinn (concussion), and safety Deshazor Everett (shoulder). Running back Adrian Peterson (toe), who didn’t practice Thursday, returned to full participation on Friday and is expected to play.
Green Bay Packers
Table inside Article
Player, Pos. INJURY WED THUR FRI STATUS
Davante Adams, WR Toe FP FP FP –
Tony Brown, CB Heel FP FP FP Questionable
Bryan Bulaga, T Knee LP LP FP –
Jimmy Graham, TE Calf / Wrist DNP LP LP –
Ryan Grant, WR Illness DNP FP FP –
Kevin King, CB Shoulder LP LP FP Questionable
Tyler Lancaster, DL Neck / Knee FP FP FP –
Marcedes Lewis, TE NIR (veteran rest) LP LP LP –
Blake Martinez, LB Hand FP FP FP –
Will Redmond, S Foot FP FP FP –
Billy Turner, G/T Illness – – – Questionable
Jamaal Williams, RB Knee – LP LP –
Tramon Williams, CB NIR (veteran rest) DNP LP FP –
Washington Redskins
Table inside Article
Player, Pos. INJURY WED THUR FRI STATUS
Ryan Anderson, LB Shoulder LP LP FP –
Deshazor Everett, S Shoulder – DNP DNP Out
Cole Holcomb, LB Thumb FP FP FP –
Ryan Kerrigan, LB Concussion FP FP FP –
Morgan Moses, T Back LP LP FP –
Montae Nicholson, S Ankle FP FP FP –
Adrian Peterson, RB Toe FP DNP FP –
Trey Quinn, WR Concussion DNP DNP DNP Out
Paul Richardson Jr., WR Hamstring DNP DNP DNP
Brandon Scherff, G Shoulder LP LP FP –
Montez Sweat, LB Quadricep LP LP FP –
Chris Thompson, RB Toe FP FP FP –

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GREEN BAY – Two are making noise with all the headlines, and the other two are very quietly doing what the Packers hoped they would, too.

Back in March, when General Manager Brian Gutekunst signed four unrestricted free agents practically before the opening bell quieted down, it was natural for Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith to turn heads.

They play the glamor position of outside linebacker, they get after quarterbacks, and they rack up sacks, to the tune of 21½ combined through 14 games.

The less-heralded free agents, guard Billy Turner and safety Adrian Amos, weren’t likely to compete for that kind of attention. But that’s perfectly fine.

In discussing these “other” two with position coaches and teammates, it’s fair to say they actually have more in common than their dissimilar positions and disparate personalities would suggest. Namely, they’re cerebral players whose brains bring as much to the table as their fellow free agents’ stats.

“His football IQ, in my mind playing next to him, that’s the biggest thing that stands out people may not see,” center Corey Linsley said of Turner.

Added cornerback Tramon Williams about Amos: “He’s very smart, and he’s always in the right place. He’s a person you can count on at the end of the day, you know what I’m saying?”

Intelligence and reliability. That’s precisely what the Packers have in Turner and Amos, and they couldn’t be happier about it.

Turner quickly stood out upon arriving in Green Bay for everything from his unusual haircut to his off-beat interests to a peculiar sense of humor. With everything in measured tones, he fit in as the new veteran on the Packers’ offensive line rather easily.

Starting every game at right guard this season, he’s been steady with a couple of standout performances against premier defensive tackles – Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox and Chicago’s Akiem Hicks in the rematch with the Bears this past week.

“He does a good job for us as a tone-setter,” offensive line coach Adam Stenavich said. “He’s a guy you can lean on to go against big matchups.”

It’s his mind that supplements those physical, athletic traits, though. With Green Bay already Turner’s third team in a six-year career, upon arrival in the spring he was accustomed to absorbing a new playbook in the normal course of an offseason.

Linsley, tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari, and guard Lane Taylor, on the other hand, had only known one offensive system their entire NFL lives. It didn’t take long for Turner’s smarts to get noticed.

“When we got here,” Stenavich said of the Packers’ new coaching staff, “Billy had been in, I think, four different offenses in four years, or something like that, and I had bounced around as a coach.

“You come here and these guys had only done one thing for so long. With me installing new things, Billy was picking it up, like ‘OK, that’s what this is. And this is that.’ For the other guys it was harder. They hadn’t had that newness.”

Communication with his linemates has been smooth from the get-go, too.

“He’s easy to talk to. We’re on the same page a lot,” Linsley said. “There’s very few times when we’re not, but it’s very easy to fix stuff with him. If we’re coming off (the field) and had a little issue … ‘I thought you were going to do this,’ … OK, we’ll just fix it, like that.

“I could tell (early on) he was a very calm football player, very intelligent, had a feel for the defense and everything.”

Communication with a calming presence is Amos’ forte as well. The former Bears safety’s responsibilities are more wide-ranging in that respect due to his position, and he stepped into that role right away as a new veteran starter in coordinator Mike Pettine’s defense.

Defensive backs coach Jason Simmons, who played some safety himself during a 10-year NFL career, said it’s obvious his teammates respect Amos for his experience and knowledge. That’s important when directing traffic for a rookie safety starting alongside him and for a cornerback group that has only one player, Williams, with more than three full seasons in the pros.

“Whenever you play safety in this league, the No. 1 thing we talk about before we talk about physicality or anything else, you have to be a good communicator,” Simmons said. “We are the coverage quarterbacks. We are the guy that everybody looks to. Anybody moves, everybody now looks to the safeties to know what they’re calling, to confirm any check or to change any check.”

Amos is very soft-spoken and understated, not the rah-rah type. But there’s no mistaking his tone when he’s making a call for his teammates to follow. He communicates with confidence and conviction, and it has helped the defensive backs look much more in sync in recent weeks passing routes off to one another in certain coverages.

“His call command is one of the best things that he does for this defense,” Simmons said. “Guys know when he says it, there’s no hesitancy, there’s no apprehension, or not sure, no uncertainty. The whole thing with him is he says it, and if it’s wrong, play what I call, and that’s OK. Play what I call and we’ll get through the next down and get it coached up on the sideline.”

Put another way, “He’s seen a lot of football at this point,” Williams said. “He brings a state of stability.”

He also ranks second on the team with 81 tackles, tied for second with two interceptions, and fourth with eight passes defensed. Amos even has a sack, just the third in his five-year career.

Billy Turner’s 14 starts are a career high for a single season and he’s not done yet. He’s also played every snap this year but two, when he exited for a kneel-down sequence.

But that turns the conversation back to stats, and that’s not what these “other” two free agents are about. The Smiths bring more than the numbers as well, but if it’s harder to see what makes Turner and Amos so valuable, that’s OK.

The Packers got exactly what they were looking for with them, too.