(The Sports Xchange) - Green Bay’s four-year reign atop the NFC North is over after the Minnesota Vikings used a strong defensive effort to beat the struggling Packers 20-13 at Lambeau Field on Sunday to capture the division title.
The Vikings (11-5) won a third consecutive game to earn the third seed in the NFC playoffs and they will host the sixth-seeded Seattle Seahawks (10-6) next weekend.
Meanwhile, Green Bay (10-6) lost its second game in a row, fell to fifth seed and will play next weekend at Washington. The Redskins (9-7) won the NFC East.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers helped Green Bay rally from a 20-3 deficit to pull within seven points with 5:35 remaining in regulation.
Vikings returner Cordarrelle Patterson then broke into the clear on the ensuing kickoff but kicker Mason Crosby stripped the ball around the Green Bay 30 and Packers safety Micah Hyde recovered at the 23.
The Packers appeared poised to complete the comeback when a 17-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Randall Cobb, a 37-yard long ball to wide receiver James Jones and a 13-yard screen to fullback John Kuhn made it first-and-goal at the 10.
The rally was to stall there, however, when a completion for no yards, a three-yard sack by defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and an incompletion made it fourth down from the 13.
After the Packers burned their second timeout, Rodgers’ end-zone pass to Jones was intercepted by Xavier Rhodes.
The Vikings almost gave the Packers another chance on the next play from scrimmage, with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and running back Adrian Peterson botching the exchange, but the latter pounced on the loose ball.
Minnesota punted and Green Bay took the ball at its 42 with 58 seconds to play and no timeouts.
The Green Bay quarterback converted a fourth-and-10 with a 12-yard completion to tight end Richard Rodgers. A subsequent one-yard completion to the same player made it fourth-and-two.
The Packers managed to snap the ball before time expired, but Rodgers’ Hail Mary was deflected in the end zone as the Vikings clinched the victory.
Leading 6-3, the Viking scored the game’s first touchdown with 10:32 left in the third quarter.
Taking possession at their 42 after the defense forced a three-and-out on Green Bay’s opening possession of the half, Bridgewater hit receiver Jarius Wright for 11, Peterson ran for 10 and receiver Adam Thielen gained 26 on a fly sweep.
On third-and-two from the three, Peterson appeared to be jammed up at the line of scrimmage but kept churning to get to the goal line for a 13-3 lead.
Later in the quarter, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn scooped up the loose ball and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown that gave Minnesota a 20-3 lead. It was the third defensive touchdown against the Packers in the past two games.
Green Bay finally put together a scoring drive after going empty on six consecutive possessions, with Aaron Rodgers hitting namesake Richard for a 16-yard touchdown, making it 20-10 with 13:27 to play in the fourth quarter.
Crosby’s 43-yard field goal then brought the Packers within 20-13 with 5:35 remaining but that was the closest they would get.
Editing by John O'Brien