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Packers defense dominates Vikings, leads to NFC North title

By
Alex Butler
The Green Bay Packers defense sacked Kirk Cousins five times during a win against the Minnesota Vikings Monday in Minneapolis. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI
The Green Bay Packers defense sacked Kirk Cousins five times during a win against the Minnesota Vikings Monday in Minneapolis. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Pass rusher Za'Darius Smith had 3.5 sacks and running back Aaron Jones picked up 154 yards to lead the Green Bay Packers to a division-clinching win against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.

The Packers out-gained the Vikings 383 to 139 in total yards and allowed just seven first downs in the 23-10 triumph Monday at U.S. Bank Arena in Minneapolis.

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Green Bay (12-3) is now in position to secure a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs, while Minnesota (10-5) suffered its first home loss.

"These kind of games, they are playoff style games," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "Obviously we are both going to the playoffs. To be back on top of the NFC North after a couple years of being down feels great."

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Jones fumbled on the game's opening drive, allowing the Vikings to jump ahead on a Dan Bailey field goal. The Packers responded with a 42-yard Mason Crosby kick with two minutes remaining in the first quarter, tying the score. The Vikings reclaimed the lead in the second quarter, with quarterback Kirk Cousins throwing a 21-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs.

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Crosby followed with two more field goals to make the score 10-9 at halftime. The Vikings and Packers each punted to start the second half, before Green Bay defender Kevin King intercepted Cousins giving the ball to the Packers near midfield.

Jones then capped off an eight-play, 53-yard drive with a 12-yard rushing score, giving the Packers a 17-10 edge. The Packers added some insurance to their lead on a 56-yard Jones scamper halfway through the fourth quarter.

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"I can't say enough about these guys," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. "To turn the ball over like that in the first half and be down 3-0 in the turnover battle and only be down for one point, I really give it up to our defense."

Rodgers completed 26 of 40 passes for 216 yards and an interception in the win. Cousins completed 16 of 31 passes for 122 yards, one score and one interception in the loss. Packers wide receiver Davante Adams had a game-high 116 yards on 13 receptions.

"It was definitely frustrating," Diggs said of the Vikings' struggles. "We work all week on a game plan, and when things don't go as planned it is very frustrating. We tried to adjust to some things, but nothing was working."

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The Packers face the Detroit Lions at 1 p.m. EST Sunday at Ford Field in Detroit. The Vikings host the Chicago Bears at 1 p.m. Sunday in Minneapolis.

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