With Kirk Cousins out, Vikings' playoff hopes disintegrate

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  • Minnesota Vikings
    Minnesota Vikings
  • Kirk Cousins
    Kirk Cousins
    American football quarterback

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings’ offense didn’t show much sign of life without Kirk Cousins around.

By the end of the night, the Vikings’ playoff hopes were dead.

Two nights after their starting quarterback was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Vikings fell 37-10 to the NFC North champion Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Minnesota’s loss, coupled with Philadelphia’s 20-16 victory at Washington earlier in the day, clinched a playoff berth for the Eagles and eliminated the Vikings from playoff contention.

This marks the first time since coach Mike Zimmer’s arrival in 2014 that the Vikings (7-9) have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

The Vikings had won their last two matchups in this series, representing the Packers’ only losses to NFC North opponents in Matt LaFleur’s three-year coaching tenure. But they couldn’t come close this time as Green Bay clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Minnesota had made a habit all season of playing close contests with 15 of its first 16 games being decided by eight points or fewer, the lone exception being a 30-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 26.

But the Vikings couldn’t keep this one competitive.

Green Bay scored the game’s first 20 points and never looked back. The Vikings went three-and-out on five of their first seven possessions.

Cousins had thrown for 341 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-31 victory over the Packers on Nov. 21. Mannion went 22 of 36 for 189 yards with one touchdown pass in his third career start, and first since the final week of the 2019 regular season.

With Cousins on the COVID list and star receiver Adam Thielen on injured reserve, the Vikings’ other top playmakers couldn’t produce the way they had in prior matchups with the Packers.

Dalvin Cook ran for 163 yards, caught two passes for 63 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Vikings’ 28-22 triumph at Lambeau Field last season. Cook was limited to 13 yards on nine carries Sunday as the Packers outrushed the Vikings 174-27. The Vikings' top rusher was actually Mannion, who ran for 14 yards on two attempts.

Justin Jefferson caught 10 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns when the Vikings beat the Packers in Minnesota this season. Jefferson had five receptions for 58 yards in the rematch.

One of the Vikings' biggest plays of the night actually came from center Garrett Bradbury, who set up Minnesota’s lone touchdown by producing one of the season’s most unusual highlights.

Mannion threw a pass to tight end Tyler Conklin, who took a big hit from safety Adrian Amos that knocked the ball loose. Bradbury alertly grabbed the ball in the air and ran upfield to get credited with a 21-yard reception.

On the next play, Mannion threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn.


More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Steve Megargee, The Associated Press

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