Rodgers, Packers rout Vikings 41-17, control playoff fate

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score, and the Green Bay Packers continued their improbable playoff push by shutting down Justin Jefferson and the Minnesota Vikings in a 41-17 blowout on Sunday.

Keisean Nixon scored on a 105-yard kickoff return and Darnell Savage had a 75-yard pick-6 of Kirk Cousins — one of four turnovers by the Vikings QB — to help Green Bay build a 27-3 halftime lead. Aaron Jones rushed for 111 yards on 14 carries and A.J. Dillon had a 2-yard touchdown run as the Packers won their fourth straight.

Green Bay (8-8) will reach the playoffs if it beats division rival Detroit at home in its regular-season finale. A fourth straight postseason berth seemed out of the question after a 1-7 stretch dropped the Packers to 4-8, but they haven’t lost since and have benefited from favorable results around the league.

Green Bay's latest bit of good fortune came earlier Sunday when Washington fell 24-10 at home to the Cleveland, putting the Packers in control of their postseason fate.

The Packers then took care of business by making life miserable for Cousins and Jefferson, the NFL's leading receiver who was held to one catch for 15 yards. Jefferson had nine receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening 23-7 victory over the Packers.

Savage, Adrian Amos and Rudy Ford each intercepted passes by Cousins, while Kenny Clark recovered a fumble on a strip sack. The Packers converted each of Cousins’ turnovers into touchdowns.

Cousins went 18 of 31 for 205 yards for the NFC North champion Vikings (12-4). His only touchdown pass came in garbage time, a 47-yarder to Jalen Nailor that cut Green Bay's lead to 41-10.

The Vikings' Dalvin Cook was held to 27 yards on nine carries.

Rodgers went 15 of 24 for 159 yards with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Robert Tonyan. Rodgers also scored Green Bay’s final touchdown on a 2-yard scramble.

After a blocked punt by Josh Metellus gave Minnesota first-and-goal at the 1 to help the Vikings take an early 3-0 lead, the Packers scored the next 41 points.

That outburst started with the big plays from Nixon and Savage. This marked the first time the Packers scored on an interception return and a kickoff return in the same game since a 31-23 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Oct. 30, 1967.

Nixon's touchdown was the Packers' first off a kickoff return since Randall Cobb’s franchise-record 108-yarder against New Orleans in 2011. Nixon had a 94-yard kickoff return in a 26-20 Christmas Day victory at Miami, but he left that game with a groin injury that kept him from practicing most of this week.

Green Bay also got a solid game from veteran kicker Mason Crosby, who went 2 of 2 on field-goal attempts, including a 56-yarder that the crossbar before bouncing through to close the first half.

INJURIES

The Vikings lost two of their starting offensive linemen to calf injuries in the first quarter: center Austin Schlottmann right tackle Brian O’Neill. Schlottmann was starting in place of Garrett Bradbury, who missed a fourth straight game with a back injury.

Chris Reed, who hadn’t played an offensive snap all season, took over for Schlottmann at center. Olisaemeka Udoh filled in at right tackle.

UP NEXT

The Vikings visit Chicago and the Packers host the Lions next weekend.

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Steve Megargee, The Associated Press