Green Bay, WI – Aaron Rodgers threw for 286 yards and a touchdown and the Green Bay Packers scored 13 unanswered points in the second half to rally for a 23-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.
James Starks accounted for the go-ahead score with a 22-yard run late in the third quarter and Mason Crosby kicked three field goals to help Green Bay (8-4) bounce back from last week's 38-10 loss at the New York Giants, which ended a five-game winning streak for the defending NFC North champions.
The win also moved Green Bay into a first-place tie atop the NFC North with the Chicago Bears, who lost to the Seattle Seahawks in overtime on Sunday.
"I can't say there's many Seahawk fans in the locker room, but we appreciate the help," said Rodgers.
Rodgers completed 27-of-35 passes with one interception for the Packers, who have now prevailed in five straight meetings with the Vikings and 10 in a row against divisional foes.
Minnesota (6-6) was dealt its fourth defeat in five games despite a 210-yard, 21-carry effort from Adrian Peterson that included a career-long 82-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The star running back eclipsed the century mark for the sixth consecutive contest, breaking a team record he had shared with Robert Smith.
While Peterson was outstanding, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder struggled. The second-year pro managed just 119 yards with a touchdown, while tossing two interceptions and hitting on 12-of-25 attempts.
"It was a very disappointing loss," said Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier. "We definitely want to improve our passing game. We need to create balance."
The Packers trailed 14-10 at halftime, but scored 10 straight points during a third-quarter surge to forge ahead.
Rodgers came through with two big completions on Green Bay's initial drive of the second half, one a 21-yard dart to Jermichael Finley on 3rd-and-9 and another to Greg Jennings for an 18-yard gain shortly after that helped set up Crosby's 47-yard field goal, which made it a one-point game midway through the third quarter.
After stuffing Peterson on a 3rd-and-1 to force a Minnesota three-and-out later in the period, the Packers got the ball back near midfield and needed just four plays to move in front.
Alex Green ran two times totaling 18 yards to begin the series, and Jennings hauled in an 11-yard pass before Starks got loose along the right sideline for a 22-yard touchdown that gave Green Bay a 20-14 lead. The score was only the Packers' third on the ground this season and first since Week 5.
The Vikings responded by moving deep into Packers' territory on the ensuing possession, with a 23-yard Peterson run and a personal foul penalty on Green Bay's Tramon Williams placing Minnesota at their opponent's 25. Ponder's pass for Kyle Rudolph near the left side was intercepted by Morgan Burnett on the next play, however, to thwart the scoring threat.
Green Bay then put together a mammoth 18-play, 73-yard sequence that consumed the first 11 minutes of the fourth quarter. The Packers got inside the Minnesota 10 on Rodgers' 33-yard connection to Randall Cobb, but eventually settled for Crosby's 31-yard kick that put Minnesota in a nine-point hole with four minutes to play.
The Vikings had two chances to cut into their deficit before time ran out, but failed to muster any points.
Minnesota got as far as the Green Bay 24 on the first of those drives, highlighted by Ponder's 21-yard strike to Rudolph, but Blair Walsh sailed a 42-yard field goal try wide right. The Vikings' offense took over one last time with 43 seconds left, but couldn't cross midfield before the clock expired.
"When you're on the road you really have to play clean football," said Frazier. "It's hard to overcome turnovers on the road. We don't have that margin of error on our team right now."
The four-point edge Minnesota carried into the third quarter largely came as a result of Peterson, who amassed 126 yards and a touchdown on 13 attempts over the first two quarters, but the margin could have been more.
Up 14-10 following Peterson's huge touchdown run with 5:08 to go in the second quarter, the Vikings had a golden opportunity negated by a penalty after Jared Allen picked off Rodgers' deflected pass at Green Bay's 18-yard line. Kevin Williams was flagged for roughing the passer on the play, however, which offset a Packers' holding call.
Peterson also ripped off a 48-yard run to the Green Bay 12 on the opening snap of the second half, but Minnesota again came up empty when Ponder misread a coverage two plays later and floated a pass for Rudolph in the end zone that was snared by Burnett.
"I thought Morgan Burnett's interception in the third quarter in the end zone was probably the key play of the game," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy remarked. "I thought our whole sideline turned after that."
Rodgers was a sharp 10-of-12 for 97 yards over his first two series of work to stake Green Bay to a 10-0 lead after one quarter. The reigning league MVP hit on all four of his throws for 46 yards on an 8-play, 75-yard march to start the game, then capped it with a 32-yard strike to James Jones, who made a leaping grab over Minnesota corner A.J. Jefferson for the score.
Jones and Rodgers appeared to hook up for another score on the Packers' next touch, but the 14-yard touchdown didn't stand after tackle T.J. Lang was whistled for holding. The 12-play, 52-yard drive would wind up culminating in a 30-yard Crosby field goal that put Green Bay up by double digits with 4:11 left in the first quarter.
Ponder's best performance of the day came on the following possession, with the 2011 first-round pick going 5-for-5 on a 14-play, 71-yard jaunt that got Minnesota on the board early in the second quarter. Four of those completions went to Rudolph, the last of which was a 7-yard touchdown that brought the Vikings within 10-7.
Following a flurry of punts that eventually gave Minnesota the ball deep in their own end, Peterson was sprung loose on a block from fullback Jerome Felton and outraced the Green Bay defense down the right sideline for a go- ahead 82-yard touchdown that swung the momentum into the Vikings' favor.
Peterson surpassed the 200-yard mark in a game for the third time in his career, with the first two coming during his rookie campaign of 2007. His 82- yard score bested an 80-yard run he had against Detroit on Sept. 26, 2010 ... Jennings returned from a seven-game absence due to groin surgery and finished with 46 yards on four catches ... Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson left the game in the first quarter with a strained hamstring, while Lang hurt his ankle in the second quarter. Neither returned, with rookie Don Barclay replacing Lang at right tackle ... Green Bay wideout Donald Driver was inactive for the first time since Nov. 7, 2010 due to a thumb injury ... Green Bay's run of five straight wins is its longest in the series since also topping the Vikings five consecutive times from 2006-08 ... The Packers were also again without defensive stars Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Charles Woodson (collarbone), with end C.J. Wilson also held out after injuring his knee against the Giants last week ... Rudolph now has a touchdown catch in three straight games.