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Published September 18, 2015
Back and forth they went, Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers going at each other with so much on the line. The emotional pendulum swung wildly in one of the most memorable games of this long and bitter rivalry.
It was a game so good that it deserves a rematch. And that's just what it will get.
Peterson rushed for 199 yards to become the seventh player to surpass 2,000 in a season and scored two touchdowns to help the Minnesota Vikings to a 37-34 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday that sets up a playoff rematch next weekend.
"It won't take a whole lot to get our players fired up to go play in Lambeau," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "They'll be fired up to go and play."
Christian Ponder threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns in the best game of his young career and Blair Walsh kicked a 29-yard field goal as time expired for the Vikings (10-6), who won the last four games of the regular season to squeak in as the final NFC wild card. Peterson finished with 2,097 yards in his remarkable comeback season, just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season record set back in 1984.
"If it happened, it would have come to me, but I didn't want to focus on it at all," said Peterson, who had a career-high 34 carries in a game the Vikings needed to win to qualify for the playoffs. "I wasn't focused on it. I went out and played my game and accomplished what we wanted to. We're in now. We're in the playoffs. We get to fight another week."
That fight will take place at Lambeau Field on Saturday night because the Packers (11-5) once again couldn't find a way to stop Peterson. He needed 102 yards to join the 2,000-yard club and 208 to surpass Dickerson coming into the game. After rushing for 210 yards at Lambeau on Dec. 2, Peterson plowed through the Packers again on the one-year anniversary of surgery to repair two torn ligaments in his left knee.
"You can't help but watch him play and just be really impressed," said Rodgers, whose Packers missed a chance to lock down the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. "I think he probably might have won the MVP today, and hopefully we can win the playoff game next week."
Rodgers completed 28 of 40 passes for 365 yards and four touchdowns, overcoming a slow start to bring the Packers roaring back into the game.
The Vikings jumped out to a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter, with Peterson scoring from seven yards out and Walsh kicking a 54-yard field goal and a 37-yarder to get the Metrodome crowd rocking. Peterson went over 2,000 yards with a 20-yard burst in the third quarter, getting serenaded with chants of "MVP!" along the way.
But Rodgers isn't ready to give up his crown just yet. He hit Greg Jennings and James Jones for touchdown passes in the third quarter and the shaky Mason Crosby's second field goal of the game tied it at 27 late in the third quarter to set up the wild finish.
Ponder squeezed a 3-yard TD just past Packers safety M.D. Jennings' diving reach to Michael Jenkins in the fourth before Rodgers hooked up with Jordy Nelson for a 2-yard score with 2:54 to play. Peterson took over from there, ripping off a 26-yard run to put Walsh in position for the game winner.
"He's a special player and we've had a special year so far," Vikings center John Sullivan said. "But it's not over. We have a few more games to win."
Not if the Packers can help it. They may have lost on Sunday. But they're still the NFC North champions. And this time they'll have the Vikings on their turf.
"I think it'll be a great contest," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's an opponent we're very familiar with, and they're familiar with us. Everybody has confidence going into the playoffs. Most importantly, we'll be at home. We're excited to play these guys again."
NOTES: Vikings CB Antoine Winfield did not play in the second half after aggravating the right hand he broke last week. He said he plans on playing in the playoff game, but will have to be evaluated throughout the week. ... Packers DE Jerel Worthy was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with a knee injury and WR Jarrett Boykin also left the game with an undisclosed injury. ... The game grew tense in the third quarter when McCarthy was penalized for throwing a challenge flag after the replay process began. However, they were only penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, not prevented from benefiting from the overturned call. Referee Mike Carey said the review was called before the challenge flag was thrown, meaning they could still review the play. "Emotional decision by me," McCarthy said. "I shouldn't have done it." ... Jennings had eight catches for 120 yards and DuJuan Harris rushed for 70 yards on 14 carries for Green Bay.