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Justin Jefferson's heroics spoil huge day from Aaron Rodgers as Vikings upend Packers

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Aaron Rodgers was back in vintage form on Sunday a week after struggling in his return from COVID-19. But it wasn't enough for the Green Bay Packers.

Justin Jefferson erupted with eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns as the Minnesota Vikings fought back a late Packers rally to secure a wild 34-31 win over their NFC North rivals. With the win, the Vikings improved to 5-5 to stay in the NFC wild-card hunt, while the Packers fell to 8-3 and dropped a chance to maintain control of the conference's No. 1 seed.

Jefferson caught the second of his two touchdowns on a 23-yard sideline toss from an under-pressure Kirk Cousins to give the Vikings a 31-24 lead late in the fourth quarter. Jefferson needed to adjust to catch the underthrown ball, then spun past sliding Packers cornerback Eric Stokes into the end zone. 

Vikings star wide receiver Justin Jefferson repeatedly came up with big plays against the Packers. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Vikings star wide receiver Justin Jefferson repeatedly came up with big plays against the Packers. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

Packers respond, can't hold on

Rodgers immediately responded with his fourth touchdown of the day on a 75-yard strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling to tie the game. 

But the Vikings mounted a 64-yard drive that milked the final 2:08 off the game clock and ended with a game-winning 29-yard field goal from Greg Joseph as time expired.

Late interception of Cousins overturned on replay

Green Bay looked to take control on an apparent Darnell Savage interception of Cousins on Minnesota's final drive. But officials determined that Savage didn't maintain control of the catch on replay and ruled the pass incomplete instead. Cousins responded by finding Jefferson for a first down on the next play from the Minnesota 30-yard line, and the Packers wouldn't take possession again.

Jefferson almost had a third touchdown with a 59-yard strike from Cousins in the first quarter that fell just short of the goal line. 

No matter for the Vikings. Dalvin Cook ran it in from the 1-yard line on the next play to score the game's first touchdown.

Cousins meanwhile, had one of his best games of the season. He held his own in a duel with Rodgers while connecting on 24 of 35 pass attempts for 341 yards and three touchdowns. He caught a break on his biggest mistake when Savage couldn't corral the late interception and finished the game without a turnover. 

Rodgers back in prime form after COVID-19 bout

The late Vikings drive spoiled a Packers rally from a slow start and a 23-10 third-quarter deficit. Green Bay didn't score a touchdown until the final seconds of the first half when Rodgers scrambled, then threw across his body to find tight end Josiah Deguara in the end zone on a 25-yard strike.

Rodgers then found Davante Adams twice for touchdowns, with the second securing a 24-23 lead with 7:49 remaining. He finished completing 23 of 33 passes for 385 yards with four touchdowns and no turnovers. It wasn't enough for a win, but it should allay concerns about any lingering setbacks from COVID-19 after Rodgers failed to find the end zone and took five sacks in last week's win over the Seattle Seahawks. 

He did suffer and play through a toe injury after getting stepped on in the first half. He told reporters after the game that it was “a little worse than turf toe” and that he hopes to "get some some healing" when the Packers have a bye in Week 13. He'll have to get through a showdown with the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12 first.  

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