Packers and Vikings settle for 26-26 tie

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Packers’ losing streak without Aaron Rodgers is over, though the frustration continues in Titletown.

A tie did little to lift spirits in chilly Green Bay.

Backup quarterback Matt Flynn threw for 218 yards and helped spark a rally from a 16-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to the Minnesota Vikings early in the fourth quarter. But the teams could only muster field goals in overtime and had to settle for a 26-26 draw Sunday.

“It’s an empty feeling. You go out there and didn’t lose the game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “But you feel like you didn’t accomplish what you set out to do.”

Same sentiment in the Vikings’ locker room, where one player held tightly to a hot cup of coffee to warm up following a game that started with temperatures in the upper teens.

“I view it as a loss, personally. We gave up a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “I don’t have a sister, but I’m going to say it’s like going to prom with your sister.”

For a while, the match was full of heart-racing drama.

Mason Crosby hit from 20 yards at 10:28 of the extra period and Blair Walsh connected from 35 with 3:54 left.

Greg Jennings, playing his first game at Lambeau Field as a member of the Vikings (3-8-1), dropped a third-down pass with 2:11 left. The Packers (5-5-1) also stumbled on their next possession.

One last chance for the Vikings went nowhere with 1 second left, and the teams walked off with the first tie in the NFL since the Rams and 49ers ended 24-24 on Nov. 11, 2012.

At least the 77,000-plus frigid fans got to witness a bit of history — this was first game to end in a tie under the new overtime rule instituted last year that continues the extra period if both teams open it with field goals. A touchdown by either team would have ended the game.

Jacksonville and Houston both kicked field goals to open OT in a game on Nov. 18, 2012, then the Texans won it with a touchdown.

“I think to everybody around here, it feels like a loss, for sure,” Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said.

The Packers are also in unfamiliar territory with so much instability at quarterback. It’s been that way since Rodgers — perhaps the most irreplaceable player in the NFL — hurt his left collarbone on the first series of a 27-20 loss to the Bears on Nov. 4 that started the winless string.

Flynn, Rodgers’ former backup who was re-signed last week, replaced the ineffective Scott Tolzien and finished 21 of 36 for 218 yards and a touchdown. He nearly led Green Bay back from a 23-7 deficit early in the fourth quarter to a win.

Flynn caught a break in overtime after a third-down sack was called off by a holding penalty on Vikings safety Robert Blanton. He followed with three long completions, including a 34-yarder to the leaping Jarrett Boykin to the 7.

Two runs by Eddie Lacy (110 yards on 25 carries) got the Packers to the 2, but Flynn misfired on third down to set up Crosby’s kick.

Adrian Peterson had 146 yards and a score on 32 carries. He and Toby Gerhart (91 yards on eight carries) dented the Packers’ worn defense in overtime, but could not get in the end zone. The Vikings settled for Walsh’s kick.

That was it for the scoring. The fans bundled up in parkas and knit caps to brave temperatures in the upper teens had to settle for a draw.

Some positives for the Packers: a maligned defense stopped two late fourth-quarter drives; Lacy’s running; Flynn’s play in relief. And the tie being less damaging than a loss would have been in the division race.

“Looking at the guys’ eyes in the huddle, I don’t think there was any doubt,” Flynn said. “I’m proud of the guys for fighting, but we just have to finish.”

Things looked bleak for them early in the fourth quarter after Walsh’s 29-yard field gave Minnesota 23-7 lead.

Up to that point, Christian Ponder was the best quarterback on the field. He connected with Rhett Ellison for a 12-yard touchdown pass that helped give the Vikings build a 16 point lead.

Ponder finished 21 of 30 for 233 yards. Maybe the quarterback carousel has finally come to a halt in Minnesota, though afterward Ponder was focused on a missed opportunity.

“We let it get out of our hands,” he said. “It’s unfortunate we’re not walking away with our third victory.”

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