MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings had won five straight games after their bye week, controlling games with a power running attack, a defense that beat up opposing quarterbacks more than it beat itself and special teams units that contributed to a significant advantage in field position.
Those elements deserted the Vikings precisely at the moment where they had a chance to assert themselves as the team to beat in the NFC North. Now, they'll have to hope the division title is still in play for them when they see the Green Bay Packers again in six weeks.
In one sense, the Vikings' 30-13 loss to the Packers on Sunday afternoon is easy to flush away, because of how uncharacteristic the Vikings' mistakes have been this season. But in another, it was alarming because of how many issues cropped up in a nationally-televised game that could have been a coronation for a young team, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in attendance.
Instead, Teddy Bridgewater ended up with nearly as many rushing yards as Adrian Peterson, posting a career-high 43 from the times he was able to escape a pass rush that sacked him six times. The Vikings committed eight penalties for 110 yards, and they spent their final drives of the day playing to a soundtrack of "Go Pack Go" chants from the crowd of Packers fans who had traveled across the border.
What it means: Instead of taking a two-game lead over the Packers in the NFC North -- who had lost three straight games with Aaron Rodgers as the starting quarterback for the first time since 2008 -- the Vikings lost their first division game and fell back into a tie with Green Bay for the NFC North lead. They've now lost 10 of their last 12 games against the Packers. Things won't get much easier for them over the next 2 1/2 weeks. They travel to Atlanta next Sunday, play Seattle at home the following week and have a Thursday night game in Arizona after that.
One reason to get excited: Tight end Kyle Rudolph provided the big-play element the Vikings have been waiting to see from him for the better part of two years. He caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater in the second quarter, and set up another score with a 33-yard reception in the third quarter. He finished the day with six catches for 106 yards.
One reason to panic: The Vikings' inability to protect Bridgewater again hampered their offense on Sunday, and it came in a game where the Vikings were trying to play from behind. The Vikings aren't built to play without a lead, and their offensive line is a major reason why. When teams can pin their ears back and come after Bridgewater, the Vikings aren't going to be very effective.
What were they thinking? The Vikings mostly elected to play coverage in the second half after frustrating Rodgers with their blitz packages in the first half. Once he found more time to throw, Rodgers -- who'd only posted 98 yards on 20 attempts in the first half -- found his stride again. He threw for 87 yards in the third quarter, rolling out of the pocket before throwing a dart to James Jones for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Fantasy watch: Peterson went over 1,000 yards for the season, but was held to just 45 yards for the day, and his sixth fumble of the season came at the worst possible time. He fumbled deep in Packers territory as the Vikings tried to pull within a touchdown, and he didn't carry the ball again.
Ouch: Bridgewater left the game with a left shoulder injury after a sack in the second quarter, but returned to the game at the end of the first half. Defensive ends Brian Robison and Everson Griffen both limped off in the fourth quarter, and safety Harrison Smith had to get his left knee wrapped up early in the game.
Goodell in the crowd: The commissioner watched the game from the stands in late-afternoon temperatures that dropped into the 20s. He spoke to about 75 fans at a team event before the game, touring the Vikings' new stadium and meeting with Vikings ownership.