By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Greg Joseph made a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give the Minnesota Vikings a 34-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, finishing a classic back-and-forth with Aaron Rodgers by making sure the three-time NFL MVP didn’t get to touch the ball last.
Kirk Cousins passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings (5-5), who watched yet another game come down to the final play after Rodgers threw three of his four touchdown passes in the second half.
Unable to practice much at all this week because of a toe injury, after missing much of the first half of the month with COVID-19, Rodgers finished 23 for 33 for a season-high 385 yards.
Justin Jefferson had eight receptions for 169 yards and two scores, including a third-down catch against rookie Eric Stokes that Cousins delivered for a 23-yard touchdown while being decked on a blitz by Darnell Savage. Dalvin Cook ran in the 2-point conversion to make up for an earlier missed extra point by Joseph.
Then on the next play from scrimmage, Rodgers threw a rainbow to Marquez Valdes-Scantling streaking past safety Xavier Woods for a 75-yard score to tie the game just before the two-minute warning.
When the Vikings regained the ball, Cousins nearly cost himself the comeback by slightly underthrowing Jefferson, whom Savage darted in front of to intercept the ball. He bobbled it on the way down, though, and a replay review overturned the call.
Cousins then went 3 for 3 for 51 yards on the next three snaps, Cook ran for one more first down, and then the Vikings kneeled down to set up the final kick by Joseph. They posted the highest score against the Packers since their 38-3 loss to New Orleans in the season opener.
Green Bay (8-3) gave up just 34 points over the previous three games. Preston Smith had two sacks, but the Packers didn’t have the same pass rush with outside linebacker Rashan Gary (elbow) sidelined. Za’Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus are also out with long-term injuries.
Rodgers threw to Davante Adams twice for touchdowns, including an 18-yard strike on third-and-6 midway through the fourth quarter when he was trying to call timeout before the shotgun snap.
Adams has 12 scoring receptions against the Vikings, the most by any opposing player.
The Vikings lost their way on offense in recent losses to Dallas and Baltimore by failing to consistently deliver the ball to Jefferson and Thielen, but Cousins picked up where he left off in last week’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers by continuing to target his star tandem.
Jefferson became the first player in the league this season to top 100 receiving yards in the first quarter. He drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty on Savage in the second quarter, a big boost on a drive that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Cousins to Thielen on third-and-goal for a 16-3 lead. Kingsley Keke’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Cousins triggered a roughing-the-passer penalty and erased an interception by Savage on that eventful possession.
For all the success that was fueled by aggressiveness, the Vikings swung the momentum to the visitors when a toss sweep to fullback C.J. Ham on third-and-1 at their 29 was stopped for no gain late in the second quarter.
The Packers went the other way for the first of four straight touchdown drives, excluding a one-play kneel-down at the end of the first half, that covered 74 yards or more. Josiah Deguara had his first career scoring catch to cap that possession and cut the lead to 16-10.
Packers: Elgton Jenkins went down in the fourth quarter with an apparent injury to his left knee and was carted to the locker room. After a Pro Bowl selection in 2020 at LG, Jenkins has replaced David Bakhtiari at LT this season. Bakhtiari has yet to return from a torn ACL suffered last year.
Vikings: CB Patrick Peterson (hamstring) returned from a three-game absence. He missed some time while getting treatment on the sideline late in the second quarter but returned after halftime.
The Packers host the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday, trying to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since a three-game skid that prompted the firing of coach Mike McCarthy on Dec. 2, 2018.
The Vikings play at San Francisco next Sunday.
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