MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers arrived at the Super Bowl site for this season, with a realistic goal of returning to Minnesota in four months for a crack at another championship.
Their chance of returning in February took an awfully big hit when Rodgers broke his collarbone .
Harrison Smith led Minnesota defense in a thorough dismantling of the Packers after Rodgers left the field on a cart, taking a big piece of Green Bay’s title aspirations with him and paving the way for a 23-10 victory by the Vikings on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium that transformed the trajectory of the NFC North race.
The Packers said Rodgers could be done for the season.
“I love playing against him. He’s a competitor,” said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had one of four sacks of backup Brett Hundley after Rodgers fell on his throwing shoulder after being taken down by Anthony Barr during an incompletion on the second drive for the Packers.
“I wish him the best, but we went out there and won the game under any circumstances. As for the game plan, we stuck with it.”
Smith had 1½ sacks on safety blitzes, a diving interception and two pass breakups, helping the Vikings (4-2) limit the injury-depleted Packers to a season-low 227 yards. The Packers had five first downs and 102 yards over the first three quarters.
“It’s a tricky situation, especially when the starting quarterback goes down and you’re just in there,” said Hundley, who completed 18 of 33 passes for 157 yards and his first career touchdown, to Davante Adams , but threw three interceptions.
“I’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time now. Obviously, we didn’t get the job done today. But we’ll be better.”
Barr, who later left with a concussion, was not penalized for the hit on Rodgers. The Packers didn’t make a fuss, clearly more concerned about trying to recover from the emotional setback and bring Hundley up to speed with the rest of the offense as quickly as possible.
“I know Anthony Barr personally,” Hundley said of his former UCLA teammate. “I wouldn’t imagine he’s a dirty player.”
Vikings backup Case Keenum made his fourth start and finished for the fifth time in place of Sam Bradford, who’s been waylaid by wear and tear in his twice-repaired left knee.
The drop-off from Bradford to Keenum hasn’t been nearly as steep for the Vikings as what the Packers are facing without the two-time NFL MVP. Coach Mike McCarthy dismissed a question about signing a free agent quarterback.
“It’s a big deal, you know?” Adams said. “We suffered a lot of injuries, lost the game, and a lot of guys in this locker room aren’t OK with things like that. But at the same time, we have a lot of faith in Brett Hundley, and it’s up to us to do our part.”
Keenum went 24 for 38 for 239 yards without top wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who was out with a groin injury. He threw 13 times to Adam Thielen, completing nine for 97 yards.
Keenum was intercepted for the first time this season, but he connected with Jerick McKinnon on a screen pass for a touchdown and again gave the Vikings a confident, energetic presence in the huddle. He wasn’t sacked.
“I felt very comfortable out there,” Keenum said, adding: “I just have to keep doing my job.”
Here are some other key developments from the game:
PACKERS SECONDARY, A PRIMARY CONCERN
McCarthy said he was concerned about his defense entering the game, with three starters, cornerbacks Davon House and Kevin King and strong safety Morgan Burnett, ruled out with injuries. Then another cornerback, Quinten Rollins, hurt his ankle and didn’t return.
“We’ll just continue to work through it,” McCarthy said.
The Packers had Ty Montgomery back at tailback after missing the previous game because of broken ribs, but he was limited to 28 yards on 10 carries. Aaron Jones gained 41 yards on 13 attempts. Montgomery made a juggling catch at the goal line that was ultimately ruled incomplete by replay review reversal, forcing a short field goal instead and keeping the Vikings in front 14-10 right before halftime.
SO MUCH FOR THAT
For the first time in six games this season, the Packers had their entire starting offensive line intact. That lasted about half the game. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga was removed because of a concussion, and left tackle David Bakhtiari’s hamstring flared up again after he missed the previous four games with the injury. Left guard Lane Taylor also departed with injuries to his ankle and knee.
“We have to keep weathering that storm,” Bakhtiari said.
The Vikings have benefited from quality depth beyond just Keenum. With tailback Dalvin Cook done for the season because of a torn ACL in his left knee, McKinnon has raised his productivity. He has 245 total yards and three touchdowns on 43 touches over the past two games, making up for a lost fumble that Clay Matthews returned 63 yards to set up Hundley’s touchdown pass.
“He makes us look good,” left guard Jeremiah Sirles said.