GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Linebacker Clay Matthews didn’t feel like celebrating after the Packers could only muster a tie with the Minnesota Vikings despite rallying from a late 16-point deficit.
But in a season full of tough breaks in Green Bay, the 26-26 draw Sunday may not be so bad.
Backup quarterback Matt Flynn threw for 218 yards in helping spark the rally. A winless streak without injured starter Aaron Rodgers stretched to four games, but the Packers remain just a half-game behind the Bears and Lions heading into a Thanksgiving Day showdown in Detroit.
“There you go — it’s all in front of us. I think we’ve just got to get that victory and we’ll be OK,” Matthews said. “Obviously we’re going to need a little help on the other end with other teams, but … it’s a big game this weekend.”
Chicago and Detroit, tied for first at 6-5, both lost Sunday. Perhaps the quick turnaround will help the Packers (5-5-1) get over the unusual tie.
The Vikings (2-8-1) will have to wait the full week with the Bears next at home.
“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.”
Five things we learned after the first tie in the NFL since the Rams and 49ers ended 24-24 on Nov. 11, 2012.
IN A KNOT: Game-time temperatures in Green Bay hovered in the upper teens. 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.
“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.”
IN LIKE FLYNN: Rodgers hurt his left collarbone in the 27-20 loss to the Bears on Nov. 4. Since then, it’s been a carousel at quarterback for the Packers.
On Sunday, Flynn entered in relief of the ineffective Scott Tolzien to rally the Packers from a 23-7 deficit with 14:22 left. Flynn, Rodgers’ former backup who was re-signed a couple weeks ago, finished 21 of 36, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Boykin with 3:30 left that got Green Bay within three. Mason Crosby’s 27-yard field goal with 46 seconds in regulation tied the game at 23.
“Looking at the guys’ eyes in the huddle, I don’t think there was any doubt, especially when we started making some plays,” Flynn said. “I’m proud of the guys for fighting, but we just have to finish.”
It’s unclear when Rodgers will be able to return. For now, McCarthy said he would need to evaluate the quarterback position looking ahead to Detroit.
PONDER THIS: For a while, Christian Ponder looked like the best quarterback on the field. He finished 21 of 30 for 233 yards and a touchdown, though the Packers’ defense got to him for six sacks.
Maybe the Vikings’ quarterback carousel has finally stopped spinning.
“I don’t know any reason why he wouldn’t” start next week against the Bears, Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said. “He was really composed and ran the offense in every situation. He was much more in control.”
CLAY-MAKER: Adrian Peterson (146 yards rushing on 32 carries) and Toby Gerhart (91 yards on eight carries) wore down the Packers’ defense. But the unit did come up clutch late by holding the Vikings to 34 yards over its final three drives in regulation.
Matthews also looked more like his disruptive self in his third game back from a thumb injury and finished with four tackles and two sacks.
HOMECOMING: The boos rained down on Greg Jennings after his first catch on his old home field as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
Jennings finished with two receptions for 29 yards.
“It was great to come back here and play at Lambeau,” Jennings said. “It’s unfortunately not to get a win outright, I guess the next best thing is a tie.”
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