MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Vikings stormed into TCF Bank Stadium all alone in first place after five straight victories, determined to show the Green Bay Packers that there was a new king in the NFC North.
In their biggest test of the season, the Vikings looked nowhere near ready for prime time, collapsing under a hail of yellow penalty flags and Aaron Rodgers bullets.
The Vikings committed eight costly penalties and missed a golden chance to take a commanding lead in the NFC North in a demoralizing 30-13 loss to the Packers on Sunday.
"This team you saw play today, it wasn't us," said Adrian Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher who was held to 45 yards on 13 carries. "We were out of sync, out of whack."
The Vikings (7-3) had 110 yards in penalties, allowed a season high in points and surrendered six sacks to a Green Bay defense that had not registered a sack in their three previous games. Worst of all, they gave a struggling rival a much-needed boost.
The Packers had lost three straight games, were ravaged by injuries to the offensive line and receiving corps and hardly resembled the team that has won four division titles in a row. But the mojo returned on a chilly day in Minnesota.
"We had to bounce back," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. "You lose tonight and you're 2 1/2 games back and you're lucky to have a wild-card spot. Now we're back on top of the division. Big victory for us, and a very big game that we haven't had in a while."
Teddy Bridgewater was 25 for 37 for 296 yards and a touchdown and Kyle Rudolph had six catches for 106 yards, including a 47-yard score, for the Vikings (7-3). But the offensive line gave Bridgewater precious little time to throw on most dropbacks and Peterson committed a costly fumble deep in Packers territory in the fourth quarter that helped stunt Minnesota's comeback attempt.
"You can't win playing the way we did," coach Mike Zimmer said. "Too many mistakes. You can't return a kickoff back and then get a 15-yard penalty. We can't have pass interferences. Those things will beat a good football team."
Optimism was sky-high in Minnesota this week as fans rallied around Zimmer, his hard-nosed defense, which had not allowed an opponent to score more than 23 points all season, and a rejuvenated Peterson. Zimmer printed up black shirts that read "Beat Green Bay" on the back to try to keep his team focused amid all the positive attention, but what he saw on Sunday was a sloppy, undisciplined performance in all phases.
On offense: Bridgewater was under siege all afternoon and Peterson was held under 100 yards for the first time in a month.
On defense: Rodgers sliced and diced an improved secondary, buying time with his legs and firing darts down the field, and Lacy rushed for more yards than he had in the previous four games combined.
The Vikings were committing an average of 6.3 penalties per game through the first nine, the lowest in the league. But they committed six in the first half, including holding penalties that had the offense facing a first-and-20 three times in the first half and a big pass interference penalty on Terence Newman that helped the Packers move into position for a touchdown just before halftime that put them up 16-6.
It all added up to another clunker on the big stage. The Vikings opened the season on Monday night in San Francisco and delivered an embarrassing performance in a 20-3 loss and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn also referenced a 42-10 wipeout in Lambeau Field on a Thursday night last year.
"We've got to fix this problem if we want to get to the next level, to the playoff round and to the Super Bowl," Munnerlyn said. "We've got to fix this. You've got to be able to win when the whole world is watching."
NOTES: Bridgewater left briefly in the second quarter with an injured left shoulder. But he was able to return and play the entire second half. ... Peterson surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season for the seventh time in his career. ... Mason Crosby kicked five field goals for the Packers.