Tie with Vikings leaves Packers with empty feeling

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Down by 16 points early in the fourth quarter, the Green Bay Packers had almost no shot at beating the Minnesota Vikings. Their win probability was calculated at three percent, yet the Packers tied the game late in regulation and forced overtime.

Fifteen extra minutes of football produced a field goal for both teams, as the Packers finished with their first tie since 1987. Despite the comeback and the better-than-a-loss result, players didn’t feel like they accomplished anything positive whatsoever.

“It feels just like a loss,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “It doesn’t feel any different. We don’t take any good feelings from tying instead of losing. I think you guys (in the media) can tell too, it probably feels like a loss in here.”

The atmosphere in the locker room did resemble a loss. Technically, Green Bay’s three-game losing streak was snapped with the 26-26 outcome, but it’s also been nearly one full month now since the Packers have enjoyed the taste of victory.

“Today’s contest obviously is a little bit of an empty feeling,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “You go out there today expecting to win and we got halfway there. The performance was clearly not the standard we were looking for, but we’re a football team that’s playing through some peaks and valleys.”

One of those peaks happened on Green Bay’s opening drive of overtime, at least on the first seven plays of that series. Matt Flynn, who had entered the game at quarterback in place of Scott Tolzien in the third quarter, got the Packers to the 7-yard line with a first-and-goal situation. A touchdown would have ended the game, while a field goal would give the Vikings a chance to get the ball back.

In that moment, Green Bay had completely flipped the script on win probability and had a 94-percent chance to emerge victorious. But, against those unlikely odds, Minnesota stopped the Packers from getting in the end zone. Two Eddie Lacy rushing attempts and one incomplete pass to Jordy Nelson led to Green Bay only coming away with a Mason Crosby field goal.

“Very frustrating,” Flynn said of the way that series concluded. “We had a lot of momentum at that point, and just didn’t get it done. I needed to do a better job, obviously, finishing that drive off.”

On the Vikings’ ensuing drive, they were faced with a 3rd-and-9 on their own 21-yard line but converted on that play and marched down the field for a game-tying field goal.

Neither team scored again after that.

“It’s kind of a weird feeling when the overtime ends and you’re walking off and fans don’t know whether to cheer or boo for you and you kind of don’t come to grips as far as how you should feel,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “Is that a victory? Is that a loss?”

Strangely, the entirety of Week 12 was actually a net gain for the Packers in the NFC North standings. With the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions both losing, Green Bay’s 5-5-1 record has the team — believe it or not — just 1/2 game out of first place. Had the Packers won, they would have been in a three-way tie for first place with the Lions and Bears, with a matchup in Detroit coming up on Thanksgiving.

“It’s weird,” offensive lineman Josh Sitton said. “Everybody in the division, nobody had a win. It’s going to be a fun race.”

Green Bay’s spot in the standings isn’t sitting well with some.

“We expect to be leading this division,” Matthews said. “We’re just keeping our head above water right now. We’re treading water and hopefully we’ll find that shallow end after Thursday.”

The Packers’ most recent win, which was against the Vikings in Minnesota in late October, was — not coincidentally — the last time that Aaron Rodgers was healthy for an entire game. Since Rodgers broke his left collarbone, they’ve have had three other quarterbacks behind center (Seneca Wallace, Tolzien and Flynn) and, as would be expected, Green Bay has been a very different team.

“We haven’t handled Aaron Rodgers’ departure (well),” McCarthy said. “I haven’t talked about it on purpose; that hasn’t worked.”

Though it’s appeared at times as if the Packers have been a bit demoralized on the field since Rodgers’ injury, they’re claiming that not to be the case.

“Obviously when he went down it was a big deal in that moment,” Hawk said. “We didn’t know how long he was going to be down, but guys don’t sit here and try to press or try to do anything special because Aaron is not in there.

“I think everyone can kind of see, when he’s not in, it makes you recognize his greatness even more, you see how good he is and the plays he makes. But I don’t feel like we were deflated or anything.”

Green Bay could have packed it in midway through the second half against the Vikings, but that didn’t happen. And while the Packers should have lost this game, they also had an opportunity to win it. But it didn’t produce conflicted emotions for the players. The box score shows a tie, but the players are convinced it’s no better than a loss would have been.

“I think we’re all disappointed,” Flynn said. “We needed that win, and we all know it.”

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