MINNEAPOLIS — Adrian Peterson picked up the Vikings and gave them a thrilling ride to the playoffs, where the next stop on this improbable journey is, yes, Green Bay.
This game was so full of action, intrigue and tension, they'll stage it again Saturday.
Peterson finished 9 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, but he powered the Vikings past the Packers 37-34 Sunday with 199 yards to set up a rematch at Lambeau Field in a first-round playoff game.
"I told myself to come into this game focused on one thing, and that's winning," Peterson said.
He finished with 2,097 yards, becoming the seventh player in NFL history to reach 2,000.
"It wasn't meant to happen, or it would've happened. Not to say it doesn't hurt, because it does," Peterson said of Dickerson's 28-year-old record. "But we came in here tonight and accomplished the ultimate goal, and that was getting a win and punching our ticket to the playoffs."
Peterson rumbled left for a 26-yard gain in the closing seconds, his career-high 34th carry exactly one year after reconstructive surgery on his left knee. That set up Blair Walsh's 29-yard field goal as time expired and put the Vikings in the postseason after consecutive last-place finishes.
"For our guys to be as resilient as they were, it has you swelling with pride," Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier said.
The division champion Packers dropped to the NFC's No. 3 seed. Their five-game winning streak against the Vikings ended.
"I had a feeling that we had the game in the bag the whole game," Vikings cornerback Chris Cook said. "It was just a vibe that I had on the sideline, in how we were carrying ourselves."
Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, hit Jordy Nelson from 2 yards to tie it with 2:54 left. But former Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder threw for three scores, one to Peterson.
"It's disappointing. A lot of us wanted that extra week," Rodgers said.
The Packers cut their deficit to 27-24 late in the third quarter on a touchdown reception by James Jones. The ruling was a fumble at the goal line, triggering an automatic review. But because Green Bay threw the challenge flag after the replay process began, it was only penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, not kept from benefiting from the overturned call. That's what happened to Detroit infamously on Thanksgiving, when a disputed score by Houston was prevented from review.