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Vikings shut out Packers 16-0, keep eye on 1st-round bye

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Case Keenum stopped one last time before heading up the tunnel at Lambeau Field, clapping his hands above his head while Minnesota Vikings fans chanted “Skol! Skol!”

The Vikings’ defense felt right at home Saturday night in Titletown.

A 16-0 victory over the injury-depleted Green Bay Packers gave Minnesota its first shutout in nearly a quarter-century and kept the NFC North champions in the hunt for a first-round playoff bye.

Stefon Diggs caught a 4-yard pass from Case Keenum just inside the back line of the end zone in the first quarter for the only touchdown. The Vikings (12-3) have already clinched the NFC North and can secure a bye if Carolina loses or ties on Sunday against Tampa Bay.

“Defense played absolutely incredible today, and we did enough. It doesn’t matter how, it matters how many,” Keenum said.

The Vikings forced an incompletion into the end zone on fourth-and-4 from the 14 early in the fourth quarter to turn away the Packers’ last best effort to cross the goal line. Safety Harrison Smith ended another Green Bay drive with an interception at the Minnesota 5 late in the second quarter.

Minnesota left frigid Lambeau Field with its first shutout since a 13-0 win over Detroit on Dec. 5, 1993. It was the first shutout over the Packers (7-8) since Nov. 14, 1971.

The defense has “played pretty good all year long … Proof will be in the pudding here in a couple weeks,” said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, referring to the playoffs.

The Packers managed to hold a 239-236 edge in total yards. They were still shut out twice in a season for the first time since 2006.

“I never felt more defeated, more embarrassed by a performance. Yeah, we had opportunities, and we didn’t connect when we did,” receiver Randall Cobb said.

In its defense, the team fielded a lineup that often looked like one that coach Mike McCarthy would send out for a game late in the preseason. The Packers have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Starting outside linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) missed the game, along with cornerback Damarious Randall (hamstring).

Brett Hundley was 17 of 40 for 130 yards with two interceptions in taking over at quarterback again for Aaron Rodgers, who returned to injured reserve this week after missing seven games earlier in the year with a collarbone injury.

The Packers didn’t have leading receiver Davante Adams, who is in the concussion protocol, then lost wideout Jordy Nelson and tight end Richard Rodgers to shoulder injuries in the first half.

“Injuries are unfortunate. We had a lot of opportunities tonight. We didn’t make the plays,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

The hard turf at chilly Lambeau didn’t help either, with some players having trouble with footing early in the game. Unable to connect on medium-to-long range passes, the Packers’ best plays came when Hundley broke free for big gains on the run .

Not enough against the Vikings’ stingy defense.

FROZEN TUNDRA

Fans bundled up in parkas, huddled under blankets and sipped on free hot chocolate to stay warm. Purple-clad Minnesota backers celebrated in the stands on a night in which temperatures hovered in the single digits.

Diggs finished with five catches for 60 yards. Keenum was 14 of 25 for 139 yards.

“I’m not sure we played our best game tonight … We left some things out there offensively,” Zimmer said.

THE LAST TIME

The Packers were also shut out this season 23-0 by the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 19.

HOME DOESN’T HELP

Hundley finished the season having thrown no touchdowns and seven interceptions in six games at Lambeau, with the Packers going 2-4 in that span.

INJURY REPORT

Vikings: The team said that LG Nick Easton will have surgery after breaking his right ankle in the first quarter. … LS Kevin McDermott (shoulder) left late in the second quarter, with backup TE David Morgan taking over snapping duties.

Packers: RT Jason Spriggs was carted off the field with what appeared to be a left injury on the first play from scrimmage. Justin McCray, who was starting at right guard for Jahri Evans (knee), slid over to tackle with Lucas Patrick taking over at guard. … Besides Rodgers and Nelson, RB Aaron Jones (knee) also didn’t return after getting hurt in the first half.

“We battled … I hope everybody walks out of here with their heads held high,” Hundley said.

UP NEXT

Vikings: Finish regular season at home against the Chicago Bears on New Year’s Eve.

Packers: Wrap up year with a visit to the Detroit Lions, also on New Year’s Eve.

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Newton throws 4 TDs, Panthers spoil Rodgers’ return 31-24

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Cam Newton threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns, and the Carolina Panthers spoiled Aaron Rodgers‘ return from a broken collarbone with a 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Damiere Byrd had two touchdown catches, and Christian McCaffrey had 136 yards from scrimmage, including a 7-yard touchdown reception and the Panthers (10-4) won their fourth straight home game.

Greg Olsen had his most productive game since returning from a broken foot, catching nine passes for 116 yards and a TD and the Panthers kept pace with the first-place New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

Rodgers, making his first appearance since Oct. 15, threw for 290 yards with three touchdowns but was intercepted three times as the Packers’ playoff hopes took a potentially critical blow.

Green Bay (7-7) had a chance to send the game into overtime for a third straight week, but Panthers cornerback James Bradberry stripped wide receiver Geronimo Allison of the ball after a completion at the Carolina 28-yard line with 1:48 remaining. Safety Mike Adams recovered the fumble.

The Panthers trailed 14-10 at halftime, but Newton threw TD passes to Olsen and Byrd in the third quarter to give them a 24-14 lead.

Byrd’s first touchdown, a 9-yard grab in the back of the end zone, came with some controversy. The play was initially ruled an incompletion, but coach Ron Rivera challenged the play and officials overturned the call ruling that Byrd’s backside landed inbounds and overturned the play.

After Green Bay’s field goal cut the Carolina lead to 24-17, Newton found Byrd again on a slant route to make it a two-possession game with 12:29 left in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers started bringing the pressure after that, sack Rodgers three times in the fourth quarter including a takedown by former Packer Julius Peppers on a fourth-and-14 deep in Carolina territory.

But Rodgers struck with a TD pass to Richard Rodgers and the Packers recovered the ensuing onside kick with 2:40 left.

ADAMS CONCUSSION: It didn’t help that Rodgers lost his most productive receiver in the third quarter with a concussion.

Davante Adams took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis on an interception return by Colin Jones. As Adams was running to make the tackle on Jones, Davis appeared to launch himself at Adams with a peel-back block, immediately sending the wide receiver to the ground.

Davis was flagged for a 15-yard penalty.

Davis immediately appeared to know what he had done, cupping his head in hands as he sat on the Panthers bench. Adams had five catches for 57 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers before leaving the game.

COMING IN BUNCHES: After going 12 games without an interception, Panthers starting cornerbacks Bradberry and Daryl Worley both have interceptions in back-to-back games. Worley got Rodgers in the first half on a deep route along the left sideline, while Bradberry got one on an underthrown deep ball.

INJURIES:

Packers: Linebacker Nick Perry left the game with an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return.

Panthers: Wide receiver Russell Shepard left the game in the second half with a shoulder injury and did not return.

UP NEXT

Packers: Host the Vikings on Saturday night.

Panthers: Host the Buccaneers on Sunday.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Packers stun Browns 27-21 in OT, set up Rodgers’ return

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CLEVELAND — Your turn, Aaron Rodgers.

The Green Bay Packers saved their season just in time for their star’s return.

Brett Hundley threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams in overtime as the Packers rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter for a 27-21 win on Sunday over the winless and luckless Cleveland Browns.

Hundley pulled out his third win – and second straight in OT – since replacing Rodgers, and now the Packers (7-6) will get back their quarterback after their season appeared doomed when he broke his collarbone in October.

“My No. 1 thought going into it was to keep our hopes alive to make the playoffs,” said Hundley, who had three touchdown passes. “At the end of the day, whatever happens, happens. Whenever I’m called upon, I’ll be ready. In the meantime, we’re still in this.”

Barely.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

On third-and-6 in overtime, Hundley threw a short pass to Adams , who spun out of Myles Garrett‘s arms and went in untouched with 5:05 left as the Packers set the stage for Rodgers’ return. He returned to practice this week, and as long as he’s cleared by Green Bay’s medical staff, Rodgers will be back on the field next Sunday when the Packers play Carolina.

“We kept the playoffs alive,” said safety Josh Jones, who intercepted rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer to set up the winning score. “We got the best quarterback in the league coming back, so we feel a lot better.”

It was another devastating loss for the Browns (0-13), who made several critical mistakes late in regulation before Kizer’s poor decision on his final throw.

Kizer was rolling to his left and tried to throw across his body to Rashard Higgins when his arm was hit by linebacker Clay Matthews. If not for the contact, Kizer felt the Browns would have won.

“I thought we had control of the game pretty much the majority of the game,” Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “It’s definitely frustrating. Green Bay had the better team today. I don’t know why it keeps happening.”

Down 21-14 heading into the fourth period, the Packers, who beat Tampa Bay last week in overtime, rallied on Hundley’s 1-yard TD pass to Adams with 17 seconds left in regulation.

A 65-yard punt return by Trevor Davis set up Green Bay’s score, which came after Hundley was ruled down inside the 1 after an apparent 6-yard scoring run. Out of timeouts, coach Mike McCarthy elected not to risk a run and Hundley rifled his pass into the corner for Adams, who beat Jason McCourty on the play.

Hundley’s tight spiral was reminiscent of so many thrown by Rodgers, who stayed warm on the sideline inside a large green sideline jacket.

Hundley finished 35 of 46 with three touchdowns and made the big plays when he had to against the lowly Browns.

“He plays his best football when the game’s on the line,” McCarthy said of the young QB. “You can’t teach that. He’s a winner.”

Cleveland was in position to run out the clock before overtime but rookie tight end David Njoku dropped a key third-down pass. Cleveland’s punt team couldn’t bring down Davis, who weaved his way to the Browns 25.

Kizer threw three touchdown passes, one to Josh Gordon, and went 20 of 28 for 214 yards. But he’ll be haunted by the late pick.

“You can’t make that,” coach Hue Jackson said. “If it does not feel right, it probably is not right.”

Cleveland’s heartbreaking loss closed a turbulent week: The team fired Sashi Brown, its top front office executive, and owner Jimmy Haslam said Jackson will return next season.

Isaiah Crowell rushed for 121 yards on 19 carries. Gordon, playing his first home game since Dec. 14, 2014, had three catches for 69 yards and caught an 18-yard TD pass in the first quarter that he celebrated by putting on sunglasses.

GORDON SHINES

After missing some scoring opportunities last week in Los Angeles, Gordon was confident he and Kizer would connect against the Packers. They did just that on Cleveland’s first play, hooking up for 38 yards. Moments later, Kizer threaded a perfect pass over the middle to Gordon, who made a leaping catch in the end zone for his first TD since Dec. 15, 2013. When he returned to the sideline, Gordon pulled off his helmet and put on a pair of dark sunglasses, then strutted in celebration before hugging Jackson.

Gordon did not speak to reporters.

OPENING ACT

They had to fake a punt to keep their first offensive drive going, but the Packers scored their league-leading seventh touchdown on their opening possession.

HALFWAY HOME

Cleveland’s halftime lead was its second this season, and first on American soil. The Browns led the Vikings 13-12 at halftime of their Oct. 29 game in London before losing 33-16.

INJURIES

Packers: CB Davon House was carted off in the fourth quarter with a back injury. House’s feet got tangled and he fell hard to the turf. … TE Lance Kendricks returned after sustaining a jaw injury in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Packers: At Carolina on Sunday

Browns: Host Baltimore in their final home game Sunday.

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