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Packers take control of playoff spot as they cruise past Vikings 33-10 on Love’s 4-touchdown night

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jordan Love threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score to put the Green Bay Packers in control of a spot in the playoffs with a 33-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night.
Aaron Jones rushed for 120 yards and Jayden Reed had two touchdown catches for the Packers (8-8), who can get the NFC’s last wild-card spot by beating Chicago at home next week. They moved above the cut when Seattle lost earlier in the day.
Love went 24 for 33 for 256 yards in what might have been the finest game in his first season as the Packers’ starter in the post-Aaron Rodgers era.
The Vikings (7-9) benched another turnover-prone quarterback after an interception and a fumble by Jaren Hall in the first half were converted into touchdowns by the Packers. Nick Mullens took over for Hall for the second half, the fifth time the Vikings have switched quarterbacks since Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of a 24-10 win at Green Bay on Oct. 29.
Detroit clinched the NFC North by beating Minnesota here last week, marking just the second time in 13 seasons the division wasn’t won by either the Packers or the Vikings, but a prime-time game between these border-state rivals always generates plenty of energy in the stadium.
Cousins got the party off to a rowdy start when he — wearing a thick gold chain around his neck — and his son ripped off their shirts to lead the crowd in the “Skol!” chant and blow the Gjallarhorn. The “Go Pack Go!” serenades quickly joined the soundtrack, though, and this became quite the New Year’s Eve blowout.
Love was flustered two months ago in Green Bay by the Vikings defense. But despite his penchant for overthrows, he has come a long way and given the Packers abundant optimism for the future at quarterback that is missing in Minnesota with Cousins set to become a free agent and no clarity about a potential return.
Hall, who was the first reliever for Cousins two months ago only to be forced out of his first start with a concussion, hardly had any time to throw. Green Bay’s defense that was shredded over the last three games by the Giants, Buccaneers and Panthers — and now missing starting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander (suspension) and Eric Stokes (hamstring) — took full advantage of the rookie from BYU.
Hall’s off-target throw in the first quarter glanced off the hands of Johnny Mundt — in an elevated role after the season-ending knee injury to Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson — and in the air to Carrington Valentine for an interception. Love’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Reed came two plays later.
Preston Smith’s strip-sack of Hall with 26 seconds left before halftime sealed the deal. Karl Brooks recovered at the Minnesota 37, and the Love-to-Reed connection got Green Bay in the end zone three plays after that for a 23-3 lead.
Reed has 10 touchdown catches to lead the Packers. The second-round draft pick from Michigan State set the franchise rookie record with 60 receptions, passing Sterling Sharpe (1988).
Both of Reed’s scores belong on the season highlight reel. Love did the work on the first one with the prettiest pass of the game to hit Reed in stride on a post route. Reed did the heavy lifting on the second by running a crossing route, dodging two tacklers after the catch and dragging two more defenders into the end zone.
Reed hurt his chest on that play and didn’t return for the second half. With Christian Watson and Dontayvion Wicks already sidelined by injuries, the Packers have some depth concern at wide receiver after Samori Toure also left in the fourth quarter.
INJURY REPORT:
Packers: Smith and RB A.J. Dillon (neck) left with injuries in the third quarter. … LB Isaiah McDuffie (concussion) was carted off in the second quarter when he collided with Lukas Van Ness and Colby Wooden during a sack. McDuffie started in place of De’Vondre Campbell (neck), who missed his second consecutive game.
Vikings: RG Ed Ingram (shoulder) left in the third quarter. … CB Byron Murphy (knee) was sidelined for the second straight game.
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