GREEN BAY, Wis. — A smiling Adrian Peterson held the football high in the air as if he had just won a trophy.
The Minnesota Vikings are back atop the NFC North.
Peterson ran for a touchdown, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned a fumble 55 yards for a score and the Vikings claimed their first division title since 2009 with a 20-13 victory Sunday night over the Green Bay Packers.
The Vikings will host the wild-card Seattle Seahawks in a playoff game next Sunday. The Packers (10-6) will travel to Washington to play the NFC East champion Redskins, also on Sunday.
"It’s been since 2009 and that’s too long of a stretch," Peterson said. "That drought is over."
Perhaps a bit ahead of schedule for the upstart Vikings (11-5), who ended a four-year reign atop the division for the Packers (10-6).
Those new black "NFC North Champs" T-shirts and grey caps that the Vikings proudly wore in the locker room should be hot sellers back in Minnesota this week.
"Coming here, it was always a fight, a dogfight," Peterson said.
It was his second title of the day — he also finished the season with his third career NFL rushing crown.
Just two years after finishing 5-10-1, Minnesota is back in the playoffs under second-year coach Mike Zimmer.
"Did we get here faster? I don’t know. I have pretty high expectations," Zimmer said. "I don’t know, maybe."
That’s a topic that can be dissected in a few months.
For now, the Vikings can savour a win over their longtime rivals on the road, a learning experience if there ever was one.
Lambeau Field in prime time is not an ideal place for any opponent to play.
Yet the Vikings still won in spite of a so-so day for the offence and some harrowing moments late for the defence.
The Vikings knocked away a desperation pass in the end zone from Aaron Rodgers on fourth down as time expired.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby forced a fumble on Cordarrelle Patterson’s potentially field-flipping 70-yard kickoff return with 5:21 left. But the Packers’ next drive ended with Rodgers being intercepted in the end zone by Xavier Rhodes.
"Frankly, we didn’t do enough of the things you need to do, especially in big games, to come out on top," Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Vikings got the sterling defensive effort needed on the road to win their first game at Lambeau Field since 2009. Zimmer smiled and raised both arms in the air after Rodgers’ final pass fell incomplete.
A handful of Vikings later came back onto the field to take pictures. They’ll remember this night for a while.
Peterson ran for 67 yards on 19 carries. He gave the Vikings a scare after leaving midway through the third quarter with a lower back injury before returning late in the fourth.
Teddy Bridgewater was just 10 of 19 for 99 yards, and the passing game was rendered largely ineffective. But the defence stifled Green Bay’s dysfunctional offence at nearly every turn until the frantic fourth quarter.
Everson Griffen had two sacks, and the Vikings held on at the end after being left out of breath defending the Packers’ late no-huddle attack.
"It wasn’t fun, to be honest with you. It was nerve-racking," Zimmer said.
The dormant Packers scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a 16-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Richard Rodgers, and a 43-yard field goal by Crosby.
But a slow start doomed the Packers once again, as did a sluggish running game.
Aaron Rodgers finished 28 of 44 for 291 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Running back Eddie Lacy had a strong start, but finished with just 34 yards on 13 carries.
Peterson and the Vikings rushed right past them to take the NFC North.
The loss left the Packers without a win over a division opponent at home for the first time since 1968.
This wasn’t the momentum they were looking for headed into the playoffs.
"Yeah, we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to put it all together," Rodgers said.
NOTES: Peterson said he had an X-ray taken of his back to make sure there was nothing wrong with his spine. "Now I’ve just got to get up early tomorrow morning — I’m not looking forward to it — and I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do to get ready for Sunday," he said. … Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times. The Packers played without starting LT David Bakhtiari (ankle). Pro Bowl G Josh Sitton slid over to replace Bakhtiari, and Lane Taylor started at guard.