Minnesota Vikings: Mason Crosby

Welcome back to our chronological look at the 10 plays that most shaped the Minnesota Vikings' 2013 season. Today: Play No. 8.

WHEN: Nov. 24, 2013

WHERE: A 26-26 tie with the Green Bay Packers.

THE PLAY: Matt Flynn's 28-yard completion to James Jones after Everson Griffen jumped offside.

WHAT THEY SAID: Linebacker Chad Greenway: "It’s that same shoot-yourself-in-the-foot kind of feeling we’ve had before. We get in a position where we need some stops and we can’t get them. Or we get them and then there’s a penalty.”

IMPACT OF THE PLAY: The Packers had turned a 23-7 deficit into a three-point game once Flynn replaced Scott Tolzien in the second half, but they were still facing fourth-and-6 from the Vikings' 40 with just over a minute left when Flynn barked a hard count and got Griffen to jump. The backup quarterback bought himself a free play, just ahead of Audie Cole's blitz, and lofted a jump ball to receiver James Jones, who separated from Marcus Sherels and came back for the pass. It put the Packers in field goal range, allowed Mason Crosby to tie the game and set up the Vikings' fifth last-minute blown lead of the season. The Vikings would give the Packers another reprieve in overtime when Robert Blanton was called for defensive holding on third-and-9 (on a call coach Leslie Frazier and many Vikings fans disagreed with), and Flynn drove the Packers to a field goal. While the defensive breakdowns were a constant theme of the Vikings' season, this one was particularly galling because it was directly enabled by penalties, which typically aren't among the Vikings' biggest problems.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The temperature in Green Bay, Wis., could be in the 20s at kickoff on Sunday. The November winds could be swirling inside the stadium and playing with the minds of his special teams units. But Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will always relish a trip to Lambeau Field.

It was where Priefer's father, Chuck, got his first job in the NFL, as a special teams coach, working for two seasons on Forrest Gregg's coaching staff in 1984 and 1985. Mike Priefer was a senior in high school when his family moved there from North Carolina, where Chuck Priefer had been the Tar Heels' defensive backs and defensive line coach, and while his father coached the Green Bay Packers' special teams on game days, Mike worked as a ball boy at Lambeau Field.

"I love it," Mike Priefer said. "It's a great stadium. They have great fans. It's a lot like our fans -- they're very passionate about their team."

The two Packers teams Chuck Preifer coached both went 8-8, but did so in very different ways. Green Bay's 1984 team won its season opener by a point over the St. Louis Cardinals, lost its next seven games and finished by winning seven of its final eight games, beating the Vikings 38-14 on the road in the season finale.

"It was a nice way to finish the season," Mike Priefer said of the 1984 team's run.

Now, he'll head back to the stadium looking to reprise part of the Oct. 27 matchup between the two teams, which featured plenty of special teams fireworks. The game started with Cordarrelle Patterson's NFL-record 109-yard kickoff return -- "What happened on our side? We didn't kick it far enough," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said this week -- while Green Bay came back later with Micah Hyde's 93-yard punt return touchdown. The Packers also tackled Patterson twice in that game inside the 20 -- "which I'm still mad about," Priefer said.

Those were just two of the seven times this season the Vikings have failed to return a kick past the 20, Priefer said, despite the number of times they've given Patterson the green light from deep in his own end zone.

"We've been saying all year, we're going to be aggressive," Priefer said. "When you have a returner back there who's as talented as Cordarrelle is -- the guys believe in him, and he believes in his blockers -- we're going to take those opportunities when they arise. As long as we can keep getting positive yards and getting it past the 20 (yard line) in net ball possession, then we're going to keep being aggressive."

Patterson could get some opportunities on Sunday, if the Packers decide to kick to him and cold temperatures keep either Mason Crosby or Tim Masthay from booming the ball out of the end zone. The weather could toy with the Vikings' kickoffs and punts, too, but even in bad weather, Lambeau Field holds a special place in Mike Priefer's heart.

"It's a great division rival, and I'm excited about the opportunity to go up there and play," he said.

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