VIK­INGS LOCKER ROOM

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Play­ers ex­pe­ri­ence both thrill and agony

Green Bay — There were po­lar op­po­sites in the Min­nesota Vik­ings’ locker room Sun­day af­ter­noon.

Kirk Cousins, seated on a fold­ing chair i n front of his l ocker, was all smiles and ac­cept­ing con­grat­u­la­tions from his team­mates. The fran­chise quar­ter­back Min­nesota se­cured for $84 mil­lion for three years in free agency just proved his worth, lead­ing the Vik­ings’ dra­matic fourth-quar­ter come­back from a 20-7 deficit to force over­time at Lam­beau Field on Sun­day.

Cousins’ per­for­mance was Aaron Rodgers-es­que, with three touch­downs in the fi­nal quar­ter alone. For the game, he threw for 425 yards and four scores with one in­ter­cep­tion for a 118.8 quar­ter­back rat­ing.

“The fans sure got their money’s worth today,” Cousins said to his team­mates. “Wow. No more 75-yard drives, we had to go for it. Big plays. Their safeties were flat-footed at times and we knew we could hit some big ones if we opened up.”

Just 10 feet away across the aisle, rookie kicker Daniel Carl­son sto­ically went through his post-game rou­tine.

In his first trip to Lam­beau Field, Carl­son missed three field goals, in­clud­ing a 49-yard field goal wide right on the Vik­ings’ first pos­ses­sion in over­time, and then a po­ten­tial game-win­ner from 35 yards with four sec­onds left to al­low Green Bay to es­cape with a tie.

“It feels ter­ri­ble, I ob­vi­ously let my team down,” said Carl­son, who was re­leased by the Vik­ings the next day. “Credit to them, they fought back time and time again to give me op­por­tu­ni­ties and I just didn’t ex­e­cute at the end of the day.

“I think the last one was prob­a­bly more just some­thing with con­fi­dence after miss­ing twice ear­lier.”

Carl­son said he had never be­fore missed three field goals in one game. Green Bay’s vet­eran kicker Mason Crosby kicked five field goals Sun­day to tie his ca­reer game -high, but he also missed a 52-yarder at the end of reg­u­la­tion play that could have won it.

“I don’t know,” Carl­son said. “It is what it is. I want to be able to prove to my team­mates and these guys here that I can help them. We have a long sea­son ahead and hope­fully lots of big wins and big kicks.”

Carl­son, the high­est-drafted kicker in Vik­ings his­tory, had the sup­port of his team­mates in the locker room after the game. In his post-game press con­fer­ence, Cousins was asked what he would say to the young kicker.

“I just tell him, ‘Hey, get in line with the guys who have failed,’” Cousins said. “I’ve thrown 4 picks in a game. I’ve had nights where I’ve won­dered if I should show up at work the next morn­ing with how frus­trated I was with my­self. I’ve been benched and sat out the rest of the sea­son be­cause I wasn’t play- ing well enough.

“We’ve all been there. We’ve all failed and learned from it. This league tests you. If it was easy any­body could do it. It ain’t easy and that’s why it’s a spe­cial thing to be one of the 53 on the ros­ter. He’s wired with the right kind of stuff. If there’s some­one on our team who I know who can men­tally and emo­tion­ally can han­dle it, it’s DC. He’s got the right wiring and he’ll be al­right.”

After waiv­ing Carl­son, the Vik­ings were ex­pected to sign for­mer Dal­las Cow­boys kicker Dan Bai­ley, one of the most ac­cu­rate kick­ers in NFL his­tory.

Fans at Lam­beau Field have wit­nessed two epic fourth-quar­ter come­backs to start the sea­son. This time, it wasn’t or­ches­trated by Rodgers.

Cousins was sim­ply bril­liant and com­pleted 35 of 48 passes in the con­test.

“I thought Cousins played out­stand­ing. . . we took a cou­ple shots there (fourth quar­ter),” Zim­mer said. “We were down a lit­tle bit, so we were a lit­tle bit more ag­gres­sive.”

“I’m proud of my team and the way we fought back. We started our­selves in a hole. We had a punt blocked for a touch­down. We can play a lot bet­ter than we did de­fen­sively today... It’s dis­ap­point­ing when you have the op­por­tu­nity to win the foot­ball game there at the end and you come up with a tie. It’s bet­ter than a loss, ob­vi­ously.”

Both teams left Lam­beau Field feel­ing they could have, should have won the game.

Line­backer An­thony Barr, whose hit on Rodgers ended the Pack­ers quar­ter­back’s sea­son at U.S. Bank Sta­dium last Oc­to­ber, said he spoke to him.

“Yes, I had an op­por­tu­nity to speak to Aaron and I took it,” Barr said. “That’s a con­ver­sa­tion be­tween us. I just talked to him for a few sec­onds, clear the air. So it’s all good. Mov­ing on.”

Barr, who had six to­tal tack­les, ex­pe­ri­enced a tie for the first time.

“We started off rocky with t hat blocked punt (for a touch­down) and they drove down for a score on us, but after that we tight­ened up,” he said. “They are a great op­po­nent, so it’s bit­ter­sweet. Never been part of one (a tie) be­fore. Sad we didn’t win, but happy we didn’t lose. I don’t know how to feel. . . I wish we could have kept play­ing and worked it out.”

Run­ning back Latavius Mur­ray gained 19 yards on four car­ries, as the Green Bay de­fense lim­ited the Vik­ings to 68 yards rush­ing. Cousins and the of­fense did their dam­age through the air, rack­ing up 425 yards.

“We didn’t come here to tie,” Mur­ray said. “It could have been worse. We got a lot to learn after this game. We made a lot of mis­takes, had a lot of chances to win the game in all phases. . . but we have to fin­ish. A lot of good things that we can take away from this, the way we fought, the way we came back.”

RICK WOOD/MIL­WAU­KEE JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Vik­ings quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins threw three touch­down passes in the fourth quar­ter, but three missed field goals by his team­mate Daniel Carl­son cost Min­nesota a vic­tory at Lam­beau Field.

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