Total View: Week 12 – Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers pulled a tie from the brink of a humiliating defeat, and momentarily saved their season.
5:00 1st Quarter – After punts from both teams, Scott Tolzien leads a drive for a TD, and the Packers have the lead for the first time in a month at 7-0.
Sacks doom the first series for both teams. The Packers won the toss, and apparently admitting the defense isn’t to be relied upon, Mike McCarthy changes course by electing to receive.
On the Packers’ first play, they line up in a run set with two tight ends in the backfield and two receivers out wide. The Vikings are countering with six defenders at the line of scrimmage and two others in the box. Middle linebacker Audie Cole, making his first NFL start, comes on a run blitz for Eddie Lacy. When he sees Lacy doesn’t have the ball, he makes a beeline for the quarterback. The Packers have enough guys to block him, but they don’t. The sack is a 7-yard loss.
The Packers run the ball on second down, essentially conceding that a punt is in short order. Punting from the 16, Tim Masthay hits a low returnable kick to the Vikings’ 45. Fortunately, Marcus Sherels muffs it and has to retreat to the 40 to fall on it.
Get used to the Packers punting from around their 20, and the Vikings starting nearly every drive from their 40. It would become a theme.
After an Adrian Peterson run gets 11 yards, past midfield, Christian Ponder falls down, giving Mike Neal a cheap sack for a 5-yard loss. On the very next play, Clay Matthews swims past Matt Kalil and sacks Ponder for an 8-yard loss. Punt.
The Packers would follow with an 11-play, 87-yard drive for a TD.
Facing 3rd and 9 from the Packers’ 24, Tolzien finds John Kuhn all alone in the right flat. Kuhn goes straight up the field for 20 yards. The Vikings appear to triple cover Jordy Nelson on this play and just blow the coverage on Kuhn.
After a Lacy run to midfield, it was 3rd and 4. The Packers run an out-and-up to Nelson from the slot — the very route Randall Cobb broke his leg on. This time the safeties are too far back to help, and Nelson makes a leaping grab of a hard thrown ball for a 34-yard gain.
On the next play, Lacy took a handoff from the shotgun with the Packers in the spread. Lacy finds a seam between Evan Dietrich-Smith and Josh Sitton, breaks out the spin move on the safety, and gets 10 yards, down to the Vikings’ 6-yard line.
Two plays later the Packers fake an end-around to Myles White and are looking for Andrew Quarless or Kuhn in the right flat. The Vikings have it flooded. Tolzien tucks it and runs, heading back across the field. When defensive end Letroy Guion gets in his path, Tolzien pulls off a spin move to the inside and then dives into the end zone. The play is hilarious and leaves you wondering why Tolzien doesn’t run more often.
1:40 1st Q – The Vikings respond with a big kick return and a short drive for a field goal to make the score 7-3.
The kickoff coverage unit fails the Packers again. The kick by Mason Crosby is only to the 1-yard line, but it is nicely placed near the far sideline. Cordarrelle Patterson runs clear across the field and up the sideline for 57 yards. Andy Mulumba ran into Patterson’s path but then missed the tackle, not even slowing Patterson down. Jerron McMillian was then outrun to the sideline, and only a shove by Brandon Bostick got Patterson out of bounds. This is the second time that the speed of Bostick saved a return touchdown.
The short Vikings drive would be stopped by a 2-yard coverage sack by Matthews on third down. Blair Walsh would boot a 36-yard field goal right down the middle.
13:00 2nd Q – The Packers respond by advancing near midfield before punting.
The Packers move the ball all thanks to Eddie Lacy, who gets four straight rushes to start the drive. On the fourth of these, Lacy cuts off a great drive block by Josh Sitton and bursts straight up the middle for 14 yards.
On the next play, the Packers try a play fake with a rollout to the opposite side, looking for the drag route by the fullback. This play always seems to work against the Packers but never FOR the Packers. Tolzien has to throw it away. Two plays later, the Vikings blitz six. The Packers have six to block. Except one of them is Marshall Newhouse, he gets beat by Brian Robison for an 11-yard sack. Punt.
9:45 2nd Q – Wow, the Packers defense gets a turnover when A.J. Hawk forces Peterson to fumble.
The Vikings were on the move, which would become the trend from here on out. Clay Matthews was on the sideline, and the Vikings got good runs from Peterson around both ends when Mike Neal and then Andy Mulumba allowed themselves to get pinched inside.
A couple plays later, Ponder throws the out to tight end John Carlson without noticing that the Packers are in zone, leaving Davon House waiting in the flat. House steps in front of the pass and drops an easy interception for a touchdown because that’s what bad teams do.
Just past midfield, a dump to Peterson has a chance to get something, but Hawk first stops Peterson from pulling away from him by grabbing his facemask and then uses the same hand to slap the ball out of his grasp. Mulumba recovers the fumble for the Packers.
The Packers would go three and out from there. On first down the Packers try a pass again, and the ball gets knocked down by Robison. Tolzien was stuck on Bostick over the middle even though Lacy was uncovered on a release to the flat. On 3rd and 5, Tolzien tries the infamous shot down the sideline to Jarrett Boykin. It is there, but Tolzien underthrows it. Only a good effort by Boykin stops an interception. On the same play, safety Andrew Sendejo stumbled in coverage, and Bostick was wide open right in front of Tolzien.
4:24 2nd Q – The Vikings drive for another field goal to make the score 7-6.
The drive is basically two plays. On first and 10 from the Vikings’ 16, Peterson takes a lead straight ahead. The Packers stay in their gaps, and there is nowhere to go. Peterson dances around and then goes right. B.J. Raji opens a hole when he goes upfield in apparent pursuit of Ponder, though he had long given up the ball, and Peterson bursts through that, runs through an arm tackle by Neal, and gets 22 yards before M.D. Jennings makes a nice tackle on him.
The second play is a straight fly to Jerome Simpson that gets 31 yards. Tramon Williams had good coverage on the play, but the ball was perfectly placed to the outside and Simpson out-jumped him for the ball.
The Vikings would settle for the field goal after consecutive pressures by Matthews led to a sack by Brad Jones and an incompletion.
00:50 2nd Q – The Vikings cap off a disastrous second quarter for the Packers by going 76 yards in 7 plays to take a 13-7 lead before half.
The Packers went three and out again when a Lacy 8-yard run was followed by a false start and then two incompletions by Tolzien. The Packers would punt from their 23, and the Vikings would start from — you guessed it — around their 40.
Again, the Vikings’ touchdown would mostly be the work of two plays. On 2nd and 12, the Vikings go play action and look for Simpson on the corner route. The Packers are in zone, which is the perfect defense to run the corner against. The pass is thrown too high for the under coverage to stop it and too close to the sideline to expect any safety to cover that much distance. Morgan Burnett actually does well to put a hit on Simpson as he falls to the ground and is rewarded with a 15-yard touching the receiver in the upper part of his body penalty, which turns a 23-yard catch into a 38-yard gain.
A couple plays later the Vikings go play action pass again, and Ponder finds tight end Chase Ford running an out on A.J. Hawk. It is a 20-yard gain, down to the Packers’ 2-yard line.
With the Vikings at the 2-yard line and in zero danger of running out of time, the Packers should call time out at this point and stop the clock around the 1:45 mark. However, it is standard practice among NFL coaches to NOT stop the clock here.
The Packers end up doing little more than draining time and two time outs by stopping Peterson on first and second down. On third down, it is a simple lead left play. Andy Mulumba doesn’t have edge responsibility here, but he meekly allows the tight end to block him to the outside. C.J. Wilson stays low, gets zero push, but otherwise does his job. Jamari Lattimore should shoot the gap and meet fullback Jerome Felton in the backfield. Instead, Felton buries him at the line of scrimmage, and Peterson walks into the end zone untouched.
Given 50 seconds and one time out to move the offense into field goal position, Tolzien makes a mess of the hurry-up offense. Again, the most important play of the one minute offense is typically the first, and things start wonderfully here as Tolzien throws a nice pass to find Bostick over the middle against the zone for a 24-yard gain.
Tolzien has the opportunity to spike to football with just over 30 seconds left. Instead, he burns more time with hand signals before just dumping the ball to Kuhn anyway. He then has to call timeout to stop the clock at 19 seconds with the ball just past midfield. After the timeout, Tolzien throws a meaningless 2-yard pass to Jordy Nelson that takes 6 more seconds off the clock.
Thirteen seconds is your last opportunity to try the middle of the field. Tolzien goes to the sideline instead, which is fine except he badly misses Bostick. Now you have to go to the sideline, but Tolzien takes off running, gets to the Vikings’ 26, where the clock promptly runs out.
8:25 3rd Q – The Vikings take firm control of the game by scoring another touchdown for a 20-7 lead.
The second half started the same as the first with both teams having quick punts.
After a Vikings’ three and out, Tolzien has Nelson on a quick out from the slot. He overthrows it, the ball is batted in the air, and the Packers are very lucky it isn’t picked off. On 3rd and 10, Bostick shakes loose of coverage across the middle once again. Tolzien throws it high and behind Bostick. Masthay comes in to punt it from the Packers’ 22. Marcus Sherels fair catches the ball at the Vikings’ 41. No, this is not a recording.
From there the Vikings would march 59 yards in just six plays to give the Vikings a commanding 20-7 lead. On third and 5 from the Vikings’ 46, the Packers blitz Jones and Hawk. It works. Hawk goes in clean to Ponder. Ponder steps up, avoiding Hawk, escapes to his right, and then finds Carlson for 15 yards. That was Rodgers-esque from Ponder.
On the next play, the Vikings run Greg Jennings on a deep cross from the slot. Ponder throws a nice pass to find him for 21 yards. A couple plays later, the Vikings run the play action dump to the fullback in the flat for the third time in the game. It has worked every time and goes for a 12-yard touchdown.
As irate as I was at the time that this commonly run play went for an easy touchdown, I see on the replay that this is actually a blatantly illegal play that there was little the defense could do to stop. Brad Jones has man-up responsibility for the fullback. At the snap, Cordarrelle Patterson runs straight inside and blocks Jones, like it was running play. This leaves the fullback, Rhett Ellison, all alone for the score.
5:30 3rd Q – Matt Flynn enters the game and gets a 34-yard run by James Starks to advance the ball into Vikings’ territory before having to punt.
Frankly, Scott Tolzien hadn’t played that poorly to this point. This move had everything to do with Mike McCarthy sensing the dire urgency of the situation and hoping for the proverbial “spark” that bringing in the back-up sometimes brings.
It worked in this case. Flynn’s first pass was a conservative drag route to Quarless that went for 9. On the next play, James Starks took his first carry off right tackle, cut off a kick out block by Josh Sitton, shook free of an arm tackle, and exploded up the right sideline for 34 yards.
Unfortunately, that would be the end of the party. After a Starks’ run got 2, Flynn backed out of a pocket he didn’t need to and threw the football away. On third down, Jared Allen decided to show up and pushed David Bakhtiari all the way back to Flynn. With Allen around his ankles, Flynn dumped it to Starks for a 5-yard loss.
14:22 4th Q – The Vikings appear to put the game away with a 12-play, 85-yard drive that runs out the third quarter while putting the Vikings ahead 23-7.
One thing Masthay has done well this game is punt it deep when he’s had the chance. He does so again here, forcing the Vikings to start from their own 4.
It makes no difference. The Vikings are in 1962 Packers’ mode here, consistently battering the Packers with long running plays that the defense seems powerless to stop.
The Vikings run the ball eight times for 72 yards on the drive. The longest run is a 26-yard romp off right tackle for Toby Gerhart. On that play the Packers actually had six men at the line of scrimmage, including four defensive lineman. They brought Chris Banjo up at the snap to present nine guys in the box. None of it mattered.
Gerhart stuttered in the backfield long enough to let the backside tight end pull around the formation, whom he followed. Carlson, the tight end, kicked out Banjo, and Gerhardt was off to the races when Hawk dived for the tackle and missed. Burnett would tackle Gerhardt at the Packers’ 29.
Finally on first and 10 from the 18, Matthews would turn Peterson inside where Brad Jones would get off a block and tackle him for a 1-yard gain. On 2nd and 9, Mike Neal would make a great play at the edge and bury Peterson in the backfield for a 5-yard loss. It is also possible Peterson is just getting tired at this point. Another short field goal would follow.
11:40 4th Q – The Packers finally show some life and get some breaks to give themselves a chance at 23-13.
From here through the remainder of regulation, the Vikings, like myself, believe this game is likely over and basically pull a “McCarthy” by throttling down on offense while sitting back on defense. They pull their defensive backs off the line and fall back into a two or three deep shell. That defense plays perfectly into Matt Flynn’s hands by giving Eddie Lacy room to operate while also opening up the short timing passes that Flynn likes to throw.
Flynn uses two passes to Lacy and an 8-yard run by Lacy to move the ball to midfield. On 3rd and 3 from there, Flynn does what every Packers quarterback does and takes a shot down the sideline for James Jones. Marcus Sherels is in good position, but he makes contact without ever turning to look for the ball, making it a relatively easy call for the referee. It is a 35-yard penalty that moves the ball to the Vikings’ 15.
On 3rd and 10 from there, Flynn scrambles up the middle and gets 9. The Packers are looking at a very interesting decision until the refs reveal that Jared Allen used illegal hands to the face on Bakhtiari to push his way into the backfield. That gives the Packers a first down at the Vikings’ 3.
One down is all it would take. Wisely leaving the spread offense out there, Lacy gets the draw from the shotgun, runs behind Josh Sitton, meets resistance at the 2, but bulls and lunges his way into the end zone to renew the Packers’ life at 23-13.
The obvious call is to go for two, even though it would burn the Packers in this game. With Aaron Rodgers in street clothes, it also seems obvious that you spread them out again and give Lacy the ball. Perhaps Mike McCarthy didn’t think the same play could work twice in a row. Maybe he’s right. Regardless, for the two-point try, the Vikings are sitting in their dime, clearly playing the pass. Even so, Flynn has Jones and Boykin open on the square in at the goal line if he goes there. He tries the impossible back corner to Quarless instead, and it is picked off.
3:30 4th Q – Matt Flynn and Eddie Lacy combine to drive the Packers 76 yards in 12 plays to make the score 23-20.
On the Vikings’ next drive, Peterson rips off another 17-yard run up the middle, and it is looking like the Packers defense is going to collapse again.
However, with the ball near midfield, the Packers string a run out for once and Ryan Pickett gets off a block to make the tackle for just 3 yards. On second and seven, Ponder tries the fly route to Patterson against House. Patterson has a step on House, but he juggles the pass, allowing House to shove him out of bounds before he can collect it. On third down, Ponder tries the quick screen to Patterson, but Micah Hyde quickly diagnoses it and makes the tackle for a loss, forcing the punt.
On the first play of the Packers’ drive, Lacy gets the draw from the shotgun. Again, the defense is back in a shell with only six guys in the box. Lacy runs through a hole created by Sitton, who else, and gets up the left side for 17 yards.
Flynn combines a couple come back routes with another Lacy run to move the ball steadily into Vikings’ territory. On 3rd and 2 from the Vikings’ 28, Flynn is facing pressure and does the only thing he can do in dumping it to Lacy. Lacy gets immediately smacked down by Audie Cole, leaving the Packers fourth and two feet.
You have to go for that. Idiotically, McCarthy uses a timeout to talk about it. Can’t you request a measurement anymore? It is especially idiotic when you consider that it took a timeout to call the obvious run off left tackle, behind Josh Sitton, of course.
The Vikings anticipate the play as well and Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway combine to shove Sitton 3 yards into the backfield, where Lacy wisely puts on the brakes and bumps into Sitton. Even though they’ve shoved the point of attack into the backfield, the Vikings can’t get off their blocks to wrap Lacy up. Sitton doesn’t give up on Williams, and has got him in a sumo. Greenway can’t get around the wall because Kuhn holds the edge. Eventually, Evan Dietrich-Smith and T.J. Lang push the rest of the Vikings out of the way, and Lacy puts his head down and bulls ahead.
That leaves only the backside with a shot at Lacy. Quarless made a rather pathetic attempt to block Robison, but in going to the ground at Robison’s feet, he forces Robison to run around him. By the time Robison gets across the field to hit Lacy, he’s already surging ahead. Maybe Robison and outside linebacker Mitchell Marvin would have a chance to hold Lacy short, but Marshall Newhouse settles the issue by grabbing Lacy and pulling him forward. Lacy keeps his feet going and gains 4 yards.
On the next play, Flynn would hit Lacy with a swing pass to the right. Lacy rolls for 13 yards, finishing the run by knocking corner Xavier Rhodes right off the field of play.
Matt Flynn would face third and goal from the 5, but this time he throws the square in to Boykin for the score. Amazingly the Packers are now back to within three with just over 3 minutes to play.
Needing just a couple first downs to win the game, the Vikings instead go backwards.
On first and 10, Peterson carries left. The Packers absolutely swarm it like they just now showed up to play. Burnett cuts Peterson off before he can turn the corner, and then Matthews and Pickett take him down for a 2-yard gain. On 2nd and 8, Ponder nearly fumbles the snap, misses the hand off to Peterson, scrambles left, and gets mobbed by four Packers for a 3-yard loss. On 3rd and 11, Matthews forces Ponder to scramble into the arms of Mike Neal for another Packers sack, giving the Packers exactly what they had to have.
This time it is the Vikings’ turn to punt from their own 19. Big deal. Jeff Locke kicks a 50 yarder with no return. The Packers have to start from their 31.
00:46 4th Q – The Packers finish off their rally by going 60 yards in 10 plays to tie the game at 23-23.
After Flynn hits Jones for a 9-yard gain, Flynn dumps to Lacy in the middle of the field where the Vikings continue to be soft. Lacy gets past midfield before the Vikings can bring him down.
Starting with this drive, for whatever reason, the Packers are beginning to false start or close to it on nearly every play. It is bizarre.
On 3rd and 6 from the Vikings’ 40, Newhouse false starts and probably expects the whistle. None comes and Robison runs right around Newhouse to hit Flynn as he’s throwing the ball. It is incomplete and now fourth down.
On fourth and 6, the Vikings are the ones to jump the snap this time, and seeing it, Flynn throws the ball as far downfield as he can while taking a hard shot from a blitzing Audie Cole. The underthrown pass again works to the advantage of the offense as Jones adjusts to the ball before the defender does, catches it, and gets tackled at the Vikings’ 12.
On first and 10, the Packers try Lacy to the left. The Vikings swarm it, and it gets nothing. On second down, Flynn tries to take a quick shot to Quarless, and it is blocked down — blocked passes are becoming an epidemic to the offense, second only to injuries. On 3rd and 10, McCarthy calls the receiver screen to Boykin. Everyone else is blocking, so Flynn has no choice on the play. The Vikings are blitzing six on the play, which should be expected by now.
The offensive line shifts to the left to handle the blitz. In doing so, they leave Brian Robison unblocked on the very side Flynn is supposed to deliver the screen. Flynn should have moved Lacy to that side to block before the snap. He didn’t. At least, Flynn doesn’t repeat the mistakes of Seneca Wallace or Tolzien. He pump fakes to get Robison in the air, and then throws it by him to Boykin. The extra time, however, has allowed Rhodes to close on Boykin. He hits him as soon as he catches it and takes him down for just a 3-yard gain.
Crosby puts the short field goal right down the middle to tie the game.
The Vikings get the ball with one timeout and 41 seconds to work with, but they don’t get past midfield. We go to overtime.
10:25 OT – The Packers look like a winner in driving to the Vikings’ 2-yard line, but they can’t finish the job. They settle for a field goal and give the Vikings a chance.
The Packers win the toss and have no choice but to take the ball with the shoddy way their defense has been playing.
It looks like a mistake when the Packers face 3rd and 9 right away from their own 22. The Vikings blitz six, again. The Packers have six to block, but they don’t. They blow it. Chad Greenway runs free to Flynn and eventually sacks him.
Fortunately on the play, slot corner Robert Blanton decided to not allow Jordy Nelson to run across the field. It is a penalty that gives the Packers renewed life. The announcers laughably suggest it is a soft call. If that isn’t defensive holding and pass interference, then I don’t know what is.
Two plays later Flynn throws a nice ball to Nelson on a cross against Blanton for 15 yards. After the Packers finally get called for a false start, Flynn sees Sherels jumping the hook to Jones. Flynn pump fakes and then leads Jones farther up field. Sherels is caught in no man’s land, and Jones takes off for 22 yards. Jumping quickly to the line, Flynn immediately takes a shot down the sideline for Boykin. Finally, a Packers quarterback gets the ball to the outside, and Boykin comes down with it at the Vikings 7-yard line.
This is insane. The Packers appear ready to pull off one of their craziest comebacks ever. Watching the replay to see how they fail will make you sick.
The Packers wisely stay in the spread and give the ball to Lacy. Kuhn leads by blocking the gap between Newhouse and Lang. If Lacy cuts between Kuhn and Newhouse, he has a touchdown. Nelson slammed down from the slot and has Blanton blocked to the inside. Outside of him, it’s wide open. For whatever reason, Lacy cuts to his left instead and runs right into Chad Greenway. Lacy powers his way for a ridiculous 4-yard gain anyway.
No reason to not try Lacy again from the 3. It is the near identical play. The Packer receivers have their guys blocked in the end zone on the right side. The Vikings have overcommitted to the middle of the field. If Lacy takes the ball and bounces outside of Newhouse, who has Robison locked down, he is going to walk into the end zone. Unfortunately, Lacy is not looking to take it outside. He is looking for some Vikings to run over. He barrels straight ahead and only gets 1.
On third and 2, the Packers are 2 yards away from being tied for the division lead after it looked like their season was virtually over. On this play, the defense just beats the offense. The Vikings blitz six, AGAIN. The Packers have six to block. Unfortunately, one of those six — Eddie Lacy — decides to vacate the backfield to run out in the flat. Whuh?
In a replay of the first play of the game, Audie Cole sees Lacy leave the backfield and heads straight for Flynn. Flynn has Jordy Nelson on the out against Blanton, but he has to wait for Nelson to clear the outside corner, Sherels, who is covering Jones on the slant. T.J. Lang sees Cole coming straight for Flynn and amazingly lets go of Letroy Guion and steps in front at the last second to protect his quarterback. It works as far as preventing Cole from making a clean hit. Unfortunately, the collision causes Lang to bump into Flynn just as he releases the ball.
Ever get bumped while throwing something? Yeah, the ball sailed high and out of bounds. Crosby made the short field goal to put the Packers ahead 26-23.
3:50 OT – The Vikings immediately take advantage by easily moving into the red zone. Like the Packers, however, they also fail to seal the deal and kick a field goal for the tie.
The Packers could win the game with a stop, but the Vikings have four downs to get first downs until they are in easy field goal range. They never even need the extra down.
The closest the Packers come to a stop outside of field goal range is right away. On the second play of the drive, Mike Daniels joins the sack party, tackling Ponder for a 2-yard loss to make it third and 9. The Packers think that makes it alright for them to go with the nickel. The Vikings smartly respond with a draw to Peterson. If A.J. Hawk plays it conservatively, he has the chance to hold it to a gain under 9 yards and force a fourth and short. He doesn’t. He tries to get through the middle, gets engaged by a blocker, and can’t disengage until Peterson is already on his way for 15 yards.
The Vikings would never even face a third down again until the Packers’ 17-yard line. On one 12-yard run up the gut by Gerhart, both Jerel Worthy and Ryan Pickett were driven over 5 yards downfield.
Somehow, the Packers found a way to stiffen in the red zone. After a run by Gerhart was finally stuffed for a 1-yard gain, the Vikings put Peterson back in and tried him around the right end. Mike Neal drove the right tackle into Peterson, knocking him down for a 5-yard loss. On third and 14, Ponder aggressively takes a shot for Patterson in the back of the end zone. House undercuts it and manages to partially deflect the ball enough for Patterson to juggle it out of the back of the end zone.
Walsh comes in and makes the 35-yard field goal to tie the game again. With only 3:50 left in overtime, a tie is suddenly quite probable.
No team would threaten after that. The Vikings would return to their aggressive, blitzing style of defense, and the Packers would go three and out. After another glorious punt by Masthay allows the Vikings one last shot from their 40, they also go three and out, helped by a drop by Greg Jennings on third down. Thank god for that brainwashing.
The Packers would have one last shot with 1:59 to play. A gutsy scramble for 13 yards by Flynn gives the Packers the ability to run the clock out and get a tie. Any chance to win comes and goes when another false start causes a 10 second run off to take the clock down to 35 seconds. Unfortunately, Matt Flynn doesn’t acquiesce to that inevitability and throws a couple incomplete passes to stop the clock. This gives the Vikings one last play, which of course, comes to nothing.
Of course, a tie is not a win, and it is tough to forget that the Packers were twice in position to win this game. However, that ignores the fact that the Packers were losing 23-7 in the fourth quarter with their fourth quarterback in the game. Managing a tie from that point is just short of miraculous.
The run defense was horrible in this game because the Packers failed to get off blocks and make tackles. The Vikings executed well and basically pushed the Packers around. Jerel Worthy and Sean Richardson both saw the field in spot duty. Neither made an impact, but we can just consider that getting their feet wet. I don’t know when Johnny Jolly is coming back, but tomorrow would be nice. It would be even better if the B.J. Raji needing a new contract showed up again too.
The Packers linebackers battled in this game. Few linebackers can overcome a porous defensive line, and they certainly can’t. They are hard workers though, who the Packers get their money out of. I wouldn’t say that about everyone. A.J. Hawk is a liability in coverage at times, which we all know, and he got burned for a big 20-yard pass to a back-up tight end that set up a touchdown. But Hawk is also all over the damn field and having a hell of a season in my opinion.
The Packer secondary is obviously not the same without Sam Shields or Casey Hayward. They weren’t great on Sunday, but they also weren’t the bigger part of the problem. M.D. Jennings and Morgan Burnett actually played solid and made a lot of tackles. Davon House was targeted and struggled a little, but it wasn’t like they made a steady living against him either. Obviously, his biggest play was dropping the interception, but those are the kind of plays that this entire defense is not making.
Mike McCarthy courageously took a risk with Matt Flynn, and it paid off. The Packers offense did immediately look different with Flynn back in control. I think Flynn’s arm strength is still a concern, but he looks comfortable in the offense. He is the obvious starter against Detroit.
Eddie Lacy is a beast. He’s heading for a 1,200 yard season as a rookie. Enough said. Lacy and the Packers receivers have held up their end of the bargain during Rodgers’ hiatus. So has Josh Sitton. The move to left guard has made Sitton a better player than he ever was on the other side. He is having his best season as a pro and is among the best players at his position in the league.
Marshall Newhouse is worse as a back-up than he ever was as a starter. The Packers need to get Don Barclay back or give Derek Sherrod a chance. Fortunately, the Lions don’t have a premier pass rusher on the right side.
I don’t know that the defense is good enough for the Packers to run the table even with Rodgers back, but the offense should be in great shape. The only question is will it be too late?
Because of the tie, I believe the Packers are still in the division race even with a loss on Thursday. Aaron Rodgers is likely to return after the Lions’ game. If the Packers can win their last four games, they finish 9-6-1. Considering one of those wins would come against the Bears, that would make the Bears 9-7 or worse. Of course, after beating the Packers, the Lions would have the best shot for the division title. However, they already have five losses and have to play the Giants, Ravens and Eagles. Two more losses is not inconceivable.
Shawn Neuser attended UWGB and lives and works in Green Bay. He enjoys long walks on the beach and being intimate with game film.