The Green Bay Packers go into their bye week undefeated and they rained on the grand opening of the Christian Ponder Era in Minnesota with a 33-27 win over the Vikings. It was looking like a trap game for the Packers, but they stuck it out and kept their win streak alive. I saw great things, good things, and not so good things in the game. Here are the grades.
QB: It’s Aaron Rodgers. There really isn’t much you can say about his play. Rodgers is playing the position at a level I’ve seen only once, maybe twice, in my lifetime. Halfway through the third quarter he had only three incomplete passes — two were drops and the other was a spike to stop the clock at the end of the second half. Rodgers finished 24-of-30 for 335 yards and three touchdowns. Grant it, the Vikings secondary is, well, shitty, but those numbers are still impressive. At this point, Rodgers is the frontrunner for the MVP.
RB: Running against Minnesota is never easy and for the Packers only need to run when their receivers are tired. James Starks showed burst and had some really nice runs at the end of the game. Starks also caught three passes for 24 yrds. Ryan Grant also had a good burst and hit holes, when there, with aggression. He still doesn’t look like the Grant of the past, though. Fullback John Kuhn caught a two-yard touchdown pass and provided adequate blocking for the two tailbacks. As a whole, the thing that stood out was how great the backs were at blitz pick-ups. Not much to really grade, when collectively the group had 26 carries.
Offensive line: This is by far still the weakest link on the team. The loss of Chad Clifton was huge, forcing Marshall Newhouse to face Jared Allen in his second start. On running plays the group, as a whole, was solid. They pushed the defense and moved the ball on the ground when needed. Pass blocking, on the other hand, wasn’t so good. Rodgers was hit way too often. Newhouse looked lost against Allen and when the line didn’t get help from backs or tight ends they seemed like they didn’t have any cohesiveness. This group will improve over the second half of the season, but better sooner than later
Receivers: There’s a reason they’re collectively the best receiver group in the business today. They caught pretty much everything that was thrown in their direction. Greg Jennings had a outstanding day with 147 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown. James Jones, Jermichael Finley, and Jordy Nelson did what they always do — got open and caught balls. Finley had a great back of the end zone touchdown catch and even Andrew Quarless — God’s Gifts, himself — got involved with a 21-yard catch. The one knock I have is with rookie Randall Cobb. His second quarter drop could have given The Packers a first down before the half ended. Overall, routes were run well and, as usual, not much miscommunication between A-Rod and company.
Defensive line: The defensive line was, for the most part, a non-factor in the game. Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and company did nothing to pose a problem to Adrian Peterson. They totaled five tackles and one sack — Pickett had three of the tackles and Raji had the sack, which was his only tackle. Meanwhile, Peterson ran up and down the field for 175 yards and was barely touched by the front line. They couldn’t get off blocks or even get off the line quicker than the Vikings. The linebackers won’t be able to bail them out everytime.
Linebackers: Once Adrian Peterson ran past the defensive line, he ran past the linebackers. This group had the same problems as the front line. They couldn’t shed blocks and had a tough time filling the gaps. Pass rushing was and has been their specialty and they did a solid job putting pressure on Christian Ponder. Clay Matthews had a great hustle, ankle-grabbing sack. The linebackers pass coverage was descent, but they did nothing to get anyone overly excited.
Secondary: Other than the first play of the game, where they allowed a 78-yard pass, the secondary played well. You could see there was going to be a few picks coming for the defense. Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush played as well as I’ve seen them play. They broke on a few passes that could’ve been picked and made solid tackles. Charles Woodson played as great as he is and had back-to-back picks. Morgan Burnett seemed to be the weakest part of the secondary. He allowed the first TD and seemed slow getting into coverage. Meanwhile, Charlie Peprah lead the team in tackles with seven.
Special teams: Mason Crosby made a team record 58-yard field goal in the 3rd quarter. After a shaky couple years, Crosby has really come through and been as good as any kicker in the league thus far. Punter Tim Masthay didn’t put the defense in a bad position. Kick and punt coverage was very good and as soon as you thought there would be a big return, the coverage units closed the hole and made the tackle. Return man Randall Cobb is a threat, but made a costly mistake when he fumbled early in the game on a punt he should have let bounce. Overall, the Packers didn’t let the Vikings win the game on special teams.
Overall: The Packers remain undefeated. They went into a hostile stadium against a QB they’ve never seen and took control of the game in the second half. The adjustments made by the coaching staff at the half were excellent. They came, they saw, they kicked some ass.