Hey, the Green Bay Packers are 2-0 at beginning of the game on coin flips! Mike McCarthy continues to go with the first possession after halftime. The Packers have three points so far this year on those drives while giving up zero points on drives to start the game. That makes the Packers +3 on this strategy after two games.
The Packers started with their nickel defense on the field. This defense has been historically soft against the run. Not anymore. This first possession, though fruitless, would virtually encapsulate the game. First down featured a swing pass to Adrian Peterson that Blake Martinez was all over. It got zero. On second down, Peterson tried the middle and met Mike Daniels and Martinez for two yards. On third and 8, Sam Bradford started the game with an easy pass and completion to Adam Thielen against disinterested coverage by Damarious Randall.
Three more plays would lead to a punt, but we have already gotten a good taste of what is to come.
A game indoors in Minnesota wouldn’t be complete without an early disaster and Davante Adams comes close to making that happen when he fumbles the very first play from scrimmage for the Packers. Randall Cobb ruins the disaster by stripping Andrew Sendejo and getting the ball back for the Packers. No matter. Aaron Rodgers tries a go route to Jordy Nelson on 3rd and 5, and it isn’t even close. The illustrious Jacob Schum entered stage left and graced us with his first 30-some yard punt of the game.
The Vikings got to start their second possession from midfield. Get used to that circumstance.
The Vikings got nowhere and then got their punt blocked by Ty Montgomery. Though he was good enough to play substantially as a rookie, Montgomery isn’t good enough so far this year to crack the Packers’ elite group of play-making receivers, but fortunately, he is good enough to block punts.
The Packers would get a touchdown out of it and go ahead 7-0. Don’t mistake the score as evidence of a good drive by the Packers. The “drive” essentially consisted of a pass interference call on Terence Newman that gave the Packers the ball at the Vikings’ 4. At least Mike McCarthy would call a winner with a fake to Lacy that led to an easy touchdown to Nelson.
The teams traded punts, which resulted in the Vikings getting to start their first drive of the second quarter near midfield, of course. On first down, Letroy Guion dropped Peterson for a four-yard loss. The following 2nd and 14 seemed like a good time for Dom Capers to try the infamous rush three. Unsurprisingly, Bradford immediately found Kyle Rudolph for 19 yards and kickstarted their first scoring drive of the game.
The wiser Vikings didn’t run again for the remainder of the drive. On 3rd and 4 from the 8, Bradford found Rudolph again for the tying touchdown. Morgan Burnett was in tight coverage, but he seemed more interested in putting his arm on Rudolph’s back then making a play on the ball. A good pass beat him.
The teams traded ineptness until the 2:36 mark of the second quarter. On first down from their 24, Bradford threw the deep slant to Stefon Diggs. Randall had decent coverage underneath the route, but the ball was properly thrown across the field where Randall couldn’t get to it. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had deep middle, which should be a good spot to cover a post route from, but he was not in the play. The play was good for 44 yards. Facing 4th and 1 four plays later, the Vikings wisely ran the clock down and then kicked the field goal to take the lead.
That would make it 10-7 at half.
The Packers started the second half with the ball and so what? They looked no different than they did in the first half. They would get hit with a holding call on T.J. Lang and then have to punt after Jared Cook gave up the first down he had when he caught a square-in from Rodgers.
A Clay Matthews’ sack would stop the next Vikings’ drive and they would punt.
The Packers would then embark on their longest drive of the game, advancing all the way to the Vikings’ 14 before getting nothing. However, let’s not mistake this drive for the efficient march that McCarthy suggested it was when he rationalized his decision to pass up a tie game. The Packers picked up 18 yards and two first downs on fortunate penalties on Trae Waynes. They picked up another 10 yards when Rodgers fumbled the ball during a scramble and Jared Cook recovered it at the Vikings’ 22.
Regardless, except for a blocked punt and a penalty call, your offense has done nothing all game. With the third quarter winding down and possessions running out, you have to take the field goal and tie the game.
But Mike McCarthy still believes that his offense from 2014 or 2011 is coming through that door, bless him. To add to the moronic decision, Rodgers hands the ball to James Starks even though the Vikings lined up with seven guys at the line of scrimmage. With four guys out wide, the Packers only had five to block.
Conversely, the seven guys at the line left only four guys in coverage for the Vikings. That four included safety Harrison Smith being lined up seven yards off the line of scrimmage. Simple math concludes that the Vikings thus had three guys within the first five yards to cover four Packers receivers. That’s losing math for the Vikings on 4th and a long 1. However, no one for the Packers is interested in the math.
The inane handoff to Starks also required J.C. Tretter to block Linval Joseph one-on-one. Not a good plan. Joseph got enough of Starks to hold him up long enough for the two unblocked Vikings to hold Starks short.
The Vikings promptly took possession and marched 86 yards for another touchdown. On 1st and 10 from the 17, the Packers decided to send Morgan Burnett off the right side. Bradford responded in textbook style by throwing a slant to Stefon Diggs on the side of the blitz. Randall was in loose outside coverage as if he was expecting Burnett to fake the blitz and cover the middle of the field. Diggs was off and running. Clinton-Dix was again in deep middle and again was nowhere near the play until Diggs was well downfield. Clinton-Dix and Randall escorted Diggs for 46 yards until Jake Ryan ran Diggs down from behind.
A couple plays later, Bradford had one of the best plays of his career when he faced down the rush of Daniels and delivered a pass to the back of the end zone. It was good enough to beat Randall for a 25-yard TD to Diggs. The Packers then trailed by 10 when just minutes before they had a golden chance to tie.
Trailing by two scores, the Packers’ offense did manage to do what it needed to and drive for a touchdown to make it a game again. The drive was given life when another penalty on Waynes gifted the Packers 28 yards, getting them to midfield. After a middle screen to Starks gained 16 yards, Rodgers scrambled and found Jordy Nelson for 39 yards when Waynes failed again to turn his head and find the ball. That gave the Packers the ball at the 4.
After some tomfoolery, Rodgers ran it in from 10 yards out to make the score 17-17… oh, wait, that’s right, 17-14. That is two rushing touchdowns for Rodgers in two weeks, which is probably a bad sign rather than a good one. Again, that does nothing for the QBR.
On the touchdown, Sendejo took a cheap shot at Rodgers while standing a couple yards deep in the end zone. It was not a big hit, but the Packers had to respond to someone hitting their quarterback late and did. J.C. Tretter picked up the bush-league penalty by doing what he had to.
The Vikings squandered another drive starting near midfield though, when a penalty on Diggs made it 2nd and 27. The resulting punt made the Packers start from their 15, which was about as good as it got for them.
The Vikings were sick of the penalties on Waynes and decided to help him out by playing two deep zone. Free of the man-to-man that requires crisp routes and accurate passes, the Packers actually put together a good looking drive for eight plays. However, on the eighth and final play, from the Vikings’ 40, Rodgers passed up an open Cobb in the flat to look to his right. Unfortunately, on that same play, Bryan Bulaga decided to have his Marshall Newhouse-like one meltdown of the game and let the veteran Brian Robison — yeah, that guy still plays on the Vikings — run right by him to strip Rodgers. This time the Vikings recovered to kill the drive.
The Packers got one more shot at it, but of course, they would have to start from their own 9. Still, there was 4:30 left and all they needed was a field goal to tie. They got as far as midfield before a short sack and a string of incompletions set up 3rd and 14. Rodgers knew he had Waynes in single coverage on Adams presnap and decided to go with that rather than to the more reliable Cobb or Nelson on the most important play of the game.
Waynes was sitting on the route, knowing the Packers needed 14 yards. It was a bad pass, underthrown. Waynes intercepted and that was basically the ball game.
The Worth Mentioning
So is it the Packers special team strategy for Randall and Rollins to just give the Vikings punt gunners a free release on every punt. Rather than just turn and half ass play patty cakes with the gunners down the field, why not at least make an attempt at jamming (thus the term jammer) at the line. Maybe it would provide the punt returner some confidence in not calling a fair catch. If Rollins and Randall are not into then maybe give Brice and Evans a shot. I admit Hyde could have returned at least one and maybe two punts, but why not try a little harder to hold up the gunners. I do not remember seeing so many punts downed inside the 15 yard line in one game.
You guys are terrible fans! Get used to disappointment. It will be feeling very normal with each Viking packer feast. We are just more talented and coached by a god.