We did it, boys. It’s a Festivus miracle(up yours, PF4L): as the projected underdogs, the Green Bay Packers went to Minneapolis and defeated the over-hyped Minnesota Vikings in front of a crowd of Vikings fans that read at a 2nd grade level. Coach Matt LaFleur’s historic freshman run continues with the Packers winning the NFC North and adding his name to another list in the history books. Once again: with this win, and a win against the Detroit Lions next week, and a Seahawks win over the 49ers, the Packers, by some miracle, will be the #1 seed in the NFC going into the playoffs that includes a bye and home field advantage.
Instead of a strong first quarter and a decline the rest of the game, the Packers seemed to do the opposite with a continuously building momentum throughout the game. The Vikings’ man-to-man coverage seemed unyielding at first, but the Packers offense dominated the time of possession and quickly wore the Vikings defense down.
As expected, the key to winning was RB Aaron Jones being the reliable workhorse that he is with a respectable 154-yards rushing and two touchdowns. He continues to prove that he is one of the most underappreciated backs in the league when LaFleur is willing to utilize him. Following last night’s game, Jones now leads the NFL this season in rushing TDs with sixteen. His 19 total TDS also leads the league.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers got the job done, but we did see some of the same mistakes from recently: tunnel vision in the pocket and a pissy attitude when things didn’t go his way. He managed his third pick of the season by predictably targeting WR Davante Adams yet again. As someone mentioned in the comments: any half-ass defense is going to know how to take advantage of this tendency of his. It was a decent throw, but S Anthony Harris fooled Rodgers on the coverage and undercut the route and was there in front of Adams to make the pick. Rodgers targeted Adams with 42% of his passes thrown. The fact remains that, even when Rodgers is misfiring in a couple cylinders, he is still a damn fine QB.
WR Allen Lazard continued his rise while Marquez Valdes-Scantling failed to impress(although he was only targeted once). But if you read this site regularly, you already expected that because we told you that would happen. Any idiot can offer criticism after the fact, but recognizing patterns and relaying them to you is just one of the services we offer.
Lazard made some mistakes, including a 19-yarder that was brought back because he failed to secure it, but with his level of experience, you can not expect any more than he is giving. His routes have noticeably improved since early in the season and he continues to be a solid WR2 with both screen passes and the occasional deep threat. WR Geronimo Allison was mostly quiet (although he did recover a TE Jimmy Graham fumble and helped with a 2-point conversion catch), but WR Jake Kumerow, while not claiming any receptions, did manage a nice block to open a lane for RB Aaron Jones. Whatever it takes, man.
The Packers dominated the Vikings in time of possession (32:32 vs 22:28), 1st downs (22 vs 7), and total yards (383 vs 139). The Vikings offense is just plain bad without RB Dalvin Cook to lean on. I mentioned earlier in the season that burning his candle on both ends would bite them in the ass once this Packers/Vikings matchup came and that’s exactly what happened.
Packers’ defense showed up big time, especially in the second half. They managed 5 sacks against QB Kirk Cousins for a total loss of 40-yards. 3.5 of those sacks were by OLB Za’Darius Smith. While only forcing a single turnover, they brought relentless pressure to the overpaid quarterback who did not have his RB1 or RB2 to rely upon. The momentum of the game changed greatly with a pick by CB Kevin King in the third quarter in which he played the role more so of a safety that play. The Vikings offense just could not make it happen after that.
Final stats from Monday's victory.
One Final Note
Shout out to Packers K Mason Crosby for being the reliable player that he is. Some nay-sayers predicted him being replaced during the previous offseason, but Crosby continues to prove them wrong.