It was October 18th against San Diego when the Green Bay Packers last tasted victory. On the outside, there was panic. On the inside, the team stayed the course. With frustration and urgency mounting, Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers cooked up the perfect recipe to reassert their dominance in the NFC North by defeating the Minnesota Vikings, 30-13.
Green Bay’s defense set the tone in the first half, looking faster, hungrier, and more aggressive than they have in weeks as they got after Teddy Bridgewater and put the clamps on Adrian Peterson.The leading rusher in the NFL was held to just 32 yards on 9 carries in the 1st half. A blown man coverage by Micah Hyde (who went down for the game) on Kyle Rudolph led to the only Minnesota points of the half on a 47-yard toss.
On the contrary, the Packers offense slowed the pace by playing much more methodical and purposeful. Minnesota feasts off its disciplined defense with a strong front and playmakers behind them – the exact kind that gives Rodgers problems. Green Bay took what they were given, stayed patient, and ran effectively with Eddie Lacy. A 27-yard gain by the big man was the start of a bounce-back day for Lacy.
The offense rivaled the Vikings touchdown with three Mason Crosby field goals (42, 47, 40 yards). Facing a third-and-15 leading 9-6 at the end of the half, Jeff Janis earned a defensive pass interference call on Terrance Newman that set Green Bay up in scoring position (Minnesota shot themselves in the foot all day with costly penalties that gave Green Bay second chances and took away their own field position). Rodgers took advantage and hit Cobb on a 10-yard touchdown. 16-6 Pack at the half.
The second half was much of the same. An Adrian Peterson touchdown run kept the Vikings within reach midway through the third quarter down just 19-13. Then, James “The Hoodie” Jones happened. On what I have noted as “The Drive of James Jones,” the Packers offense responded with a huge touchdown drive of their own. James Jones made a fabulous diving catch as he corralled a juggling 37-yard third-down conversion.
Naturally, he followed up that with a toe-tapping touchdown grab on a classic Rodgers rollout dime. A two-score lead was secured by the defense who had their way with the Vikings offensive line, putting up six sacks after a three game sack-less streak. Datone Jones led the way with two. Morgan Burnett forced a Peterson fumble, Green Bay ran the clock with Lacy and one more Crosby field goal for good measure put the Packers back in first place in the NFC North: Packers 30, Vikings 13.
There was no doubt this Week 11 divisional matchup held a heavy weight of importance. A bit premature, perhaps, but this felt like it was for the division. Both teams needed this game. Both teams wanted this game. Green Bay, finally, wanted it more. For the first time in weeks a familiar football team took the field for Green Bay.
This game, as most are, was won at the line of scrimmage. The Vikings have had their struggles on the offensive line all season and today was no different. Dom Capers must have been licking his chops this week in anticipation. He dialed up all the right blitzes that kept Peterson at bay and forced Teddy into uncomfortable 2nd- & 3rd-and-longs.
B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels deserve a lot of credit for their disruption up front. Datone Jones, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers were the beneficiaries on the stat sheet, accumulating three sacks and five tackles for loss. Stopping the run game was priority number one and Capers’ defense forced Teddy Bridgewater to win the game. Credit to Teddy Bridgewater who made plays with his legs and struck all the right throws in the face of this pressure. The offense, however, could not keep up with Green Bay’s scoring.
There was much to be satisfied with for Green Bay’s offense. Not only did Eddie Lacy show up today, he looked good. The nonexistent run game the last few weeks disappeared with his revival, something fans – and the team – have been awaiting all year. He picked a good time to run for his 8th 100-yard rushing game of his career (four of those have come against Minnesota).
The passing game was much more fluid, utilizing screens early in the game and winning the one-on-one battles in the secondary. Rodgers stats don’t flaunt a perfect game by any measure, but it was much more promising than previous weeks: three-and-outs weren’t a problem, the pocket was clean and Rodgers’ injured shoulder had plenty of zip.
Green Bay reassured their fanbase, the division, and themselves they aren’t going anywhere. They won the game they needed and are dancing their way to the Brett Favre retirement party on Thanksgiving night.
Rushing Yards: GB 124 / MIN 94
3rd-Down Conversions: GB 6-16 (38%) / MIN 5-13 (38%)
Sacks: GB 6 / MIN 2
Penalties: GB 4-19 / MIN 8-110
Turnovers: GB 0 / MIN 1
Time of Possession: GB 30:22 / MIN 29:38