Despite a 20-7 lead entering the fourth quarter, Green Bay failed to put away divisional opponent Minnesota, ending in a 29-29 tie. The game featured a number of questionable calls affecting both teams, three missed field goals by Vikings’ rookie kicker Daniel Carlson, and even a blocked punt returned for a touchdown by rookie second-rounder Josh Jackson (kudos to Geronimo Allison for making a fantastic play on the punt).
Aaron Rodgers, hampered by last week’s knee injury, showed enough tenacity to play all game, throwing for 281 passing yards and one touchdown, with another called back due to a questionable holding call on guard Lane Taylor. While a tie is never satisfying, especially against a division rival, at the end of the day a draw is a very positive result in an early season matchup against one of the NFL’s best defenses, especially considering the health of No. 12.
DL Kenny Clark
Another week, another big showing by the young nose tackle. Clark has picked up right where he left off last year, not only disrupting plays in the run game but proving to be a force to be reckoned with as a pass rusher. The 2016 first-round pick registered a sack on third down early in the third quarter, forcing the Vikings to punt on their first possession of the half. Four possessions later, Clark showed elite athleticism for a big guy in the trenches by batting down Kirk Cousins’ pass, almost intercepting it. Clark ended with four total tackles, one sack, an additional hit on Kirk Cousins.
OLB Reggie Gilbert
While Gilbert didn’t draw the start, or see a ton of playing time, he looked explosive in his limited opportunities. Gilbert seemed to be in the backfield on every play in the first half, recording half a sack on a third down in combination with Jaire Alexander, resulting in the blocked punt for a touchdown. The third-year pro also added a tackle with three additional quarterback hits, showing a real ability to get to the quarterback in a live game. Much like fellow linebacker Nick Perry, Gilbert also showed a solid ability in defending the edge against the run in this week’s matchup.
S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
My last thumbs up for this week’s matchup goes to the often criticized safety, despite the fact that he did not have an exceptionally flashy game outside of one play. With just over two minutes left in regulation and with Green Bay clinging on to a five-point lead, Clinton-Dix showed great instincts that we haven’t seen from him since late 2016, intercepting a tipped Cousins’ pass. Unfortunately, it didn’t wind up ending the game, but in Clinton-Dix’s case this was a positive development that may be the jolt he needs to get out of the slump he’s found himself in for over a year now.
CB Davon House
A player who ideally is not in the Packers’ plans as a heavy contributor, House was forced into action in the second half after Kevin King suffered a groin injury. House’s physical limitations were on display when he got burned by Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs for a 75-yard touchdown to bring the Packers’ lead down to just two points. While House should not have been matched up on Minnesota’s most physically-talented receiver to begin with, given his athletic inability, one would expect more from a veteran and relatively successful defensive back on an NFL roster.
It seems that every week the Packers’ offense finds a way to waste timeouts early in halves due to an expiring play clock, and this week was no different. In fact, all six of the Packers’ timeouts in regulation were used up in this manner, instead of saving them for potential two-minute drives at the end of both halves. While Rodgers engineered a 41-yard drive in overtime, his job would’ve been made so much easier with at least one timeout. With more timeouts, he could potentially have even taken a shot or two into the end zone instead of settling for a 52-yard field goal attempt.
As mentioned before, this game was littered with questionable calls that affected not only Green Bay but also Minnesota in negative ways. First, there was the defensive pass interference no-call on a deep pass to Jimmy Graham halfway through the second quarter. Two plays later, Davante Adams had a Jordy Nelson-esque sideline catch for 24 yards called back for a very lax offensive pass interference, a play where both Adams and the defender pushed each other around an equal amount. Later on in the third quarter, Guard Lane Taylor was called for holding, causing a Davante Adams touchdown to be called back, and eventually leading to a field goal. Based on the replay, Taylor didn’t so much hold the defender as much as the defender tripped and Taylor went to the ground with him, wiping both of them out of the play.
Last, and certainly not least, was the roughing the passer call on Clay Matthews that nullified a Jaire Alexander interception to essentially win the game with less than two minutes in regulation. This was the second straight week that Matthews was called with such a penalty that wiped out a game-ending play on defense. While last week’s was certainly his fault (he admitted as much in a post-game interview following yesterday’s game), the call in this week’s game makes you wonder why quarterbacks aren’t wearing red jerseys in the regular season. I’m all for player safety, and I totally understand roughing the passer penalties when the defender hits too high or too low. However, in this case, Matthews hit Cousins right in the waist, did not lift him off his feet, and immediately tried to shift his weight away from the quarterback by rolling off of him instead of driving him further into the ground. Hopefully the NFL takes time this week to look back on this call and makes necessary officiating changes to ensure that NFL games aren’t decided by phantom calls like this one was.