Vikings... Vikings... Vikings are coming, and they're going to win this game... - Scott Halleran
This piece rambles a bit. Deal with it.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukkah, and Happy Kwanza. Also, Happy New Year as this is likely my last post before then. I hope and trust that the holiday season found you all well, and that everyone enjoyed their government mandated time off from work to enjoy seeing family and friends.
You know, I've never been the greatest with timeliness. Or schedules. Sure, when it comes to work and stuff I'm (generally) on time because otherwise my paycheck may not be, but outside of that I'm just not good with it. When I first started these post-victory compliment sandwich pieces, my original intention was to do it the same day after the game, when everything was still "fresh" inside my somewhat boozed up mind. That became a little difficult to manage at times so I just slipped comfortably into doing it on the Monday after. Then, last week, I was delayed to Tuesday, and now here we are, the Wednesday after the game, because of that whole holiday thing getting in my way the past 48 hours.
Since I'm so delayed here I'm going to put a bit of a twist on the typical sandwich platter. I already had mentioned in my euphoric post-victory piece that writing one this time would be difficult, because my G-d was that just an awesomely played game, on all sides of the ball. We've been over it before: when the defense needed to make a stop, it made a stop. When the offense needed to convert the third down to keep the drive alive, it converted a third down to keep the drive alive. When special teams needed to bottle ‘em up, or when Blair Walsh needed to nail a record-setting FG, or when Chris Kluwe needed to punt the living heck out of a ball... well, you get the idea.
The only possible sandwich piece I could really conceive of was Adrian Peterson's performance. Which is in and of itself amazing, because for most running backs an 80+ yard performance is considered great. And it's not like the cyborg was even truly shut down for the day: he still ripped off a couple of long runs in between having difficulties with the Texan's D. And you can't tell me that he wouldn't have scored the TD that Toby Gerhart hammered in, had the game not already been so in hand that Leslie Frazier made the right call in keeping AP on the sidelines. Overall, the only real reason we would even have cause to be less than happy with Peterson's day was simply the fact that he now has a bit of a big day ahead of him to seal the record. And I still think he will get it.
So here's what we're going to do- rather than a typical compliment sandwich piece, I'm going to review what I feel to be the differences between what happened with the Texans compared to what needs to happen with the Packers. It works too because this way I can also tie it in with the whole Packer's week theme we've got going on here.
But before I even begin, let me give a shout-out to DN user Muffrey. Why? Because in MarkSP18's insane IDP fantasy league, I marched to the championship at 14-0. Mr. Muffrey's 7-6 team the week prior had upset Arif in a huge way to make it to the final game, where he proceeded to upset me despite a 117 point favorite on my side. Congrats on the huge win, you really did turn me into the 2007 Patriots.
The passing game trounced the running game. In a unique twist, it was Christian Ponder and our much-maligned WR corps that saved the day for us against the Texans. Yes, again, Peterson had big runs when needed, Gerhart had a TD, and Ponder himself got in on the action with some solid runs on his part. But all in all, it was our oft severely deficient pass game that took over. Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins, and Jarius Wright all got in on the action, each making huge plays when needed. Kyle Rudolph had some nice plays, including of course the well-designed TD pass; even John Carlson had a catch or two. But...
Against the Packers, we must return to our identity. The Packer's pass defense is likely going to have Charles Woodson back, although that's not yet guaranteed. And yes, Clay Matthews will be back, but I just don't really fear him as much as the media would have me. The Texans run-D is insanely good, and we saw just how good when they were constantly getting into the league's best RB's face all day. We worked off that well, sprinkling him in enough to keep them fearful, and then taking advantage with some solid pass plays. However, the Packer's defense is pretty much the opposite. Passing against them can be riskier, but running against them... well, we all saw what Peterson did the last time we met. This has nothing to do with the fact that we need to be feeding Peterson plenty for him to break the record; at the end of the day, I think we'd all agree that a win (and subsequent playoff berth) is more important than his record, even though it would cause severe heartache across Viking fandom for Peterson to not succeed there. And I'd bet as heartbroken as he would be, even Peterson would agree with that.
Against the Packers we need to combine a very solid and focused run game with the third-down passing attack we saw against the Texans. If Ponder and company can just keep the chains moving when necessary, then we need to be leaning on Peterson's mighty legs as much as possible. Eat the clock, keep the Packer's offense off the field, blah blah blah. Speaking of the Packer's offense...
Except for AJ Jefferson, our secondary did a great job shutting down an impressive Texan's offense. The Texan's and the Packer's defenses may be very different, but they both have high-powered offenses that feature a strong WR. But they were still able to pick on Jefferson; yet our secondary was good enough to prevent that from becoming too big of an issue. But...
Against the Packers, it has to be all-hands-on-deck. The difference between the two offenses is of course is the run game... Arian Foster had some irregular heartbeat issues (which is absolutely no joking matter, and I'm very glad to hear he's fine), but we still did a fine job smashing him at the line of scrimmage. We won't have to worry about that against the Packers for the most part. But what we do have to worry about is the liability that Jefferson can represent. I understand it was Chris Cook's first game back, and that he was being eased back in. I'm good with that, makes perfect sense. But I'm really hoping he's back up to speed now, because it's got to be all hands on deck against the Packer's passing offense. Antoine Winfield will be playing in a cast, so there's one superstar on our side who will be somewhat limited already. However...
One thing that should stay the same: the vicious attacks on the QB. We were all over Matt Schaub on Sunday, and his frustration and growing intimidation became evident. I can't think of the last time I've seen the opposing QB more frazzled than Ponder, but that was the case. We must replicate that Sunday. The Texan's O-line is a much better unit than the Packer's, and there's no reason we can't absolutely tee off against them come Sunday. I understand that for every blitz you leave the possibility of a big pass play open, and that Aaron Rodgers is just the QB to do that to you. But we've got to roll the dice, especially early in the game when the defense should feel free to pin their ears back. Hit him, hit him hard, hit him repeatedly. Get into his head and make his day as miserable as Schaub's was. So long as the secondary is doing its job, then we should be able to start strong in this department and ride it to victory. As much as our run game will determine our offense's success, our pass rush game will determine our defense's success.
Honestly, if we can shut down the Texans and absolutely trounce them the way we did, in their own home, and with Peterson of all people having an "off day", then I really can't see any reason we don't beat the Packers on Sunday. So they absolutely massacred the Jaguars 55-7; whoop-dee-doo. We're not the Jaguars. Our score may not have been so lopsided but our opposition was light years different. And remember, last time we played the Packers, in Green Bay, we could have won. So long as Ponder protects the ball and doesn't turn it over, we're good. This is our house. Speaking of, let me take a brief tangent here. Believe it or not, I've never been to Minnesota. Nor have I ever seen the Vikings play a game as a stadium attendee. Well, unfortunately thanks to some poor planning on my part, that second part won't be changing this weekend, but the first will be. Tomorrow I board a plane and head to Minneapolis so that my little girl can see snow for the first time, meaning I will at least have the absurd pleasure of watching the game in a sports bar in the Vikings' home city (which honestly means the world to me alone). On certain holidays and other such traditions we Jewish people toast "next year in Israel"; sometimes I modify that when the Vikings kick off and drink a silent toast to "next week in Minnesota". Finally I'll be living up to that toast, even if not in the dome. But there will always be next year!
Anyways, SKOL Vikings, for you have reached heights we never thought attainable this season. And I truly, genuinely believe this will be the second part of a rubber match; the Vikings will have their work cut out for them in the first round of the playoffs should we indeed have the rematch in Green Bay. But that's another day and another fight.