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Vikings vs. Packers: Game Notes

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it was an important division win at home against the Vikings arch-rival Packers, which along with the Lions loss, puts the Vikings in first place in the NFC North.

But this game wasn’t so much about the Vikings win, as it was about the Packers losses. The Packers lost All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers early in the game, perhaps for the rest of the season, with a broken collarbone. The injury came on a clean hit from Anthony Barr early in the first quarter, on a roll-out where Barr hit Rodgers just after he released the ball, sending him to the ground and breaking his collarbone.

After that play, the game changed, leaving the the Packers deflated and unable to overcome the loss of their best player and face of their franchise.

Defense Dominates

The Vikings were dominant on defense nearly the entire game- holding the Rodgers-less Packers to only 227 yards of offense while producing 3 interceptions and 4 sacks amidst numerous pressures and hits. If not for a pair of turnovers by the Vikings offense which led to good field position and scoring opportunities, the Packers offense may not have scored the entire game after Rodgers was carted off.

But Rodgers wasn’t the only casualty for the Packers on Sunday. Both starting tackles were once again sidelined with injury, and a starting guard as well. The Vikings also lost Anthony Barr about mid-way through the game to a concussion, so presumably he will be in concussion protocol this week.

The Vikings defense was also able to continue it’s league-leading dominance on 3rd down as well, allow the Packers to convert only 23% of the time. Their stingyness in the red zone also continued, allowing the Packers to convert only 1 of 3 red zone opportunities into a touchdown.

And while Packers backup QB Brett Hundley was a deer in the headlights of the Vikings pass rush most of the game, the Vikings secondary didn’t make it much easier on him either. Coverage was good throughout the game, and both MacKensie Alexander and Trae Waynes looked improved. Waynes had 6 tackles and covered Jordy Nelson most of the game, holding him to 6 catches for 60 yards on 10 targets. The longest was a 26 yard reception where Nelson got away with a bit of offensive pass interference. That was the longest play from scrimmage for the Packers all day, and the only play that went for over 20 yards. Davante Adams, who was shadowed by Xavier Rhodes most of the game, was held to 5 catches on 10 targets for 54 yards and a TD, which came on an abandoned coverage by Eric Kendricks, who elected to chase Hundley down after coming out of the pocket. Slot receiver Randall Cobb was covered well by Alexander and Terence Newman all day, holding him to just 3 receptions for 28 yards.

Anthony Harris got the start at safety for the injured Andrew Sendejo, and in a ‘no news is good news’ respect, had a good game.

But the stars of the game on defense for the Vikings were familiar names led by Harrison Smith, who had a nice interception to go along with 1.5 sacks on the day. Everson Griffen was also a force off the edge, picking up another sack and numerous pressures. Xavier Rhodes had the highest PFF grade for the Vikings, along with an interception off a tip by MacKensie Alexander, grading out at 87.7 overall. He was followed closely by Harrison Smith at 86.8. Eric Kendricks also graded well at 84.5 overall.

Offense Struggles

The Vikings offense sputtered at times, committing two turnovers, and really struggled to sustain drives against a very depleted Packers defense, especially in the second half. Part of that could be chalked up to some conservative play-calling, as the only points the Packers were able to score came off of turnovers, but even so against a poor and depleted Packers secondary the Vikings didn’t do much, particularly in the second half.

Case Keenum had probably his worst game as a Viking, throwing one interception, and nearly one more, while struggling with accuracy down the field at times. Still, a bad pass targeting Adam Thielen turned into a long defensive pass interference penalty, and beyond that big penalty play, Keenum managed to go 24/38 for 229 yards, a TD and a INT. Laquon Treadwell made some significant contributions for the first time, making an Odell Beckham-style one-handed catch en route to catching all three of his targets for 51 yards.

Jerick McKinnon continued to be an adequate replacement for Dalvin Cook, with 99 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. However, McKinnon also had a fumble, and ball security has been worrisome for McKinnon this season, as he’s had a couple other fumbles and near fumbles so far. Hopefully he can improve his ball security going forward. He had a nice run on a perfectly called and executed screen pass for the game’s first touchdown, and would have had another nice gain on a screen pass if Keenum had been able to get the ball out before the Vikings offensive lineman got downfield.

Overall however, the Vikmgs performance offensively was a little underwhelming against a depleted and demoralized Packers defense. Nothing to panic about at this stage, particularly as the game dynamics dictated a more conservative approach in the second half, and the Vikings were also without leading WR Stefon Diggs, but hopefully Keenum can improve as he continues to be the starter most likely at least through the bye-week.

Vikings Atop NFC North

If the season ended today, the Vikings would win the division and be the 2nd seed in the NFC playoffs. But of course the season isn’t even at the halfway point, and a lot can and will happen in the next 11 weeks. But with the win over Green Bay and Aaron Rodgers out for perhaps the season, while Detroit is struggling and Stafford a bit hobbled, the Vikings have pole position for the division title.

And, at 4-2 and facing the disappointing Ravens team at home followed by the hapless Browns in London the next two weeks, there is a reasonable hope the Vikings make it to their bye-week and half-way point at 6-2, and poised to make a push through the most difficult part of their schedule and potential playoff run.

The Vikings defense is currently 5th in the league in both yards and points per game allowed, and is playing championship football. The Vikings offense, while better overall than we’ve seen for many years - despite the loss of Bradford and Dalvin Cook - probably needs to see the better side of Case Keenum, or the re-emergence of Sam Bradford or possibly even Teddy Bridgewater, or some combination of the above, to make a deep playoff run.

But with the NFC in flux, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some new faces in the playoffs this year, and the Vikings could be one of them. The Packers have been devastated, Seattle isn’t as strong anymore, and the rest of the current contenders- Philadelphia, Carolina, New Orleans, LA Rams, Atlanta - have some significant flaws.

Everything is up for grabs.


With this past weekend’s developments, who wins the NFC North this season?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Chicago Bears
    (15 votes)
  • 5%
    Detroit Lions
    (63 votes)
  • 1%
    Green Bay Packers
    (16 votes)
  • 91%
    Minnesota Vikings
    (1076 votes)
1170 votes total Vote Now