Packers 23, Vikings 14: Game Balls and Lame Calls

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Aaron Rodgers
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers scrambles to evade the pressure from Vikings DE Jared Allen

It was a solid rebound from their blowout loss to the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers are back in first place in the NFC North.

Thanks to their 23-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks’ 23-17 overtime win against the Chicago Bears, the Packers find themselves right back where they were before the meltdown against the Giants.  The Packers currently hold the tiebreaker against the Bears, but the two teams face off in less than two weeks at Soldier Field for what very likely could be the NFC North title game.

As for the victory over the Vikings, it was a much more inspired effort than what the Packers turned in against the Giants.  The Packers allowed Adrian Peterson to gain more than 200 yards on the ground yet were still able to win thanks to some opportunistic plays by the defense as well as some bad decisions by Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.

The Packers offense used a two headed rushing attack that worked well and the offensive line, despite now losing TJ Lang to injury, improved and only allowed two sacks against a solid Vikings defensive line.

So who performed well and who left something to be desired in the Packers’ big divisional win? Let’s take a look?

Game Balls

S Morgan Burnett

Burnett very well may have won this game for the Packers.

With the Vikings up 14-10, Peterson broke a 48 yard run to get the Vikings to the Packers’ 12 yard line.  It seemed inevitable that they would go up 21-10 and put the Packers in a deep hole.

Instead, as Ponder rolled out to his right he tried to get the ball to Michael Jenkins but the ball instead landed in Burnett’s hands.  The Packers got a field goal on the subsequent drive and cut the Vikings lead to 14-13.

Later on in the third quarter, the Vikings were trailing 20-14 but were driving yet again and Burnett picked off Ponder once more.  The Packers again were able to drive down the field and get a field goal for the final points of the game.

It was a welcome performance from Burnett and if he can continue to play that way, the Packers will have one more playmaker in a secondary that already includes standout rookie Casey Hayward as well as veteran Tramon Williams.

OL Don Barclay

Many people were likely holding the breath when Lang when down with injury and yet another untested offensive lineman trotted onto the field, but they were pleasantly surprised when Barclay actually held his own.

Barclay didn’t have a perfect game by any means but he played well enough to warrant speculation that he could get the start at right tackle and Lang would move back to his natural left guard position (should he be healthy, that is).  Barclay was one of the players to watch during the preseason and thanks to injuries that caused the Packers to reshuffle their offensive line, he very well could get his chance in the regular season and during an intense playoff push to boot.

It is not yet known how badly Lang is injured, but Barclay played well enough against a solid Vikings defense that the Packers know they can at least tread water in his absence unlike when Bryan Bulaga went down for the year with a hip injury.

RBs James Starks and Alex Green

It looks like the running back by committee approach finally paid off for the Packers.

While no single running back for the Packers has gone over 100 yards this season, Starks and Green combined for 124 yards on 27 carries.  Starks gave the Packers the lead for good when he ran the ball in for a 22-yard touchdown which was the Packers first rushing touchdown in their last seven games.

Cedric Benson was put on injured reserve for good last week but this two-headed attack utilized by the Packers against the Vikings gives hope they could have a solid rushing attack as the weather gets colder.  If that’s the case then the Packers could be even more dangerous on offense.

Lame Calls

K Mason Crosby

This may seem like we’re piling on the Packers kicker, but it’s not entirely certain Crosby’s struggles are indeed over.

Yes, he made three field goals against the Vikings.  Two of them, from 47 and 31 yards respectively, were good by a comfortable margin.  The third (from 30 yards out) needed the upright to make it in and Crosby badly missed a 53 yard field goal as well.

It was a step in the right direction perhaps, but Crosby is still going to need to be much better come playoff time.  The Packers very well may need a 50+ yard field goal attempt and Crosby has not even been close on his past two attempts from beyond 50 yards.  Hopefully he continues to improve but Crosby is by no means out of the woods yet.

Run defense

This isn’t to take anything away from Adrian Peterson’s greatness, but the Packers can’t allow him to run for that many yards. There really is no excuse for it.

While the bulk of those yards came on basically three plays, the Packers cannot give up big chunks of yardage like that.  They’ve been able to contain Peterson before but for whatever reason could not on Sunday.

This perhaps was the Packers once again showing how much they miss Clay Matthews, this time in the running game.   While some like Dezman Moses have emerged in Matthews’ absence, no one can close on a player like he can and the Packers clearly missed that on Sunday.

Unnecessary trickery

I’m not sure what that little lateral was between Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb was all about, but that play needs to be removed from the playbook immediately. Thanks to the trickery involved, once Rodgers got the ball back from Cobb he didn’t have time to make his progression so he threw the ball deep down the middle and was intercepted.  He also had a man open near the sideline that he didn’t see because of the time it took to pull off the lateral.

The Packers do not need to resort to those kinds of trick plays on offense when they have an MVP quarterback in Rodgers.  He’s proven time and time again he’s able to torch defenses with his head, his legs and his arm.  There’s really no need to get cute when you have a player of Rodgers’ caliber under center.

A lot of fans have waiting for the versatile Cobb to throw the football, but again I ask why take the ball out of the reigning MVP’s hands?  You just should not do it.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com.

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  • http://allpackers.co Nick Perry

    This was a amazing performance from the Packers. When Nelson and Lang went down I thought that’s it, how much more? Barclay stepped in and did a exceptional job. Jennings caught a few key passes to keep the chains moving and Burnett actually was where he was supposed to be. I’m not surprised how well Peterson did. Missing C.J. Wilson, Matthews, Woodson, Bishop, Perry, D.J. Smith, against that massive O-Line that was bound to happen. With all that said much of Peterson’s yard came on 3 carries of 82, 48, and 32. Granted on those carries he made the Packers look like last years defense with all the missed tackles. Either way there’s much to be happy about, providing M.M. see’s it the same way. Put Barclay at right tackle and move Lang back to guard when he’s healthy. EDS had how many calls against him yesterday? Lang just doesn’t cut it at tackle. EDS is best in the jumbo package when they use 6 lineman and Barclay deserves a shot to start next week. I’d imagine he’ll make mistakes but the line that started the game yesterday is horrible. At times M.M. stick’s with something even though he’s watched it blow up in his face 100 times this year. ( Running Alex Green wide left around Newhouse’s side, throwing 40 yard passes on 3rd and 1 to name a few). Keep Barclay in there M.M. and all these guys we’ve been playing without for the last several weeks will be back just in time to gel and bring home another Lombardi Trophy!

    • marpag

      I’m willing to cut the Packer D some slack due to injuries, but their utter lack of quality tackling was nothing short of abysmal. That’s a HUGE concern to me. I know that the guy’s name is Adrian Peterson – and that counts for something – but he’s not actually a bulldozer. The Packers looked like they were his teammates trying to “chest bump” him… only BEFORE he scored instead of after.

      On top of that, a quality QB would have burned the DBs for way more yards than Ponder did. Ponder was just god-awful bad.

  • http://allpackers.co Nick Perry

    I’m curious what all of you think about bringing in another kicker. I’m concerned about the playoffs, sending Crosby in for a game winner only to slice it wide right by 15 yards! Again. The kick in Indy, multiple kicks in Detroit, the kick last week and the 53 yard attempt he missed yesterday. He was wide on that by 15 yards! He’s 9 of his last 18 or 10 of last 19 kicks for Gods sake. What more does M.M. need to see? What does everyone else think?

    • FireMMNow

      Crosby did just enough to maybe hold off a challenge, but i think they should bring someone in. What can it hurt, mason’s confidence? his brain is fried right now. nothing is true even on the makes. he is not even close on 50+ yarders, and they will need a couple of those in the playoffs. they have to do something.

      • Mike

        Dustin Hopkins in the draft?

      • Sven

        Crosbey is an excellent at on-side kicks, which I think is often forgotten. Also, I think TT and MM are doing it right. Let him work through it, it is not physical, it’s a slump. He will come out of it. Just think how good he must be in practice for MM to have such faith.

  • Big T

    Very glad we won this one. I will not jump on the “we are back bandwagon” however… Ponder won that game for us, plain and simple. He could have thrown several touchdown passes to wide open receivers, but the poor guy has a limp wrist.

    • FireMMNow

      and he could have thrown a couple more picks that were dropped as well. he was bad, but it was not like the coverage was completely inept either.

  • FireMMNow

    Barclay has to stay at RT. he was just as good as lang. hopefully lang can come back next week. just keep helping barclay out, do not get overconfident and leave him on an island. it has been a long time since there have been so many lanes on the zone stretch right.

    EDS cannot stay on the field if this team wants to make a push. put van roten in there if lang cannot go. EDS is just really bad.

    this was a great win. the packers are first in the division and in the drivers seat. if they can get some semblance of consistency from the OL and a few key guys back on D they can make a legit push in the playoffs. kind of big “ifs” but that is what make the NFL so great.

    right now lang is a bigger injury concern than jordy. there are quality guys to step in for Jordy, not so much at LG.

    • Kris Burke

      So do you still groom EDS as your future center or is he on the roster bubble next season and the Packers pick someone else to replace Saturday?

      • Ed Schoenfeld

        Even liking EDS at C, I hope they spend a pick.

      • Bearmeat

        EDS is an average sized Center. He’s an undersized G.

        If you have an undersized C surrounded by 2 very large G’s, you’re fine. An undersized C (old) in Saturday surrounded by an undersized G (EDS) is a problem.

        EDS at Center for 2013.

        • Sven

          Good explanation.

      • FireMMNow

        I think they have to look at taking a center in the draft. G and C are completely different, and he may be able to become an adequate center, but I would sure hate to depend on a guy who has a ceiling of adequate. aaron rodgers is the franchise, and with a good OL he is an absolute freak, without a good OL he is just a good QB. and this is not a knock on rodgers, no QB is great with a terrible OL. The two go hand in hand.

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      Not really disagreeing, but let’s remember that EDS is bad specifically at guard. He is actually decent at center and in the run game may be better there than Saturday.

      I really hope that TT finally addresses the O-line next offseason. Rodgers won’t be this quick and mobile forever. It is time.

      • Bearmeat

        TT HAS addressed the OL plenty in the past 5 years. Bulaga, Sherrod, taking care of Lang and Sitton.

        The depth of the OL was always the problem with Sherrod out this year. That won’t be a problem going forward.

        If a highly rated C is there in the first 2-3 rounds, fine. But I hear this is a DL heavy draft. And that is FINE by me. Pick’s replacement needs to be groomed NOW.

        • Mike

          Completely agree. I do think TT would rather pick a big DL (John Jenkins) or pass rusher (Ezekiel Ansah) in the 1st rd and bank on Sherrod and Bulaga returning fully from their injuries.

  • FireMMNow

    i did not focus on him every play, but i though sitton had his best game in a while. really strong at the point of attack.

    • Bubbaloo

      I agree with you FMMN, I too thought Sitton played extremely well. However, I can’t help but wonder if it had something to do with the bulldog playing next to him? Keep Barclay in the lineup, help him a bit to keep him confident, and move forward. I haven’t seen the Packers run to the right with that much success in a long time!

  • Kris Burke

    One person I did not bring up in the post was Marshall Newhouse. What are everyone’s thoughts on him from the game and his overall performance this season?

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      Newhouse is a great backup left tackle.

    • Bubbaloo

      Well, yesterday might or might not be the best example as it was Jared Allen he faced. I for one must defer this one to the coaches as they are obviously seeing something I don’t recognize. Damn, I’m good, how’s that for side-stepping a question? LOL

      • FireMMNow

        I would hope that a healthy sherrod could give newhouse a run for his money and possibly make him a backup. newhouse is adequate at LT, but nothing more than that. he is not a guy that you can just insert in the game plan and forget about.

    • Sven

      I really like Newhouse. He takes on premiere pass rushers, and he gets beat occassionally, but usually not more than a time or two a game.

  • Bubbaloo

    Kris, “They’ve been able to contain Peterson before but for whatever reason could not on Sunday”.
    In staying with what everyone above has been saying, and I agree with them, I think it’s fairly obvious; Poor Tackling! On each of Peterson’s big runs the tackling sucked, and if you take away those 3 plays he was pretty much held in check. He is Adrian Peterson, he will get his yards, but no sense in just giving them to him!

    • Ed Schoenfeld

      That said, the tackling, etc. was a problem on 2 big plays. Without those plays, AP ran 18 times for about 75 yards.

      This wile the Packers are down both starting OLBs, whose job it is to set the edge against the run.

      They do get Matthews back, eventually.

      • Bubbaloo

        Yep, poor tackling in the secondary for 2 games in a row now, correct that and the Packers improve big time.

        • Mike

          Didn’t help the secondary’s case that the LBs got no hands on AP on his two big runs and he was untouched and at full speed when he broke into the 3rd level.

    • Kris Burke

      My point being they’ve played Peterson plenty of times before. I also watched the game VERY VERY late last night.

  • Since ’61

    A solid performance by the Packers after the debacle against the Giants. Especially since the defense is still playing without Mathews, Woodson, and CJ Wilson. Peterson may not have made those 2 big runs if those 3 guys are on the field. Still, tackling needs to be improved. For the offense, I thought that Barclay was at least as good as Lang at RT and should stay there for next week, regardless of Lang’s status. If Lang can play put him back at Guard, EDS is really struggling and probably hurting the team more than helping right now. Lions next week, with another strong DL. Packers need to keep up the run game big time. Go Pack GO! Thanks, Since ’61

  • FireMMNow

    Could someone please tell AJ Hawk that he does not have to just run into a FB like a mack truck. I know, I know, take on the blocker and call in the cavalry. but could you please try to shed the block and make a play instead of just dropping a shoulder into the FB. he is not the guy with the ball, try to get past him.

  • Chad Lundberg

    That freaking Jermichael Finley. I’m trying to give up on him, and then he catches 6 balls for 60 yards, not to mention he freaking kept it classy in the locker room interview.

    Now I got my fingers crossed again. ugh…

    • Nostradamus

      Finley classy? I don’t think so. He had another chance, and blew it. “Aaron rodgers and the green bay packers did a great job. I’m happy to be a part of that”. Over and over and over and over and over…ok, you get the point.