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?
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.
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.
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.
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.——————
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. Follow @KrisLBurke