Packers 24, Vikings 10: Wild Card Game Balls and Lame Calls

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Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews and the defense stepped up big and the Packers are on their way to San Francisco.

“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” or so the saying goes, and the Green Bay Packers got their revenge against the Minnesota Vikings by winning their NFC Wild Card game 24-10 a week after the Vikings beat the Packers 37-34 which cost Green Bay a first round bye.

The Packers spotted the Vikings an early field goal as the Vikings marched down the field. Some fans began to experience a sense of déjà vu as the Packers went three and out on the following drive.  Thankfully that malaise didn’t last long as the Packers got into the end zone on the next drive and went up 7-3.

Green Bay never looked back as they got to Vikings quarterback Joe Webb and raced out to a 24-3 lead that held throughout most of the second half and gave up a touchdown pretty much in garbage time as the score settled to 24-10 as time expired.

Here are the good and the bad for the Packers in the victory that eliminated the Vikings.

Game Balls

LB Erik Walden

It was not even a week ago that the Packers allowed Adrian Peterson to run all over them, but the Packers put forth a much better effort Saturday and Walden was a big part of it.

Walden was credited with one sack and two tackles for a loss but he was constantly in Webb’s face and had one of his best games in a long time. Walden can be inconsistent but if he can warm up for this playoff run, then the Packers will have yet another weapon to go alongside Clay Matthews at the linebacker position.

He’ll have a tougher time against the 49ers but the game against the Vikings should be a big confidence booster for Walden.

RB DuJuan Harris

Harris’ emergence late this season has all but guaranteed him a roster spot going into training camp this summer, but Harris is now making a case to be the Packers starting running back and there’s really no reason he couldn’t be.

He only gained 47 yards on the ground but he also had 53 receiving yards to give him 100 total yards against the Vikings. Harris may only be 5’8” but he is quick and runs with a power that betrays his small stature.  He showed what he can do in the passing game and having Harris play the 2010 James Starks role on this year’s team is becoming a more intriguing prospect by the week.

He’s got more work to do, but Harris is showing plenty of promise and could be yet another “diamond in the rough” for the Packers found by GM Ted Thompson.

LB Clay Matthews

The Packers are a much better defense when Matthews is playing. That should be obvious to anyone watching the Packers play.

Matthews had two sacks, one being a gift when Webb tripper over Matthews’ foot, but he also had a forced fumble that he also recovered.   He’s come out of the gate fast for this playoff run which should give the Packers some hope down the stretch.  The Packers were embarrassed by the Vikings defensively last week and they played like they had a chip on their shoulder Saturday.

It should be a big confidence booster for Matthews and company as they head to San Francisco to play the 49ers in the divisional round.

Honorary Fan Game Ball

Kyle Cousineau

If you’re a Packers fan on Twitter and you’re not following Kyle (@KCousineau09), then you’re missing out.

Kyle gets an honorary game ball this week for his super human effort in keeping Lambeau green and yellow on Saturday.  Kyle helped broker 38 tickets to Packer fans rather than just sit idly by and watch Vikings fans gobble up those seats.

Anyone who attended last year’s Giants game knows how many New York fans invaded Lambeau Field and Kyle refused to allow that to happen again.

Well done, Kyle. You’re a hero to your fellow Cheeseheads.

Lame Calls

The fullback draw

It’s nothing that people haven’t come to expect from the Packers under Mike McCarthy, but it’s absolutely puzzling to see the Packers look so brilliant moving the ball down the field and then see them repeatedly call a fullback draw near the goal line when everyone in the stadium knows what’s coming.

John Kuhn had a solid game with two touchdowns, but neither came as a result of a draw play at the goal line.  The days of Kuhn being an effective goal line runner are over and McCarthy needs to eliminate that play from the playbook.

OT Don Barclay

This week the Packers only gave up three sacks versus five last week, but Barclay still struggled at points.

Yes, Rodgers at time should have thrown the ball away but Barclay has struggled two weeks in a row against the Vikings defensive line and that does not bode well for next week when the Packers face an even better defensive front against the 49ers. Barclay is a rookie and will only get better, but he should be able to hold his own against the Vikings.

He faces his biggest test yet next Saturday in San Francisco.  Barclay needs to be ready for it or else the Packers are going to be forced to send some help his way which they might not be able to afford to do against the 49ers defense.

Third down struggles

The Packers were up 24-3 and they were facing an incompetent offense against the Vikings. Otherwise, they may have been in trouble in the second half against a better team.

Though they had a comfortable lead, the Packers went four straight possessions without getting a first down.  That gave the Vikings chances to get back into the game but they couldn’t with the inexperienced Webb at quarterback as well as the Packers limiting Peterson.

The formula here should be familiar as well. The Packers get in a third and five (or less) situation and instead of just moving the chains, McCarthy wanted the home run.  You can get away with that when you are up by 21 points, but the Packers have a tendency to go to this kind of strategy early in games when the score is sometimes tied at zero.

Next week against an aggressive 49ers defense, McCarthy needs to keep the offense on the field to rest his defense. He’ll do that by consistently moving the chains instead of looking for the quick score.

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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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  • Sven

    Alright now bring on the 49ers. Gore is not equall to Peterson, and all this preparation for handling the finest running back of this generation will pay off for the Packers D.

    Rodgers is going to go “Home” to NorCal and show that community what they missed out on when they dissed him for Alex Smith. He is still probably fuming over it, and he will use.

    The Packers are no bodies under dog!

    Go Pack!

  • johnny d

    we call him CLAY way to go Kyle Cousineau!!

  • GV889

    I nominate Tony Dungy for the Village idiot award. Watching the NBC pre game show and always had a lot of respect for Tony Dungy but I was really disappointed when he tried to convince viewers that Joe Webb and the Vikings had a good chance of knocking off the Packers. C’mon Tony we know your friends with Leslie Frazier but The Vikings beating the Pack at Lambeau with a clueless QB! Even Rodney Harrison tried to talk some sense into him.

    • Pack fan from ATL

      My Sentiments exactly.

    • jeremy

      Yes, and it continued to the point of absurdity when Collinsworth couldn’t pull his lips off of Adrian Peterson’s ass for the whole second half. I get that Peterson is an amazing player, but so is Rodgers and his play had the game won. There was barley even a peep by CBS about the ridiculous throw Rodgers made on the run to Nelson on the sideline. CBS sucks!

      • Savage57

        Not trying to be a ???, but wasn’t the game on NBC?

  • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

    I saw the bad 3rd down percentage but the Packers really quit attacking the Vikings once they were up 24-3. M.M. could have piled many more points on the scoreboard but let his defense control the game against a backup QB. The 3rd down draw I can’t agree more. I hope he doesn’t use it against 49ers because it fools no one. I really wish he’d take Cobb of punt returns. I cringed every time Cobb didn’t call a fair catch. All in all this was a game well played by the Packers. I wish they’d look like they did on their last drive of the 1st half on every drive!

  • http://none TomTD

    The main rant I have is Rodgers hanging on to the ball too long on second downs and getting sacked rather than just throwing it away, resulting in third and really long 2 or 3 times that stopped drives. He is too stubborn in holding on to the ball too long-needs to change that now against the 49ers.

    But, I was extremely pleased to see him throw to Harris numerous times-keep doing that-they were all good gains-Harris is said to have dropped the ball on that first series: I think he was moving away from the line at an angle and Rodgers threw him a poor pass that was low-Rodgers has to realize that Harris has a shorter reach than others.

    I would like to see Harris and Cobb or Green or Grant and Cobb line up in backfield with Rodgers under center with Finley at TE and a couple WR’s-Cobb could go in motion, the other back chip block and or pick up blitzes and circle out late as a safety valve-or both backs could chip on the ends and circle out-give a new wrinkle-which really is the Bill Walsh West-Coast offense.

  • Kris Burke

    I’ve been seeing that others thought Barclay played well. What say you, loyal readers?

    • Oppy

      I think Barclay played well.

      There was actually a particular down where Barclay rode his man back beyond Rodgers’ drop, and held him there for a moment or two, before the defender turned it in and came from behind to sack Rodgers.

      Rodgers seemed to be looking at Barclay with disgust and disappointment after the play- offering Don some choice words- but in my opinion Barclay more than did the job he should be expected to, and it was a clear-cut case of a QB holding the ball too long.. His internal clock should have told him he needed to step up into or get out of the pocket by then.

      Yeah, I felt like Barclay did enough in pass pro to avoid a lame call, for sure. Our Tackles both played pretty well against a team that really gets after it on the edges.

  • Elo

    I thought our O Line did a decent enough job. Rogers does seem to hang on to long but he also makes plays this way. Te check down passes to Harris were great. I would have liked to seen MM try to put the game away in the 2nd half. A least run the hurry up for one more drive. Our defense was outstanding, except for the lown coverage late on the Vikes only TD. I also think Woodson added something, maybe just leadership, but you could argue his roaming presence really complimented the aggressive play of our young backs. Really think he can be a factor against San Fran.

  • http://none TomTD

    My game ball goes to the TV announcers: not having Aikman and Buck whine all game long was a pure pleasure.

    My hats of to Shields and Woodson for excellent tackling and great play in general.

    • GV889

      Thumbs up to that. Joe Buck You Suck!

    • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

      Thank you!!! I’m praying that they don’t do the Packers game Saturday night. Clearly Aikman doesn’t like the Packers and Buck is just a puppet or yes man for Aikman. Listening to those two can ruin a game for a person. Shields made that tackle on Peterson when he bounced it outside along the sideline. A text book tackle. Woodson played a great game as well and you could see he was fresh.

      • Oppy

        Aikman is both a Rodgers fan and seemingly appreciates the Packers organization as a whole. If you shelve your own bias and forget he was a Cowboy, it’s pretty clear to see. What Aikman ISN’T is a Green Bay homer (obviously). He will criticize and speak his mind, as he should, it’s his job. But he certainly does not seem more prone to critique the Packers than the opposition. I actually think Aikman may have -requested- to do as many Packers games as possible just so he could watch Rodgers play ball.. Probably the only thing that got him to sign the contract when he found out he’d be stuck with Joe Buck.

        Joe Buck, on the other hand, seems to go out of his way to avoid even the mildest praise of the Packers.

        I think often people mistake Buck’s voice for Aikman’s when the camera is not on them.

        • http://allpackers.com Nick Perry

          Sorry Oppy but it nothing to do with him being a Cowboy. Every Sunday this year my Friends and I are watching a game and he says something about the Packers (Not Rodgers), that make us all look at one another and say WTF? I agree with you about the Rodgers praise but it stops there IMO. Tell ya what though, I’d gladly listen to him next week again at Lambeau or in Atlanta!

        • Big T

          Aikman and Buck cornhole each other before the games. Buck is the heavy and says what Aikman is thinking. Anyone that thinks they are not biased against the Packers must be in on the cornhole ring as well…

        • Big T

          Buck and Aikman are totally biased against the Packers. They are practically cheering the other team on. Aikman is constantly figuring ways for the other team to win. I say let these two cornholers do Bears games only…

  • Ron LC

    You have summarized the key points very well Kris. I especially like your opinion on Walden. I only saw him get sucked inside once last night. Let’s hope Green keeps him focused on that very important part of his game going into SF next week. Got to keep a running QB with a much better arm in control. Two good OLB’s is a must.

    At 24 to 3 MM obviously wanted to get a ball control running game going. He failed. 5 3 and outs in a row should be a concern. Any lead they might have next week does not indicate a change in the game plan. Keep playing like its 0 to 0.

    Also, at 24 – 3 the defense had their only real brain fart. I’m not sure if Williams took the wrong guy or someone else blew the deep coverage assignment, but that was awful. Can’t have any of those next week.

    Next Saturday is another game where the “soft zone” should be shelved. Minimize Gore and pressure Kapernick mercilessly. Let AR run that very effective ball control offense again. Loved the fact that the RB’s got into the passing game. Also the O needs to get better at getting the 3rd down conversions.

    The Dline is playing very good. BJ is really controlling the middle. And, that came against a very good interior line of the Queenies.

    Overall, it was a good win. And it certainly will be a good starting point for the SF game.

    • marpag

      The word “zonophobia” may be defined as “the irrational and often paralyzing fear of playing a zone defense.”

      Every NFL team employs zone defensive schemes. It’s not stupid.

      You want Capers to shelve the zone against Kaepernick. But a zone defense is actually MORE effective against running quarterbacks.

      When playing a zone, defenders cover their assigned area of the field and generally face the quarterback. This puts them in better position to read the QB’s scrambles and defend against them.

      When playing man defense, defenders generally turn their back to the QB and run with their receiver. If the QB takes off running, DBs probably won’t even see it. This puts them in terrible position to defend against scrambles.

      • Ron LC

        Funny the defnse seemed to play much better when they were in “Man.” Luck, I presume!

  • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

    To be more specific, it’s not the fullback draw, it’s the fullback dive that is useless. The OL just can’t get the push that play requires. the draw was better designed and blocked, – had Lang pulling to the right. I’m not a huge fan of the draw either, but really it’s the dive play that has gotta go.

    • Kris Burke

      Sometimes a play fails so bad I can’t tell if it’s a dive or a draw haha. That’s a sign the play needs to go.

    • Savage57

      Couldnt agree more about the “Hey opponents, were inside the 2 so John Kuhn is gonna get the FB Dive” play. Worked good about 4 years ago. I about went nuts when they ran that Saturday night. That play more than any other is what makes me question MM’s play calling creativity in the red-zone. AR should audible out of it every time it’s called.

  • GBPD AN

    If the Pack can get by SF next week, they will be playing in the SB. I like our chances at Atlanta or at home against either Wash or Seattle. As optimistic as I am to beat SF,I also know this will be a bigger task then most are admitting to

  • Ed Schoenfeld

    The final decision on what pass to throw on 3rd belongs to Rodgers. He is the one who needs to develop the mentality of getting the first down when it is there instead on making a deep throw that could fail.

    Rodgers has been working on understanding ball control offense the entire season, and is much better at it now than (say) last season. I expect he will continue to improve.

  • GV889

    I’am getting a Vibe that fate will have the Packers hosting the Sea-buzzards at Lambeau. Wouldn’t that be great!

  • Sterling Sharpe

    WHERE IS COW 42 and his doomsday opinions!!??? I thought that the “Soft Packers” were gonna get run out of Lambeau by the big bad Vikings. I thought the Packers were TERRIBLE in your eyes.

    Well, hopefully they shut you up, and you never come on this site again. You’re a coward of a fan, and your opinions are weak and ignorant. The Packers proved that.

    You’re not a true Packer Fan Cow42….you’re a joke.

  • Brad

    I, too believe Rodgers is guilty of holding the ball to long at times, BUT I will take those handful of sacks over the interceptions that the other fella used to throw. I also love our version of pocket hercules. Harris seems to have a feel of getting to the hole and hitting it right now. We probably won’t be able to run the ball well in San Fran, but he showed on Saturday that he can be depended upon to be the emergency check down and screen back.

  • http://lovettpa@msn.com old Packer fan

    It seemed to me the Packers spent a good portion of the game trying to run the clock down & get the game over. i don’t think the sponsors got their monies worth on this one.

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