“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.
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
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.
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.——————
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