The Past: The Packers played their last game at the Mall of America Field at the Metrodome in week 8 and showed exactly how dangerous a balanced Packers offense could be. In short, the offense was brutally efficient; even without Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley, quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 24 passes out of 29 for 285 yards and two touchdowns to Jordy Nelson while adding 31 yards on 6 scrambles. However the running attack needed no help from Rodgers this time as Eddie Lacy ground the Vikings defense for 94 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown while James Starks provided the change of pace with 57 yards on only 7 carries (8.1 ypc) and a touchdown.
On defense, the loss of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry certainly didn’t help with the pass rush, but with Adrian Peterson’s body obviously starting to break down plus a “give up” call to put Christian Ponder back after perhaps the worst quarterback play in the history of the NFL by Josh Freeman the week against the Giants before left the Vikings offense in shambles; Peterson only managed 60 yards on a paltry 13 attempts while Ponder completed 50% of his passes for only 145 yards.
Perhaps the most interesting story of the night happened after the game where Greg Jennings purposefully pulled Aaron Rodgers aside and proceeded to awkwardly hug/presumable apologize for about 5 minutes to which Rodgers just nodded dutifully. Neither Rodgers nor Jennings has fully disclosed what was said on the field, but as both players might be watching from the sidelines this game probably means that this will be a non-issue for either team (not that that will stop the media from covering it like it was).
The Present: The Vikings are perhaps as injury riddled in key positions as the Packers are, which is no small task. Star running back Adrian Peterson has been hobbled by a groin injury and hasn’t been as explosive as he once was. Leading wide receiver Greg Jennings was a surprise scratch from last weeks game against the Seattle Seahawks, much to the dismay of head coach Leslie Frasier. If Jennings does indeed miss his homecoming against the Packers, how much of it will because he simply doesn’t want to be on the field when he knows he can’t win back the fans? The Vikings still also have questions at quarterback, Josh Freeman was expected to see the field at some point after recovering from his concussion due to his relatively large contract, but hasn’t seen the field as Matt Cassel played in relief of starter Christian Ponder when he dislocated his shoulder two weeks ago. Aside from Christian Ponder’s shoulder injury, he will also be without his favorite target in tight end Kyle Rudolph, who is likely to be out with a broken foot.
On defense, the Vikings aren’t nearly as injured as they are on offense, but age is quickly catching up to a once dominant defensive front 7. Star defensive end Jared Allen has had a up and down season but is still having one his of the worst seasons as a Vikings, but the biggest issue for the Vikings, like the Packers is pass defense. The Vikings have the 2nd worst passing defense in the NFL (only to Miami) and can point to a squad of very young players as well as losing safety Harrison Smith to IR-recall.
The Future: While the Packers season very well could rest on winning this game, the Vikings have bigger issues to address. Adrian Peterson is human after all and is starting to decline at age 28; after being the focal point of the Vikings offense for every season save maybe 2009, Peterson has been run to the ground with nearly 2,000 attempts and the cumulative damage to his body is starting to overshadow his ability to heal. Hopefully, Peterson doesn’t fall off a cliff as quickly as Shaun Alexander did, but the Vikings can only reasonably expect maybe 1 or 2 more decent years from Peterson.
Peterson’s career could be extended by having a more balanced offense where defenses couldn’t load up the box to defend Peterson, but unfortunately the Vikings don’t really have an answer at either quarterback or receiver. It’s obvious that the Vikings no longer view Ponder as the quarterback of the future or Josh Freeman wouldn’t have been signed, but it’s also now apparent that the Vikings are having some buyers remorse with Freeman as he hasn’t seen the field even after being cleared from his concussion. Finally, and perhaps most ironically, the best quarterback currently on the roster is Matt Cassel, but the Vikings front office is so convinced that he’s nothing more than a career backup (which might be true), that they don’t want to start him under an circumstances.
At wide receiver, Greg Jennings hasn’t made the same impact he did as a Packer, which isn’t all too surprising since Jennings was never a scheme-transcendent player with outrageous physical attributes that could overcome poor quarterback play and at this point it seems unlikely that Jennings will see his full contract before being released. The Vikings do have a wide receiver with outrageous physical attributes in rookie Coradelle Patterson, but Patterson is still too raw at the moment to save any of the quarterback’s careers but could be a star in the future, again if they find a quarterback.
On defense, age is finally getting the better of Vikings as their front 7 is too old and their secondary is too young. Hopefully the secondary will take it’s lumps this year and be an improved unit next year, but in the trenches some tough decisions are going to have to be made. Jared Allen and Kevin Williams are both on contract years and neither is likely to be resigned, leading to a changing of the guard. Hopefully 1st round pick Sharrif Floyd can make up some of that difference along with Everson Griffin.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.