While you can judge a team on how they earn slight victories over great opponents, you can also judge them on how well they simply destroy the weaker opponents on their schedule. The Packers are a team that has done both this year.
When the Vikings played the Packers a few weeks back in Christian Ponder’s first NFL start, the momentum switched back and forth a few times during the game. On Monday night, Green Bay grabbed the momentum from the very beginning and never looked back. Outside of special teams, the Packers rarely saw big plays. They simply methodically moved the ball down the field, drive after drive, and even when they weren’t scoring, Green Bay was winning the field position game which would eventually lead to points.
If there was any lingering doubt in anyone’s mind that the Packers were the best team in the NFL, it was swept away by their 45-7 victory. While they might not have dominated the Vikings on every play they avoided mistakes (except for one) and dominated the only thing that matters: the scoreboard.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
Still Passing Strong
Clearly one of the biggest reasons for the Packers perfect season so far has been the practically flawless performance Aaron Rodgers (+5.1) has put in. He completed 23 of his 30 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns. Of his seven incomplete passes, three were dropped and two were thrown away for an accuracy percentage of 92.9. He simply isn’t making mistakes unlike any player we have seen. Due to his effort on the field, each of the Packers drives resulted in either putting points on the board, or getting the ball far enough down the field that the Vikings would start with poor field condition. While Rodgers had a number of his receiving options play well, Jordy Nelson (+2.1) stood out from the bunch. All five of the passes thrown his way were caught; two of them for touchdowns and another two for first downs. So far no one has been able to stop this passing attack, and until someone does the Packers will remain undefeated.
Fixing up the Coverage
If there is any argument to be made for the Packers not being the best team in the NFL, it’s that their secondary hasn’t played at the same level as last year. In this game they began to turn things around as the Vikings were forced to spend most of the game passing, with the Packers rarely giving up a big play. Cornerback Charles Woodson (+2.7) lead the way in this game. He was the most targeted defender with seven passes thrown his way, but in turn he only allowed one first down. He also had one pass defended and two batted passes. His partner in crime Tramon Williams (+2.3) pulled in just as many interceptions as catches allowed with one each. The linebackers were significantly better in coverage than usual, which led to Ponder not having anyone to throw the ball to. Time after time this would kill drives, which is why the Vikings only scored the one touchdown that came off one of the few Packers mistakes of the night.
Hot and Cold Cobb
While Randall Cobb (+0.5) didn’t have an excellent special teams rating, there is no question he had an impact in this game. The Vikings went three and out on the first drive of the game and Cobb returned the ball 80 yards for a touchdown. At that point the momentum shifted towards Green Bay and never turned back. However, what will stop him from being ranked higher in our Rookie of the Year rankings was what went down in the third quarter. Cobb was ready to run a punt back before seeing the ball into his hands, which led to a muffed catch, resulting in a turnover, which set up the Vikings only points. Moments later he had possibly the most memorable play of the game. With a determined look on his face like he was going to have an excellent play or make another mistake, Cobb took the field. Luckily for Packers fans he had a 55-yard return, forcing Asher Allen into an embarrassing missed tackle. Outside of his special teams, he played 33% of the offensive snaps and had three catches which were both highs for him. He’s has the potential to be a special player if he can eliminate the fixable mistakes like the fumble he had.
Minnesota – Three Performances of Note
Not Enough Blockers Equals Not Enough Time
Since being drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft, Phil Loadholt (-4.3) hasn’t exactly panned out the way the Vikings hoped at right tackle. While a lot of players allowed pressure on the night, Loadholt allowed by far the most with two sacks and three pressures. The rest of the offensive line did a good job at blocking the men lined up across from them. While Loadholt individually was a problem, a bigger issue was that on 31 of the Vikings 39 drop backs, the Packers sent five or six players. The running backs could only do so much on blitz pickups, which left Christian Ponder (+1.1) running all over the field trying to find the time to throw. On the 19 plays he saw pressure, he had just five completions which was compounded with three sacks and an interception. The Vikings were down early which led them to throw the ball often, and their pass protection problems kept the ball from getting down the field.
No Right Safety Combination
Throughout the game, the Vikings rotated their safeties in and out trying to slow down the Packers. However they failed to find a successful combination leading to another stellar night by Aaron Rodgers. The player with the most snaps was Jamarca Sanford (-2.3) who also ended up with the worst coverage rating. Once each quarter he allowed a big play, starting with a Greg Jennings touchdown in the first quarter. This was followed by, a 25-yard Jermichael Finley catch which led to a field goal in the second, a 23-yard Jordy Nelson catch for a first down in the third, and lastly Jordy Nelson’s second touchdown of the night in the fourth. The other starting safety Husain Abdullah (-0.1) sustained a concussion which didn’t help the defense any. While it was the short plays that kept the Packers moving down the field, it was the big plays allowed by the safeties that led to points.
The Silver Lining On the Night
The Vikings weren’t able to stop the pass but, on the bright side they did fare well against the run. They held the two Green Bay running backs to just 69 yards on 21 carries; just over three yards per carry. Thirteen different players had at least one stop in the game, led by Jared Allen‘s (+3.9) six. Also noticeable was 2011 fourth round pick Christian Ballard‘s (+3.0) performance. He essentially played every snap until mid-way through the second quarter when the Vikings went back to their typical rotation. In that time he pulled in tackles for gains of 2 yards, 1 yard, and a 4-yard loss. The 33 defensive snaps were a high for him and he shined in his opportunity.
– Packers undrafted rookie safety M.D. Jennings had his first defensive snaps, while fellow UDFA linebacker Vic So’oto added to the one he had against Denver in Week 4.
– Adrian Peterson was much better running to the left than right. He had 10 carries for 52 yards to the left, compared to four carries for -1 yard to the right.
– The top two games in our Accuracy Percentage rankings this year for any quarterback both came from Aaron Rodgers while facing the Vikings.
PFF Game Ball
Three missed tackles are alarming but for once the term “he was all over the field” was a completely fitting description of a defensive performance. Charles Woodson was everywhere in run defense, pass rush and pass coverage for the Packers showing his best form in all areas of the game.
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