ReFo: Vikings @ Packers, Week 12
A game that ended in the years first tie had sloppy play on both sides. Both running backs, however, stood out. Gordon McGuinness looks at the notable performances.
ReFo: Vikings @ Packers, Week 12
Sunday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers featured a rarity in the NFL, the dreaded tied game. The Vikings had built a 16 point lead earlier in the 4th quarter but, after running the ball well all game, couldn’t keep the ball out of Matt Flynn’s hands enough when it mattered.
Flynn lead four scoring drives after taking over for the less than inspiring, with the exception of that touchdown run, Scott Tolzien. Flynn didn’t exactly light up the Vikings defense either, but he made enough plays to lead them back from the brink.
It always feels somewhat unfulfilling to reach the end of a game without a winner, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some big time performances so, with that in mind, let’s highlight those who stood out the most.
Minnesota Vikings – Three Performances of Note
Strong Running Game Sets the Tone
It’s become something of a tradition in the last few games between these two, but once again the Vikings were able to run the ball at will against Packers on Sunday, with Adrian Peterson (+1.5) and Toby Gerhart (+1.0) combining to rush for 237 yards. Peterson forced five missed tackles on 32 carries which, coupled with an average of 2.69 yards after contact per carry, gave him an Elusive Rating of 40.7.
It didn’t hurt that they were running behind a strong run blocking unit, with only tight end John Carlson and right guard Brandon Fusco finishing the day with negative run blocking grades among the offensive linemen, tight ends and full backs. The teams best blocker was Rhett Ellison (+3.9), who impressed when lined up at full back and also at tight end. Holding his own on a few lead blocks, and on some in-line blocking, he finished the game with his highest grade this season.
Defensive Line Dominance
Despite not being able to hold on for the win, the Vikings will be more than happy with the stellar performances of Jared Allen (+2.7), Kevin Williams (+4.1), and Brian Robison (+1.4). Robison finished the game with a Pass Rushing Productivity Rating of 13.8, with 10 total pressures from 56 pass rushes. It certainly helped that he was left free on more than one occasion, picking up four of his pressures unblocked, but he got the better of Marshall Newhouse with relative ease too.
Allen did his best work against the run, taking advantage when the Packers left him one on one with a tight end but, like Robison, he didn’t have much trouble when matched up against the offensive tackle. Beating left tackle David Bakhtiari for five total pressures and forcing a holding penalty were his highlights as a pass rusher, but it was his Run Stop Percentage of 12.5% that really stood out.
Williams meanwhile was as good as any player on the field on Sunday, with “green” grades both as a pass rusher and against the run. He finished the game with just two quarterback hurries, but also added two batted passes giving him some form of disruption once every 12 passing plays. Adding four tackles, his impact was felt against the run, with Williams beating opposing offensive linemen to force cuts from running backs too.
Rhodes Steps Up
Starting again at the left cornerback spot, rookie first round draft pick Xavier Rhodes (+4.2) had the best performance of his young career, and by a significant margin too. Targeted 12 times, he allowed six receptions for 40 yards, including a touchdown on a slant by Jarrett Boykin on 3rd-and-6 with 3:33 to go in regulation. What was particularly impressive however, was the manner in which his incompletions came about, with four pass breakups.
Two of the four came on back to back plays from 2nd-and-7 with 3:32 to go in the first half as he broke up two passes intended for James Jones. The first came on a go route down the sideline, with the second coming on a slant, where Rhodes was able to reach around and swat the ball away. He’s had his challenges this season, but he definitely showed the skill which made him a first round pick in this one.
Green Bay – Three Performances of Note
The Eddie Lacy Show
Remember when the Packers didn’t have a running game? That changed with the selection of Eddie Lacy (+4.5) in the second round of April’s NFL Draft. The former University of Alabama standout continuing his strong rookie campaign on Sunday. For the seventh time in the past eight games he had at least 22 carries and for the sixth time in that span he totalled over 50 yards after contact.
With an average of 2.48 yards after contact per carry, and nine missed tackles forced from 31 touches, he finished with an Elusive Rating of 72.0 Those missed tackles mean that currently just two running backs have forced more missed tackles on running plays than Lacy, as he continues to prove difficult for opposing defenders to bring down, especially once he gets going with his 230 pound frame.
Stats Don’t Tell the Full Story for A.J. Hawk
If stats told the whole story, we’d be here to talk about what a fantastic game A.J. Hawk (-2.2) had, with two sacks and two tackles resulting in a defensive stop, including a forced fumble, the highlights of his day. They don’t however, and sadly Hawk didn’t have a fantastic game. One of those sacks came in pursuit, while his tackle for loss came after the run had been bounced away from its originally intended direction, with Hawk simply being in the right place at the right time on both occasions.
Coming off second best against lead blockers and pulling guards, he just never made the impact that a two sack headline suggests. His game seemed to get worse as the afternoon wore on, with just two positively graded plays in the second half, culminating in a missed tackle on a Peterson run on 2nd-and-7 with 2:50 left in overtime.
Of the six players to see at least 20 snaps in the Green Bay secondary, none finished the game with a positive grade in coverage, with Tramon Williams (-0.3) the best of a bad bunch. The trio of Morgan Burnett (-3.4), Davon House (-2.3) and M.D. Jennings (-0.9) combined to miss four tackles, with Burnett leading with two. Meanwhile situation players Micah Hyde (-1.0) and Jarrett Bush (-1.1) combined to allow seven receptions for 55 yards, despite being on the field for just 39 snaps in coverage.
House was boom or bust, allowing six receptions for 67 yards, but also breaking up two passes. He seemed to be gambling throughout, including on 3rd-and-14 with 3:59 left in overtime, as he got a fingertip to the ball. Was he lucky that Cordarrelle Patterson wasn’t able to adjust and come down with the ball in the end zone? Probably, but that little touch was enough to put the Vikings rookie off, on what wound up being a game defining play.
– Christian Ponder had a QB Rating of 135.8 when blitzed, but just 69.9 when not.
– With eight receptions and four kick returns, Patterson had 180 all purpose yards at Lambeau Field.
– Nine different Green Bay defenders allowed a catch in coverage.
The luxury of a tied game is that you don’t feel obliged to choose someone from the winning team and, with another big performance, Eddie Lacy was the best player on the field on Sunday.
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Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.