Monday, December 03, 2012

Recap: Packers Win At Home Against The Vikings, 23-14

I wasn't expecting a pretty game from the Green Bay Packers and they pretty much delivered. More injuries, another one (hamstring) for WR Jordy Nelson and a new ankle injury for OL T.J. Lang, also left the offense struggling to find a rhythm. It's not clear yet how serious those are for either player. If Lang misses the next game, then the Packers are down to six offensive lineman and would have to make a roster move this week for depth.

The big story on offense was the reappearance of the running game. As a team, the offense ran 36 times  for 152 yards and one touchdown. RB James Starks and RB Alex Green split the carries, but Starks broke out for a 22 yard touchdown run. The offensive line had more success creating running room than in any other game this season. They were very good to the strong side, where DE Brian Robison and LB Erin Henderson struggled in run defense. Even rookie RT Don Barclay, who replaced Lang in the second quarter, provided solid run blocking.

As for Barclay, he was OK but he committed a couple penalties. Replacement LG Evan Dietrich-Smith had a couple penalties too, including a false start that seemed to enrage Rodgers. They aren't going to be able to throw a lot with those two on the line, and they're going to have to rely on the running game, whether it's working or not.

The other big story was K Mason Crosby. He almost missed a 30 yard field goal which hit the goal post, and then he missed a 53 yard attempt, very wide right, to end the first half. But the low point was when his opening second half kickoff went out of bounds. At that point, I was thinking that if he's this unreliable, the Packers are going to have no choice but find a new kicker this week. What's Ryan Longwell up to? But then Crosby went onto comfortably make his next two attempts. The coaches have been waiting for Crosby to kick himself out of his slump, and he might have finally done it.

The Vikings' pass defense isn't great, entering the game ranked No. 23 overall, and that certainly helped QB Aaron Rodgers find some open receivers. It wasn't a brilliant return for WR Greg Jennings, but he made a couple of key receptions down the stretch to help ice the game. It was really a team effort in the passing game, as Rodgers completed passes to nine different receivers.

I was expecting RB Adrian Peterson to have a big game, and he turned out to be a monster. There needs to be some tackling drills for the safeties this week in practice. However, I didn't expect his performance to be a key to the game, and his 210 yards rushing still wasn't enough to bring them more than 14 points.

If the Vikings could have gotten anything from QB Christian Ponder, then they might have come away with an upset victory. His 12 for 25, 118 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 INTs is terrible, but it's actually worse than it looks. He had 86 passing yards on their last two drives, and both of them led to zero points, so he actually had under 40 yards passing until late in the fourth quarter. And his two interceptions, one in the red zone and one in the end zone, both took points away. His receivers didn't do him any favors as they rarely created separation from the defensive backs, but Ponder also missed some open receivers. I don't think Ponder's anything more than a decent backup quarterback and he certainly didn't change my mind on Sunday.

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