Against the Green Bay Packers, in Lambeau Field and during prime time, the Minnesota Vikings were able to defeat the reigning NFC North champions to claim their first divisional crown since 2009.
By Jordan Wright
This game had disaster written all over it. A high stakes game on the road during prime time is usually a recipe for a Vikings loss. Considering that the Vikings had already made the playoffs, it wouldn’t have been a stretch to see them come out and put in a half-hearted effort, hoping to escape unscathed and living to fight another day. But that isn’t what happened at all, because these aren’t the same Minnesota Vikings as years past.
Coming into this game, I thought the only way the Vikings would be able to pull off the victory would be if quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was able to out duel Aaron Rodgers in what I thought was going to be a shoot-out. Apparently I couldn’t have been more wrong. Bridgewater only completed 10 of 19 passes for 99 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. His 99 yards were the fewest yards thrown by Bridgewater in any game, and his quarterback rating of 45.7 is the second lowest of his career.
So if he had one of the worst games of his career, it must’ve been Adrian Peterson who put the team on his back and rushed us into the NFC North winner’s circle, right?
Peterson ran the ball 19 times, but only accounted for 67 yards (3.5 yards per carry) and a touchdown. In a scary moment that proved to only be a minor setback, Adrian was brought to the locker room to have his back looked at, but he was able to make it back towards the end of the game and should be fine for next week’s matchup against the Seahawks.
With Bridgewater and Peterson having sub-par games, it was up to the defense to shut down Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy and the rest of the Green Bay offense. Eric Kendricks had one of the best games of his career Sunday night, registering nine tackles and consistently getting to the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage while also harassing Rodgers all game. Kendricks’ fellow UCLA linebacker, Anthony Barr, also had himself a phenomenal game, filling up the stat sheet with five tackles, a sack, two tackles for a loss, a pass defended and a quarterback hit. With the linebackers having themselves a wonderful game, the Packer’s offensive line was forced to pay more attention to them, allowing the defensive line more one on one matchups. Everson Griffen was flying around all game, recording six tackles, two sacks, three tackles for a loss and four(!) quarterback hits. Captain Munnerlyn was also able to return a fumble for a touchdown, which helped seal the victory.
The player of the game for me was Xavier Rhodes. After coming on strong during the last half of last season, most people (myself included) were expecting Rhodes to take the next step forward this season and become a shutdown cornerback. While that hasn’t happened this year, Rhodes has still proven he is a very capable young corner who is only getting better. Sunday’s matchup against the Packers was one of the best games I have ever seen from him, and Pro Football Focus agrees with me. Rhodes was their highest rated corner in week 17, and they had this to say about him:
“Rhodes had a big-time pick, one pass breakup, and allowed just 38 yards into his coverage, as he made life hard for the Packers’ receivers.”
The player who needs the most improvement this week is Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson was only able to return one kick off, but he was able to do the most with it with a 70 yard return. Unfortunately for Patterson, he was caught by the Packers’ kicker, Mason Crosby, who proceeded to punch the ball out of Patterson’s grip, with the Packers eventually recovering. Luckily for Patterson that fumble didn’t come back to bite the Vikings in the rear end. But at the end of the day, he only has one job on this team, and when you’re getting caught by the kicker and he makes you fumble, it’s safe to say he isn’t doing his job well.
Looking ahead, the Vikings will face the Seattle Seahawks in Minnesota on Sunday, Jan. 10. The Seahawks have already played in Minnesota this year, beating the Vikings 38-7. I have no doubt that the Seahawks will show up and be ready to play, but this time will be different. Last time these two teams met, the Vikings were missing their best defensive players. Hopefully with Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith back, this matchup becomes a little more even.
As always, if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me at facebook.com/ skoljwright, or on Twitter @skoljwright. Skol!