The streak is over. Back in the 2005-06 season, when the Green Bay Packers went 4-12, the Minnesota Vikings beat the Packers in Week 11 by three, 20-17. After that, Green Bay won five straight games against the Minnesota. They were two points away from making it six in a row Sunday.
In the Packers Bye Week Report, I stated that the passing game is what really keeps Green Bay rolling on offense. Well, the passing game was sub-par against Minnesota. Aaron Rodgers really didn’t seem like his normal self, putting up a mere 142 yards on a 15-26 clip. He kept the ball with the offense, throwing no interceptions, but with no touchdowns that wasn’t enough. Especially when the opposing quarterback put up better than him. Gus Frerotte, a guy that would be standing on the sidelines for most teams, may have thrown three interceptions, but the positives made up for it. He threw 15-for-28, had 151 yards and threw two TD’s. In my book he had a much better day than Rodgers.
I also said in the Bye Week Report that Ryan Grant needed to pick the running game up, because when the passing game fails the team will need him. Today he ran better than he has been this season. Grant had 16 carries for 75 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and a scores, really keeping Green Bay alive when the ball was in their hands. But, like Rodgers, the guy on the Vikings outplayed him. Adrian Peterson almost had a 200-yard day. His 30-192 line had him averaging over six yards per carry, and he also scored. His stats easily pales Grant’s game. Without AP, Minnesota would still be searching for a win over the Packers.
But if there was one group of players to blame for this devastating loss, it has to be the offensive line. The typical holding calls and a false start moved the ball back, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The margin of the loss was one point, and you can credit the O-Line for giving up four. Trailing 10-7, Rodgers dropped back and lineman Kevin Williams penetrated and rushed Rodgers. The ball was hit, rolled into the endzone, and Rodgers made a smart play of forcing a safety instead of risking a Viking touchdown. Later in the first half, Jared Allen blew by the offensive line and brought down Rodgers for another safety. This did two things. The most obvious one is giving up four points, which could have been the key to Minnesota’s win. The second was giving the Vikings the ball and more possession time. In a game like this, it really didn’t help that the Packers had the ball 12:10 less than the Vikings. Even though Minnesota didn’t score on the drives resulting from the free kicks, they kept Rodgers and the gang off the field. If each team had equal possession time, it could have (and probably would have) been a different outcome.
After a Peterson-led drive with little time left in the game, the Vikings went on top, 28-27. Green Bay moved the ball downfield, and the last play of the game would be a 49-yard field goal by Mason Crosby. The game in a dome and it isn’t an impossible kick. The snap was good, the hold was good, and the kick was all but good. It seemed as though it could split the uprights, but at the last second the kick glided past the right goal post. Just off. Some people could be quick to judge the last play and say “if he would have made that kick, they would have won. Crosby’s fault.”, but the Packers were lucky that they even got in that situation. The way they were playing this game, it wasn’t all skill that took the offense to the 32-yard line.
So the game is over, and like in every week, win or lose you just have to move on. But unlike last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, there isn’t even a moral victory to take if they wanted to. Against Tennessee, Green Bay showed that they had a legit shot against any team in the NFL. Against Minnesota this past Sunday, they showed that they could give any team in the NFL a legit shot.
How can the Packers solve their problem? Well, here are three things they really need to do:
1) Make sure Rodgers passes well. As of right now, the team scores points when he has a good game. When he’s off, the offense struggles a bit more than usual. Just like when they had Favre, the passing game is a must for the green and gold.
2) Step up the running game. Grant needs some 100-yard games. He doesn’t need anything spectatular like AP just did, but to balance out the offense more, he needs to be more effective. The road will be less rocky when he puts up solid games.
3) Block! Without the two safties, Green Bay could have easily won that game. But the offensive line blew assingments when backed up against the ropes twice, and it came at a heavy price. Giving Grant holes, Rodgers time, and, well, relieving the pressure as a whole could really help.
Right now the defense is going somewhat smoothly, but the rush defense needs to pick up the pace. Unfortunately, veteran linebacker Nick Barnett tore a ligament in his leg during the game and is out for the rest of the season. The pass defense is great, but the rush defense is near the bottom of the league. Barnett being out makes things even worse, so the backup has to perform well and the defense all has to bail him and and step it up themselves if they want to succeed.
Looking ahead, at 4-5 Green Bay needs to play as close to perfect as they can. It’s a three-team race for the NFC North crown, and they are only one game out. In that aspect, it looks good, but a glance at the team’s upcoming games makes things seem a bit tougher. Up next is the Chicago Bears, who gave the Pack two of their three losses last year. Kyle Orton may be back, and the two games against the Bears are must-wins for Green Bay. After that are the New Orleans Saints, a team that is beatable. If they don’t give them the game, the Packers have a nice shot against the Saints. Three weeks from now, though, are the under-the-radar Carolina Panthers, who are shaping up to be one of the best teams in the NFC. Green Bay will have to play like they did agaisnt the Titans to outplay Carolina.
It seems like there will be plenty of drama coming up for the Packer Nation. The journey will be tough, and the team will have to play it’s best, but they can do it. 4-5 isn’t where they want to be, but it isn’t a place where they can’t improve from and win the division. Anything can happen; it just depends how the guys play on the field.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers Adrian Peterson Carolina Panthers Cheez Chicago Bears Green Bay Packers Gus Frerotte Jared Allen Kevin Williams Mason Crosby Minnesota Vikings New Orleans Saints Nick Barnett Ryan Grant Tennessee Titans