Here are the Green Bay Packers’ top performers from week twelve’s 26-26 tie with the Minnesota Vikings.
Mike Neal - Neal had arguably his best game of the season on Sunday. He appears to be back to full health and finally settling in at the left outside linebacker position. Neal recorded one sack and generated several pressures as he completely dominated Minnesota right tackle Phil Loadholt. He forced Christian Ponder out of the pocket several times and forced the Minnesota QB to rush several of his throws. Neal also recorded three tackles for a loss, and none more important than his big play against the run in overtime.
It was perhaps the play of the game for the Packers defense. On second-and-nine with the Minnesota offense on the Packers’ twelve yard-line after driving the length of the field on their first possession in overtime, Neal pushed his man five yards into the backfield, completely collapsing the right edge of the Vikings offense line, and shutdown an Adrian Peterson run to the outside. The five-yard loss put Minnesota in a 3rd-and-14 situation, which later forced them to kick a field goal. Just when the Vikings were looking to seal the win in overtime with a go-ahead touchdown, Neal stepped up and made a big play against the run. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Clay Matthews - The Packers top defensive playmaker was finally looking like his old self on Sunday. Matthews finished the game with four tackles, two sacks, and several pressures. In his second week wearing a less restrictive cast on his right hand, the Packers’ Pro Bowl linebacker was relentless on the field. He made several plays that may not show up on the stat sheet, including knocking down passes, collapsing the pocket, and bursting into the backfield to force Peterson to cut back inside.
The Packers’ pass rush, overall, look much improved this week, and that has as much to do with Matthews returning to full health than anything else. On several occasions, Matthews forced Ponder into the hands of other Packers pass rushers, like Mike Daniels or Brad Jones. Look for Matthews to make an even bigger impact in games as he continues to get healthier.
Eddie Lacy - Lacy was the Packers’ workhorse on Sunday. Consistently rushing against eight defenders in the box isn’t easy for any NFL running back. It didn’t help that the offensive line struggled to give Lacy clean looks either. On several occasions, Lacy turned what would should have been gains of zero or negative yards into gains of four or five.
Lacy broke tackles. He moved piles. He showed a new level of toughness that we haven’t seen from Packers halfbacks in recent memory. His hit on Xavier Rhodes electrified fans at Lambeau Field. Late in the fourth quarter, Lacy caught a swing pass in the flat, turned it upfield, and completely knocked the rookie defensive back on his butt before running out of bounds for a 13-yard gain.
His 110 yards rushing on 25 carries with a 4.4 rushing average and one touchdown was impressive against a defense that was scheming to stop the run, but Lacy was also effective in the passing game with 48 yards receiving on six receptions. Steadily, Lacy is proving he is that three-down back the Packers have been searching for.
Matt Flynn - In his post-game press conference, Coach McCarthy said he put Matt Flynn in at quarterback midway through the third quarter to provide a “spark” for the team. Flynn did just that. After only scoring seven points in three quarters, the Packers offense seemed revived with Flynn under center. Flynn orchestrated three straight scoring drives in the fourth quarter to tie the game up 23-23 with less than a minute left and dug the Packers out of a 23-7 deficit.
What Flynn did was nothing short of impressive. He threw for 218 yards and a touchdown in approximately two-and-half quarters of play. He got the Packers back in the game and turned what appeared to be a sure loss into a tie. I’m sure Flynn would have loved to have left the game with win, but in the very least, his late-game heroics have allowed the Packers to remain competitive in the NFC North with a 5-5-1 record. Look for Flynn to build off this strong performance this Thursday against the Detroit Lions.
(Click here to view last week’s top performers.)