Green Bay Packers victory over Minnesota Vikings – a sign of things to come?


Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packersdecisive Thursday evening victory over the Minnesota Vikings leaves one to wonder if this is a sign of things to come going forward.

Prior to the soggy Thursday evening contest at Lambeau a friend of mine was contemplating her office pool. She was feeling confident and was planning to take the spread +1 in the Packers’ favor. She asked my opinion, which as you all know, I am happy to share.

With rain in the forecast I figured the game would be played in trenches and not much passing. Given Eddie Lacy had yet to really produce and the Packers rushing defense was soft at best I thought it would be a close game, but the Packers would prevail 24-20.

My friend took my advice and updated her pool picks. And then took to delivering dirty looks in my direction every time the Packers scored or forced a turnover. And there certainly were a lot of points scored and turnovers forced.

Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy.

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As a species we humans are trained to look for patterns. My assessment of how the Packers vs. Vikings game would play out was based on the Packers performance the first four games of the season.

And throughout those four games a few distinct patterns had emerged. The passing game had been good, but not great. The running game, specifically Eddie Lacy, was almost a non-factor. The defensive pass rush was sparse and the rushing defense was soft.

However against the Vikings the Packers dismantled almost all of those patterns.

The passing game did not yield the gaudy statistics that Aaron Rodgers so often produces. It was, however, incredibly efficient. Putting points on the board when opportunities arose and capitalizing on what the defense would give them.

Throughout Packers Nation the dialogue preceding Thursday’s game was concern for the production or lack thereof by Eddie Lacy and company. After a rookie campaign in which Lacy became known for road grading runs and accumulating yards in bunches the start of his 2014 season was disappointing.

Through the first four games Lacy rushed for a mere 161 yards. He was dancing and not hitting the hole with a head of steam. But against Minnesota he looked like the running back fans saw in 2013. A bowling ball of butcher knives disarming would-be tacklers and rolling up 105 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns in the process.

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The Packers offense may have scored five touchdowns, but that would not have been possible without the ferocious pass rush from the Packers’ defense.

The unit accumulated six sacks and 16 quarterback hits. What was most impressive is that the pressure on Christian Ponder came from a variety of players.

Mike Daniels collected a sack and a half, and Julius Peppers chipped in on another.

However, seeing Letroy Guion, A.J. Hawk and even Nick Perry, who had two sacks, getting in on the act was promising. It hints that this defense can be dynamic and less reliant on Clay Matthews.

As for the rushing defense there is still some work to be done. The Vikings, minus Adrian Peterson, were able to run the ball on the Packers defense for an average of 4.4 yards per carry.

But given the Packers steadily mounting lead the Vikings were forced to pass, all but abandoning the ground game.

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So the question is, was Thursday’s performance the result of a Packers squad that is, after five games, just beginning to hit its stride.

Were the four previous games a result of early season rust?

My guess is the answer lies somewhere in the middle. But if Eddie Lacy can be the ying to the Aaron Rodgers’ yang and the defense can continue to provide a steady pass rush, the rushing defense may just be a liability the Packers can live with.

Oh, and as for my friend and her office pool – as it turns out my advice came a bit late and her change didn’t go through.

She reaped the benefits of taking the spread +1.

For week five anyhow, everyone is happy in Packerland.