The Packers won many battles, but in the end, they lost the war.
The score belies the struggles the Packers had against the Vikings, losing by only a touchdown at 30-23. Penalties, defensive gaffes, and an embarrassing performance by both lines were somewhat muted by Aaron Rodgers ability with the hurry-up offense. In the end, however, a two-minute offense isn't going to beat team that outplayed you the other 58.
With that, here are this week's QuickHits:
* I mentioned this in my pre-game strategy, but it wasn't rocket science: you stop Adrian Peterson, and force Brett Favre to beat you through the air. By every rational measure of common sense, this would lead to a victory by the Packers.
Peterson, the best back in football, carried the ball 25 times for a measly 55 yards and a mere 2.1 yards per carry, numbers we've unfortunately expected more and more from Ryan Grant lately. Even the 2.1 ypc doesn't show the number of times that AP was stopped for negative or no yardage. The Packer bottled Peterson up as much as any team in his career, and for a defense that has been much-maligned for its inability to stop the run, you have to give them props for filling those gaps.
But, the Packers had no answer in their pass defense, in which Favre went virtually untouched the entire game. Yes, the Vikings have a stout offensive line, but there is no excuse for not even getting in there to disrupt the thought process of a 39-year old quarterback. Favre had time and made critical play after play.
* Jermichael Finley had a career day, recording 6 receptions for 128 yards and some great tough yards after the catch. Many of us predicted that he would have a good day against the Vikings' suspect safeties, and he did. Unfortunately, he went completely invisible for the two middle quarters, only resurfacing when the Packers were playing in that two-minute offense.
Finley was the only consistent receiving threat other than Donald Driver, and it was a pity not to keep him involved. Could have made a big difference.
* Good news: Ryan Grant averaged almost five yards a carry. Bad news: Ryan Grant only carried the ball eleven times. Yes, the Packers were playing from behind much of the game, but you can't keep abandoning the running game, especially when it is working. Incidentally, Grant added 50 yards on four receptions, as the screen pass finally found its way back into the Packers' playbook.
Unfortunately, my little weekly tally did not work out in the Packers' favor again: Penalty yards, 57, Primary Rusher's yards, 51. More on the penalties later.
* The announcers made the Jared Allen forced fumble to be all on Daryn Colledge, but it really had to be placed on Allen Barbre's head. His failure to block Jimmy Kennedy on the right side forced Rodgers to the left and into Allen. Obviously, like most right-handed quarterbacks, Rodgers prefers to scramble to his right. It made Allen look like it was all him, but had Barbre held his block or pushed Kennedy inside, Rodgers would have had time to evade Allen in his more comfortable direction.
* Rodgers has to take some heat for the failed touchdown pass to Donald Lee on fourth down. Yes, he wanted to go to Finley on the right side, but when JF fell down, he looked to the left at Lee. Lee dropped the ball, but that was in part because he was off-balance and falling backwards, and Rodgers threw the ball low. It's almost impossible to reach down when your momentum is taking you backwards, and Lee actually made a valiant effort to reach out as far as he could to meet the ball.
Sure, Rodgers was under pressure, but when we think of the gifts he brings to the game, his pinpoint accuracy and placing the ball where only the receiver can catch it is the one that comes to mind. Matt Flynn can come in and throw the ball at receiver's feet. Rodgers needs to put that ball where Lee can catch it.
* Aaron Rodgers has now been sacked 20 times in four games. I want you to really think about that. Twenty times. "Running for his life" are the words the announcers used, while scrambling behind the Ted Thompson-built offensive line. I remember a day back in 2005, when I commented that Favre was "running for his life" behind a line of Wil Whittaker and Adrien Klemm, but because he chose to throw the ball instead of taking repeated sacks, others told me the onus was on Favre, not the line.
Well, Rodgers is now on pace to be sacked 80 times this season. David Carr holds the NFL record for being sacked the most times in one season with 76. Do I think Rodgers will reach it? Nope. He'll be injured long before that.
What confuses me is that Rodgers seemed to be very adept at throwing the ball away, both last season and in the preseason. I don't understand his penchant for hanging on to the ball.
And, sorry to say, there is an awfully large onus on Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy right now for the acquisition and development of the talent we have on this line. Thompson has drafted no less than ten offensive linemen in his five years, and McCarthy and James Campen have had four years to develop them. Either the talent stinks, or the coaching stinks. Either way, eight sacks is inexcusable.
* Credit the offense for finding a way to get Rodgers some time, though. The Packers got the Vikings off guard in the beginning of the game with the three-step drops and quick passes. However, as the game went on, the Vikings were able to adjust to it and held it a bit more in check until the end of the game when Rodgers went into a two-minute offense and the Vikings went into a safer defense.
I really thought the answer was going to be max protect, but the Packers and Rodgers chose to keep passing quickly with and quick slants. However, in the end, while Rodgers passed for tons of yardage, the pressure got to him too often, resulting in an interception, a forced fumble, and a safety, as well as all those sacks.
* 7.3 That's how many seconds Favre had on one play to literally stand in the pocket. On the play, both Aaron Kampman and Johnny Jolly dropped into coverage and the Packers appeared to be rushing three men....rather ineffectively.
Embarrassing. All the cries of doing bodily harm to Brett this week, and we couldn't even get in to hit him after he threw it. I love Dom Capers, but Jon Gruden had a point in between his blubbering about how much he loved Brett: Aaron Kampman is awkward and nullified in pass coverage. He needs to put a hand down and do what he does best...rush the quarterback.
* The Vikings defensive stand in the red zone was incredible. Against any other defense, I think the Packers would have gotten in on any of those plays, whether it be the Grant run, the pass to Finley, or even the pass to Lee. You can't fault play selection on that drive...the Vikings simply hit us hard every time we got close.
* I am never one to whine about penalties. I will be the first to admit, however, that there were some iffy calls in that game, the holding call on Woodson being the most egregious. However, since they called Desmond Bishop offsides on the same play, you really can't complain too hard about it (especially because Poppinga decided to go offsides on the very next play).
The penalties evened out in the second half, but I will say this: I don't like to whine about penalties, especially in a game against the Vikings. I've heard far too many Vikings fans in the past wail and gnash their teeth, blaming the refs for any loss they've suffered to the Packers. It's a loser's complaint, and we have plenty of areas we can look at is to why our team was responsible for our loss today.
I'm not going to blame a penalty when we are allowing an opposing quarterback 7 seconds to dance around in the pocket, while our quarterback is getting nailed eight times for sacks.
* Hey, maybe that draft-day trade was worth it after all. Clay Matthews made the play of the game with that strip of the best back in football and running it in for a score. Heads-up and great instincts on his part. The fact that five of Matthews' closest friends were all there standing Adrian Peterson up sure helps, too. Nice job again on the run defense, allowing CM3 to make that play.
* The lack of depth at offensive tackle and in the secondary will be tested even further if the injuries to Daryn Colledge and Wil Blackmon prove to be lengthy. I suppose that Breno Guacomole will finally have to be activated for one of these games, eh?
Cullen Jenkins going down twice worried me a bit, too. We aren't exactly loaded (or completely healthy) along the defensive line. It's really not a good sign when your team is in dire need of the bye week to get healthy, and it is only Week 5.
*Anyone else notice Derrick Martin missed his over-the-top coverage on Bernard Berrian's touchdown catch over Al Harris?
Anyone else notice Jarrett Bush playing safety after that?
Sorry..I'm finding it a little bit amusing that we're holding the safeties accountable for bad play, (after Aaron Rouse was cut a couple weeks ago) but we're not benching players at other positions.
* All in all, I'm glad that the game turned out the way it did, if we had to lose. It may not sound like I'm a good Packer fan in saying it, but I'm not a "moral victory" kind of guy, and the Packers are not in the position to be feeling good about how they played today (and in fact, how they've played much of this and last season).
I happen to be going to the Viking game on November 1, and the storyline for this game should be about redemption. The Packers were exposed and beat, regardless of what the final score showed. When I go to this game, I expect that this bye week is going to be spent not on correcting pad levels or gap control, but righting the ship that may not have been sinking, but is simply unable to unfurl its sails and play up to its potential.
That is what needs to be corrected, and something I will address in a later article this week: has Ted Thompson acquired the talent needed for a quality team in his fifth season as GM? And if so, has Mike McCarthy coached it to reach its potential?
This kind of game, with this kind of result, can do one of two things: send you into a spiral for the rest of the season, or shake things up and motivate you to better yourself in ways you never thought of before (yes, even more creative than Rodgers pretending to walk to the sideines and running a direct snap to DeShawn Wynn).
All in all, what can you say? This was the situation Thompson and McCarthy didn't want to have to face, and in the end, it is now understandable why they didn't want to face their former quarterback. We now have a bye week to stew in our juices and figure things out.
Once again, we get to face one of perhaps the worst teams in NFL history (the Lions, not unlike the Rams) when we come back in Week 6, something that can help us feel better about our team, but one that can also be a poor measure of our success and execution. We'll follow that up with a game against the 0-4 Browns before facing off again with the Vikes at home. Yes, good chance we'll be 4-2 at that point, but the Packers need to do more than lower the quality of the opposition to make it through this season.