I’ll be writing my immediate response to what’s happening during tonight’s MNF game below. There are a few ways this could go. Either I make astute observations during the game and am vindicated as they turn out to be relevant, or it turns into an angry rant as the Vikings manage to lose in a new, inventive way. Check back here throughout and after the game to see which it is.
30 minutes before kickoff: Earlier in the week, I went out on a limb and said the Vikings would have a shot to knock off the unbeaten Packers. I’m going to stand by that. I’ll say 31-28 Vikings behind big games by Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen. If the Vikings defense can put enough pressure on Rodgers to make him a little uncomfortable in the pocket that will help a lot. Don’t underestimate the fact that Antoine Winfield is in this game, both against the pass and the run. Also, Christian Ponder needs to throw well enough to open up space for AP in the running game. Utilizing Peterson in the pass game will help that happen. Ponder will also have to utilize Tight Ends Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph so he doesn’t need to throw anywhere near Charles Woodson. All this being said, Aaron Rodgers commands on of the best offensives I’ve ever seen and it would certainly be no surprise if the Packers win this game. I just expect it to be close at least. On a personal level, the Packers need to be knocked down a few pegs, and I really hope that the Vikings can be the ones to do it tonight.
Coin flip: Packers win the toss and defer. Interested to see what they come out with in terms of a game plan. Had the bye week to get things set, this first drive should be an indicator of the game plan. We’ll see if they can come out with the same fireworks as the first game when Ponder hit Jenkins on the deep throw to get them down to the 1-yard line.
Kickoff: Touchback out the back of the end zone. Hate the new kick off rule.
14:02 1st Not exactly what I’d look for from the Vikings. Solid run by AP. Good pass rush by the Pack. Tough luck.
13:42 1st Oh. Well, I guess letting them run a punt back means you aren’t letting Rodgers beat you. Vikings need to come back with some points on this drive. Vikings have Lorenzo Booker back for this kickoff, while Harvin was back on the first. Don’t quite understand this. Put the playmaker in the position to make plays.
12:19 1st Vikes pick up their first 1st down. Expect to see a lot of this play calling. Run, run, pass.
10:24 1st Ponder fumble. Nothing good every happens when Joe Webb is lined up on the field. Solid run by AP and then a really poised throw from Ponder that’s dropped. He’s seeing a ton of pressure, but he’s still making the throws where he needs to. Let’s see what the defense can do.
9:30 1st First play. Sack by Jared Allen. Vikings need to have that happen a lot. Overall solid pressure on the series, but Driver makes a bonkers catch for the conversion
5:02 1st Vikings getting good pressure on most of the plays, but Rodgers just makes a perfect throw against a weak sceonday. 14-0 Pack. So, maybe I was wrong about the Vikings having a chance. Offense needs to answer.
4:27 1st Joe Webb takes a direct snap and then Harvin lines up as the RB with AP on the sideline. Bad stuff.
4:07 1st Holy crud what a throw by Ponder. Side steps Matthews then hits Shiancoe deep. Awesome poise.
2:40 1st Harvin with an egregious offensive pass interference penalty. But then AP just blasts through for the 1st down. He’s a joy to watch. Overused, but he does run violently.
1:18 1st Bad three play sequence ends with Woodson taking the ball away from Shiancoe for a pick. Said earlier Ponder needs to learn from the last game. Didn’t on that play. Undercut again. Looks like he may have bobbled it onto the ground. Will be challenged. I say no INT. Either way, Ponder is facing enormous pressure. Next drive, they need to keep pounding with AP and work some play action into the mix. To be honest, if this is the game plan with two weeks to prepare, it’s pretty pathetic.
1:14 1st Vindicated with the challenge. Overturned. Longwell nails the 47-yard goal, but Fred Evans gets called for the false start. Longwell then misses the 52-yarder. If you were watching with me you’d hear lots of expletives. Just so typical. Decent drive, no points. If the Packers can score a TD here, this game might just be over.
End of the 1st Main takeaways: Rodgers is abusing this secondary. The D-line needs to keep putting pressure on Rodgers to try to keep him off balance. The Pack running game has done nothing. The Vikings offensive line needs to give Ponder a little more time in the pocket. Also, the play calling needs to start accounting for the pressure. In the 2nd quarter the Vikings need to start using some screen passes and play action to force more Packers back into coverage.
14:07 2nd Vikings bring good pressure and make the stop for the 3 and out. But Rodgers stays on the field and makes a solid throw to Finley for the first. On a side note, so sick of the ESPN crew pumping up Rodgers on every throw. Yes, he’s good. No, he’s not a heavenly being. Shut up. He just threw the ball into the ground. Guess he’s not perfect.
12:04 2nd Field goal for the Pack. Vikings bringing solid pressure, especially from Allen who picked up a big sack. The secondary just keeps getting beat. Too many mismatches over the middle. The safeties just cannot cover Finley. Like I said last time, Vikings need to put something on the board here.
10:10 2nd Ponder converts a big 3rd down with his legs. O-line still not protecting him well enough though. Need to see them get AP more involved in the offense.
9:04 2nd Oh. The flea-flicker interception into double coverage. That’s just…infuriating. Pack points on this one and I’m calling it.
7:05 2nd Vikings force a 3-and-out. So it’s not over yet. Points here would be good. Again, run the ball with AP. I’d love to see a few passes for him here. If he get the ball in space, anything can happen. Don’t force throws. Ponder needs to just manage this game.
2:47 2nd AP and Ponder make some solid plays. March down the field a little. Then Harvin gets called for holding, then falls over on the next handoff. Next play is a screen pass to him, but its covered. I get that he’s a play maker, but I’d much rather see the offense centered around AP, not Harvin. Kluwe punts it down to the 2-yard line. Vikings D should make this stand.
1:59 2nd How you give up that 10-yard run is beyond me. As usual, the Vikings defense folds when it faces a big play. I don’t know why plays like this still surprise me.
:57 2nd Vikings brought good enough pressure to force the Pack to punt it away. To be honest, the D-line is playing well and pressuring Rodgers. They’re saving the secondary’s scalps. Let’s see if the Vikings can put anything on the board with the 1-minute drill.
:29 2nd Well that was a quick 3-and-out. Hopefully the Vikings can just ride this into half time down 17.
Halftime Well it could be worse, but it could be better. Special teams errors have cost the team 10 points. Holding Rodgers to one touchdown in the first half is actually not that bad. As I predicted, Jared Allen has been instrumental in keeping Rodgers off-balance and under pressure. He needs to keep that up in the 2nd half for the Vikings to have a prayer. The real trouble is on the offensive side of the ball. The Vikings offense has no real flow to it. Peterson has not been involved enough. He can’t bust off a large run if they don’t give him the ball. Short passes to TEs, screens, and RB flat routes should help Ponder open up the offense a little more. Percy Harvin is good, but the offense needs to center around AP in the 2nd half. Plain and simple. I’m not hopeful about the Vikings turning this around. We’ll see how the Vikings adjust after halftime. The Packers opening drive will say a lot about how the defense will fare the rest of this game.
10:45 3rd Vikings get beat on a deep play action pass, but are able to force 4th down. Rodgers completes a pass to a wide-open Jordy Nelson. Should’ve been pass interference. Pretty big push off. Off course, no call. Sigh. Rodgers goes back to Nelson who abuses Griffin with the stiff arm and gets in for the TD. 24-0. That’s ball game. Unless the Vikings can get a TD this drive. I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself…
9:22 3rd 3-and-out. Just a terrible sequence. Packers bringing pressure, and no WR is open for Ponder. No space for AP to run. Game over.
9:10 3rd Fumble on the kick! Vikings ball. Need a TD here from the 15.
8:41 3rd Touchdown Vikings! Both Harvin and AP got space to run, and Peterson punched it in. Somehow, the game is only 24-7. Somehow, there is hope. Let’s see how the Vikings crush my soul now.
6:21 3rd Two minute touchdown drive for the Packers. Vikings D couldn’t get any pressure on Rodgers and they had no issues scoring. Now its over. Again.
1:30 3rd Vikes turn it over on downs. Woodson undercuts another out route. Again! Vikings looking pretty ineffectual. Not sure what the answers are. Ponder starting to get roughed up.
10:59 4th Another TD for Nelson. The Packers sure do make it look easy. They are pretty good. It helps that the Vikings defense is equivalently not good though.
4:27 4th The Packers backup QB just ran the ball into the end zone. That is all.
Well that was pretty embarrassing for the Vikings. The Packers are every bit as good as everyone expects them to be. Especially considering they were coming out of a bye week, the Vikings looked lost most of the game. Bad penalties, ineffective offensive sequences, and poor execution plagued them all game. They will be rebuilding for at least the next few seasons. I thought they could keep it close. I was very wrong.