Packers rediscover keys to winning
Run game, big QB plays, pass rush beat Vikings
Minneapolis — Wide receiver Charles Johnson was gracious in defeat, talking with reporters in the subdued Vikings locker room in the wake of Green Bay's 30-13 victory.
Johnson, a former Packers' seventh-round selection in the 2013 NFL draft and former practice team member, wanted to leave TCF Bank Stadium as quickly as possible.
“I just want to put this one behind us,” he said with a weak smile.
“We didn't play our game today,” said Johnson, who did not record a reception. “We really hurt ourselves today with penalties. Our defense did a great job of holding them to field goals, but we just didn't execute offensively like we can. No excuses, they outplayed us tonight.”
Johnson said little has changed about the Packers offense since his brief tenure in Green Bay.
“They run the exact same offense and I still remember everything,” he said. “Aaron Rodgers manages the game and made the plays tonight. And the Packers defense did a good job stopping our running game and pressuring the quarterback. Give them credit and we have to continue to fight and get better. We'll see them again in Green Bay.”
Over the course of its three-game losing streak, three key factors were noticeably absent in the Packers' performance: an effective running game, timely big plays from their league MVP quarterback and a consistent pass rush from their defense.
Green Bay rediscovered them all against Minnesota.
Eddie Lacy looked like his former self, running hard and moving the pile with 100 yards in 22 carries — an impressive 4.5-yards per carry against one of the NFL's stingiest run defenses.
“I mean, we don't want to give anybody 100 yards rushing, so I would hope I would say it is surprising,” defensive end Brian Robison said.
“He is a big back, he runs downhill and is hard to bring down. We know we have to tackle better, but he is a good back, there is no doubt about it.”
Rodgers’ statistics were modest — 16 completions in 34 attempts for 212 yards — but he had two key touchdown passes in the final 30:06 of the game.
His 10-yarder to Randall Cobb just before halftime gave Green Bay a 16-6 cushion at halftime, and his 27-yarder on 3rd-and-9 to James Jones was vintage Rodgers.
He slid outside the pocket to his right and fired a perfect strike in the end zone to James Jones, who just got both feet down before falling out of bounds.
Linebacker Chad Greenway credited Rodgers with extending plays and forcing Viking defenders to cover receivers longer.
“Rodgers made a lot of plays with his feet and out of the pocket as he does,” Greenway said. “When we did (contain him), we seemed to hurt ourselves with penalties. So yeah, it was a frustrating loss obviously, one of those you need to get at home in a tough situation like that with two good football teams.”
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was more succinct.
“You can't keep giving Aaron Rodgers opportunities or all of a sudden he'll burn you,” he said. “We kept them contained, but then he'd made the critical touchdown throws when he needed to. That's why he's Aaron Rodgers.
“And Eddie Lacy was bouncing around out there like a bowling ball at times and kept his legs moving. We didn't play well on a national stage today.”
The Packers defense certainly rose to the occasion, limiting the NFL's leading rusher to just 45 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown and sacking Teddy Bridgewater six times.
“Opportunities were kind of slim, and I think penalties play a role in that as well,” running back Adrian Peterson said. “But we have to take our hats off to Green Bay. They did a great job containing us as a group today.”
Peterson had 32 yards on nine carries at intermission with Minnesota trailing, 16-6.
Rendered one-dimensional and playing catch up, Packers defenders dialed up their pass rush.
“We just couldn't get it going for whatever reason. . . . couldn't keep anchored and keep Rodgers on the sideline like we game planned,” Peterson said.
“They came and wanted it more today. We didn't play our best offensive- ly, defensively, or on special teams. The team you've seen today, it wasn't us. It was out of sync, out of whack.”
For the past month, that's been the Green Bay Packers. It was no doubt a short but sweet plane ride home for the team back to Wisconsin, tied with Minnesota at 7-3 for first place in the NFC North.
The road to the division title may again — for the fifth consecutive season — go through Green Bay as the Packers and Vikings meet again on Jan. 3 at Lambeau Field.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who gashed the Green Bay defense with six receptions for 106 yards including a 47-yard touchdown, said if Minnesota wants to accomplish its goal it must win the head-to-head games on a major stage.
“If we want to get over the hump and if we want to be champions of the NFC North, that's who we have to do,” he said.
“They've taken our division the last four years, and everyone knows that the division goes through there. The bottom line is that we still have six games left, we're both 7-3, and we'll have an opportunity to go there.”
Aaron Rodgers looks for a receiver in the fourth quarter. The Packers quarterback threw for 212 yards with two touchdowns.