Packers re­dis­cover keys to win­ning

Run game, big QB plays, pass rush beat Vik­ings

Packer Plus - - Packers 30, Vikings 13 - By MARTIN HEN­DRICKS

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.”

MARK HOFF­MAN / MHOFFMAN@JOUR­NALSEN­TINEL.COM

Aaron Rodgers looks for a re­ceiver in the fourth quar­ter. The Packers quar­ter­back threw for 212 yards with two touch­downs.

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