Kevin Williams (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)
The Vikings had pretty well shut down the Packers running game, until the final drive when it mattered most and when Leslie Frazier was counting on it. One player took responsibility for that, a depleted secondary tried without three-fifths of its nickel defense, Adrian Peterson gets big praise, and more.
The Minnesota Vikings had a shot to beat the unbeaten, but the failure to shut down the Packers’ running game when it counted kept Green Bay undefeated and the Vikings alone at the bottom of the NFC North with a 1-6 record.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier had a decision to make late in the game. Facing fourth-and-10 at his 36-yard line, opted to punt the ball instead of trying to have his rookie quarterback complete a 10-yard pass after he had thrown three straight incompletions.
“I thought with the timeouts we had, plus the two-minute warning, if we punted the ball, wherever the ball ended up at, if we play good defense and the way our defense was doing a good job of getting us the ball back, I thought we had a chance to get it back for our offense,” Frazier said. “Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
During each of Green Bay’s previous two drives, the Vikings defense had sent the Packers offense to the sidelines after only three plays, but when Minnesota’s defense had to hold the Packers to one first down at the most, it couldn’t do it.
Even knowing the Packers would favor the running game to kill the clock, the Vikings gave up 55 yards on six James Starks carries before quarterback Aaron Rodgers could kneel on the ball to end the game and give his Packers a 33-27 win.
“We stopped the run game for the most part throughout the game. But at the end it was disheartening for us,” linebacker Chad Greenway said. “We will have to go back, take a look at it, and see what happened. You can’t play edgy. We need to play to win. Unfortunately, it had to end that way.”
Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who took issue with Frazier saying his defensive line wasn’t physical enough in the Vikings’ loss to Chicago the previous Sunday, took responsibility for Green Bay’s rushing success on the final drive.
“A couple of plays there at the end, I was out of position. I will take the blame for those,” Williams said. “I was trying to be aggressive, but you just need to stay home and be true to the defense.”
Frazier appeared to seriously consider keeping his offense on the field for a fourth-and-10 attempt, as the punting unit came on the field a little late. However, with three timeouts remaining and knowing what his defense had done on the previous two drives, Frazier made the call to punt.
“I really believed we could go out and stop them from running the football. I don’t know what they had rushing up to that point (59 yards rushing), but there was nothing that they had shown me that they could run the ball as well as they did in that four-minute situation,” Frazier said.
“It’s hard to see that happen when you know how well we’ve played run defense around here for a number of years and it’s something that we really have to address because everything that we talk about from a defensive standpoint starts with stopping the run, and that was a chance for us to really come up big and they did a great job of blocking and running the football.
DEPLETED SECONDARY HURTS
The Vikings’ primary talk entering the game was their quarterback situation, starting rookie Christian Ponder for the first time. But their secondary concern was, well, their secondary.
Antoine Winfield was out with a neck injury, and Chris Cook put a bigger kink in things when he was arrested early Saturday morning on suspicion of domestic assault. He remained in jail Sunday night.
Frazier was withholding comment on the situation, saying, “We’ll just have to wait until we learn more about what’s going on with him.”
But facing the NFL’s top-rated passer and the league’s third-best passing attack without two of their top cornerbacks and one of their starting safeties – Jamarca Sanford was out with a concussion – was a tall order. Aaron Rodgers ended up throwing for 335 yards and three touchdowns and had a 146.5 rating.
“We had to do a little bit of adjusting. There were some things we had worked on during the week for the multiple-receiver sets and so on, but our guys responded well,” Frazier said. “The guys who had to step up did a good job today. We had some plays that they made but they’re going to make some plays, but I thought overall they did some good things.”
The play that hurt the Vikings the most was when Rodgers scrambled to buy time rolling to his right. When cornerback Asher Allen, starting for Cook, came up to cover a receiver closer to him and released Greg Jennings to safety Husain Abdullah, it resulted in a 79-yard touchdown less than a minute into the second half.
“You can’t put that on (Allen) honestly. It was clearly Cover-2. The safety bit down,” Jennings said. “I don’t know if Aaron gave him a pump or what, but you know he was playing a zone. That’s really the safety’s responsibility.”
PRAISE FOR PETERSON
The debate might still remain among some NFL players, but the Packers left little doubt who they consider the best running back in the league – Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.
“I’m not surprised what he can do; he’s the best back in the league and there’s no doubt about that. There’s no question,” Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews said of Peterson. “We know what we have to do and obviously he broke off a few big runs, but he’s a special athlete and we’ve got to stop him before he gets going and unfortunately that’s we too many yards.”
Peterson rushed 24 times for 175 yards, a 7.3-yard average, and one touchdown.
Peterson said there was no doubt Christian Ponder’s downfield passing attempts loosened up the Packers defense, but Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who intercepted Ponder twice, said the rookie quarterback was the beneficiary of having the running threat of Peterson in his backfield.
“There is nothing like having a running back like that. He is going to make plays for you, he is going to keep drives alive, and he is going to break tackles,” Woodson said. “You know, he is the best in the game. He is a load and a hard guy to try and contain out there.”
NO MORAL VICTORIES
Given the Vikings’ situation with a 1-6 record and having a chance at the end of the game to beat the defending Super Bowl champions and undefeated Packers, the players still aren’t viewing Sunday’s performance as a moral victory.
“Moral victories don’t get you anywhere. Moral victories don’t get you to the playoffs, and for us it’s still a loss, and it’s a hard loss,” rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph said.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.