It looked as if the Green Bay Packers were headed for another loss to the Minnesota Vikings, in US Bank Stadium. Everything offensively was trending in the wrong direction… until it didn’t.
Three first half turnovers had things looking bleak for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers stared down Devante Adams and was intercepted, Aaron Jones fumbled early in the game which lead to three points for the Vikings, and Adams had the ball punched out after a reception. (Ball security escaped the Packers in the first half.) Despite that (and the doom and gloom from Packers fans and detractors) Green Bay was only down one at the half.
The second half was turnover free for Green Bay. This proved to be fruitful. (Who would’ve thought?) The Packers ended up outscoring the Vikings 20-0 (14-0 in the second half) after the Stefon Diggs touchdown reception. It wasn’t all roses though.
Offensively the passing game for the Packers wasn’t as crisp as we are accustomed to seeing it. (Stop me if you’ve heard that sixty-leven times.) Of Rodgers’ 26 completions, 13 (!!!) were to Adams. Essentially a one man band in the passing game. Rodgers continues to be off on seeming easy throws. The passing game is not the pretty, finesse, vertical passing game from years past, but it doesn’t need to be.
The running game, something Rodgers has never consistently had, coincides with what this team has become; a run-first, physical, defensive team. After fumbling for only the third time all season, (and being taunted by Anthony Barr because of it) Aaron Jones ran all over the Vikings. (He who laughs last, laughs hardest.)
If the offensive line for the Packers was whooping the Vikings’ defensive line, then the defensive front was stomping a mud hole in Minnesota’s offensive line and walking it dry. Za’Darius Smith lived in the backfield, with 3.5 sacks. (But he’s not a pro bowler??? That’s okay, he’ll be an All-Pro.) It wasn’t just the sacks that were dominant, it was the constant pressure.
Defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, put together a gameplan that absolutely stifled the Vikings offense and the players executed. The constant pressure not only got home on Minnesota Quarterback, Kirk Cousins, but it hurried the clock in his head. This caused sacks, a turnover, and a flurry of hurried passes. The Vikings were only able to muster 10 points and 7 (!!!) first downs against the Packers defense. A stellar night indeed.
The Packers aren’t just ugly, they’re dominantly ugly. Are there flaws? Absolutely. The thing is, despite the flaws, despite most offensive drives not looking aesthetically pleasing, despite the defense not consistently stopping the run, this is a 12-3, division champion ball club. The style of play they’re exhibiting, is the style of play needed to win this time of year and in the playoffs.
This is a transition period. Not only are the players transitioning to a new system, but fans and pundits have to transition. Aaron Rodgers is still a good quarterback, but he isn’t elite anymore. The pretty, explosive pass game you used to get from the Packers, is gone. The defense who couldn’t stop a nose bleed, is gone. From the ashes has risen a tough, physical team, who can run the ball and play defense, with a quarterback who makes throws when you need them most.
NFC North Champions, currently the 2-seed in the NFC, eyes on the 1-seed, and it’s been done differently than we’ve become accustomed to from a Packers team in recent memory. Like it or not, this team is going to be a tough out come January.