Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Packers sneak by Vikings, get ready for Lambeau showdown with Patriots

Last Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings probably didn't play out as many Packer fans would have hoped, other than getting the win, of course. Coupled with Detroit getting spanked by New England, the Pack is once again all alone atop the NFC North. Order in the universe is once again restored.

But back to the game against the ViQueens...

The Pack seemed sluggish on offense, ditto on defense, and the perpetrator of a few ill-timed penalties (which begs the question: are there any well-timed penalties? Actually, yes, as it turns out, but that's a conversation for another day). As 8 to 9-point favorites, the Packers escaped Minnesota with a 3-point victory, 24-21. Despite the relative disparity in overall talent level, the game turned out to be -- to the 'Queens' credit -- one of the old smash-mouth divisional varieties. It was a game that was hard-fought on both sides of the ball and, unlike the prior two weeks where QB Aaron Rodgers has sat out most of the second half, the game wasn't secured until RB Eddie Lacy ground down the clock in the closing minutes.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy converts a 10-yard shovel pass into a TD against Minnesota
Photo by Mark Hoffman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Lacy rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries during the game and had a few key pass receptions, as well, including a nice little 10-yard shovel pass from Rodgers that he turned into another touchdown. On a day when Packers receivers had a difficult time getting separation from the defenders because of coverage schemes, a big day from Lacy was needed. He delivered. Even as he was, we found out later, battling gastrointestinal problems.

Rookie TE Richard Rodgers accounted for the third of the Packers' touchdowns on the day, garnering his first NFL TD reception. He was the recipient of what is officially a 1-yard TD pass, but one that in reality travelled about 34 yards in the air. QB Rodgers scrambled nearly to the far right sideline before throwing back across his body all the way to nearly the back corner of the left side endzone to a wide-open TE Rodgers. The latter Rodgers also is credited on the day with making some key blocks in the running and passing game. He's coming on and, eventually, may be the replacement for Jermichael Finley the team has been hoping for. But we also have to give kudos to TE Andrew Quarless who also had a good day on the receiving front sans a touchdown.

Defensively, the Packers had 'Queens' rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater a bit rattled in the first half; he was very much off on his throws. He did start to put together some momentum in the second half, however, as his line generally gave him good protection. Whereas Packers receivers seemed to be well-covered most of the game, Minnesota receivers often seemed to be wide open, particularly on crossing routes over the middle. LB A.J. Hawk, as this writer noted during the game on Twitter (@packfansunited), seemed as if he was often running in quicksand; he looked very slow...slower than usual.

Still, ultimately, the defense did what it needed to and handed the ball back to the offense to secure the win. The Packers are now 8-3.


Next up: the Patriots come to town
We'll have much more to say in our pre-game preview before this Sunday's game. It is the game of the weekend, Packer fans. The 9-2 Pats vs. the 8-3 Pack, with arguably the two best quarterbacks in the game right now and the two best teams going head to head (but don't just take my word for it: even Michael Wilbon proffered as much on yesterday's edition of ESPN's PTI). Over the past two decades, the series is as even as it gets: 5-5. Of course, there was that Packers' 35-21 win over the Pats in Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans (remember that?).

We'll see two powerful offenses matched against defenses that will try to keep up and make a stop when it most matters. It could well be one of those games where whichever team has the ball last wins. The oddsmakers are basically seeing the game as a toss-up right now, giving the Packers the 3-point edge that comes with home field advantage. They're expecting a shoot-out, too, with the over-under currently set as the weekend's largest point total: 58-1/2. Yowza.

Anyway, more to come on this upcoming game, Packer fans. So please check back. In the meantime, you can keep up on nearly real-time updates about the Packers by checking out our Amazing 2nd Page.

Go Pack Go!!!