An increasingly lost season for the Minnesota Vikings may not have had much redemption available, but fans could have walked away with something with a win over their historic rivals, the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers rolled into town with one of the league's best quarterbacks and a 4-2 record, while the Vikings were 1-5 and hadn't settled the quarterback decision among three available options.
The Vikings were expected to lose this game, but the starting roster was not very different in their improbable four-win streak to end last season—one that culminated in a playoff berth after an incredible game against the Green Bay Packers at home.
|Minnesota Vikings Grades|
|Positional Units||First-Half Grades||Final Game Grades|
|Week 8 against the Packers|
Final Game Analysis
Passing Offense: Some late runs and passes after the game was all but over helped out the Vikings, at least on paper. In practice, the offense could stay on the field on third down in many ways because the passing attack was poorly executed and designed. Some protection break downs from the offensive line are suspect, but the primary reason has more to do with a one-read quarterback that is quick to scramble than it does poor protection. The Vikings couldn't get much done in the air at all, especially when it mattered.
Running Offense: Even Toby Gerhart got in on the action, while Adrian Peterson remains the only offensive skill player seemingly worth his contract right now. The Vikings averaged 5.8 yards per run, made all the better after half time created larger and more useful running lanes in their limited second-half opportunities. A solid performance, even if there were only 14 running opportunities.
Passing Defense: The second half wasn't resplendent with passing brilliance from the Green Bay Packers, but they were still productive, and Aaron Rodgers nearly finished with 10 yards per attempt to go with his two touchdowns. The second half had more defensive miscues, although more of that had to do with their run defense. Regardless, the Packers continued their march downfield, especially on third down, and the passing defense was suspect.
Running Defense: The Packers ran for 52 yards on 16 carries in the first half only to gain 3.25 yards per attempt. In the second half, they gained 5.3 yards per attempt after excluding quarterback kneels. This turnaround had to do with better play execution and design on the Packers' part, but it says something that the Vikings only saw the more well-designed runs in the second half and couldn't do anything about it.
Special Teams: Special Teams ended up playing a large role in the game, even after the two exciting scores in the first half. Unfortunately, they were asked to do quite a bit, including recovering an onside kickoff when the Packers expected it. They, for the most part, bottled up returns, but couldn't continue making space on their own returns. Some of it has to do with blocking and some of it has to do with Patterson's consistency as a kick returner. He will likely hold on to his lead as the leading kickoff returner by average in the NFL, but can improve even more with consistency.
Coaching: The Vikings were outcoached once again. Not only was the play design an embarrassment on offense and defense, the decisions to play certain players or personnel packages ended up becoming critical failures. Along with that, lacking a sense of contextual decision making, the Vikings left fourth down conversion opportunities on the field and ignored basic math to kick an extra point instead of go for two after Toby Gerhart's touchdown run. In a season with terrible coaching, this was the worst.
First Half Analysis
Passing Offense: Christian Ponder has been exactly who he was, which involves a lot of one-read decisions along with some hasty scrambling. The offensive line is doing better than most of their games—notably better than their game against the Giants— but they're not perfect. More often than not, however, protection has broken down because of time, not talent. The wide receivers consistently get open, but Ponder cannot connect to them, aside from a few well-placed passes to Kyle Rudolph.
Running Offense: The lone bright spot, the Vikings haven't been able to use this as much as they want to. Peterson enters this game the league leader in yards after contact per attempt, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and he'll likely exit this game with an even wider lead. This incredible performance by Peterson so far is only being limited by his offensive linemen, who are letting him get his in the backfield. Nevertheless, he's getting results and pouring through even small gaps to make a big difference.
Passing Defense: The Vikings pass defense has actually been performing far better than the numbers would imply, with a few undefendable balls thrown by Aaron Rodgers killing the defense more than poor play. But that's not to say there haven't been miscues that have cost the team. The greater damage has been done through superhuman effort on Rodgers' part and the occasional broken play rather than consistently poor coverage. The pass rush is getting home, and it's even being aided by coverage.
Running Defense: The Vikings have held the Packers to 3.3 yards per attempt, 2.4 for their rookie starting running back, Eddie Lacy. Only one big run from a running back, along with a mistake by Erin Henderson (who, admittedly, was in man coverage) that allowed a big Rodgers scramble on third down. But for the most part, few missed assignments and even fewer missed tackles have helped them out.
Special Teams: Big plays on both sides of the ball somehow have led to a remarkably average grade. Cordarrelle Patterson tied a record in his kickoff return, but the Vikings punt return coverage allowed former Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde to grab a touchdown of his own. Jeff Locke and Blair Walsh have done well, but all pieces must be in working order for the special teams unit to grade out well.
Coaching: Once again, the coaching has been left wanting. Minnesota continues to be uninspiring and uncreative in their calls. Timid on fourth down, poorly designed and called passing plays have held the Vikings back. On defense, the Vikings continue to run generic coverage despite the fact that the fulcrum of the passing offense is the Jordy Nelson-Aaron Rodgers connection. Devoting more resources there and allowing the other players on the Packers to try to make plays would be wiser. On offense, coordinator Bill Musgrave has been saved by the talent he has in Patterson and Peterson, and he put too much faith in them from the outset. That they paid him back does not excuse his initial decision-making.
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