Vikings vs. Packers: Breaking Down Minnesota's Game Plan

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Vikings vs. Packers: Breaking Down Minnesota's Game Plan
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Last year in Week 13 at Green Bay, Adrian Peterson rushed for 210 yards on 21 carries.

The Minnesota Vikings game against the Packers in Green Bay will show what this team is all about. With Scott Tolzien starting in place of Aaron Rodgers, this is the Vikings' best last chance to win another game this season. If the Vikings lose, it's because they want to at this point of the season in order to secure a top draft pick. 

Sure, the players on the field will play hard, but the game plan that head coach Leslie Frazier uses can overcome even the best effort. If Frazier survives this season and is still coaching Dec. 30, then he was directed to tank. There's no other explanation for some of the moves made this season. 

After Green Bay, the Vikings will face four division leaders who are in the thick of playoff positioning. Don't expect anyone to take an easy win over the Vikings lightly. 

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Aaron Rodgers is 7-4 against the Vikings.

Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy, is looking at the bigger picture by keeping Rodgers on the bench. With divisional games remaining at Detroit on Thanksgiving and at Chicago in Week 17, the Packers will need a healthy Rodgers to overtake the division. 

McCarthy is no dummy, he knows that the Vikings have already been beaten by a third-string quarterback this season. In Week 3, Brian Hoyer, despite throwing three interceptions, led the Cleveland Browns to a 31-27 victory.

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Besides, since 1994, Green Bay is 16-5 at Lambeau Field against Minnesota—of course, Green Bay has only started two quarterbacks over that period.

This game will feature what could be considered two third-string quarterbacks. On Wednesday, Michael Rand of the Star Tribune, dug deep to try and find the worst quarterback matchup in Minnesota-Green Bay history.

What he came up with was a 1971 matchup between Gary Cuozzo for the Vikings and Scott Hunter for the Packers. The game ended 3-0 with only 11 completed passes. 

Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings: 11/14/1971
Quarterback Comp Att Yards TD Int Rating
Scott Hunter 5 8 61 0 2 46.3
Gary Cuozzo 5 11 42 0 0 55.9

Pro Football Reference

Cuozzo finished the season with a 6-2 record as a starter for a Vikings team that finished 11-3. The Packers finished 4-8-2, and Hunter was 4-5-1 as the starting quarterback.     

In their last meeting in Week 8, with Rodgers at quarterback, the Packers took a 24-17 halftime lead and extended it to 41-17 before the Vikings had an answer.

Toby Gerhart scored on a 13-yard touchdown run in garbage time. The final was a 44-31 Packers win in a game that was not that close.  

 

When the Vikings Have the Ball

The Packers pass defense is almost as bad as that of the Vikings. They have given up 18 touchdowns with only four interceptions—that's half as many picks as the Vikings.  

It will be interesting to see what gives—the Packers pick off one of Ponder's passes, or wide receiver Jerome Simpson catches his first touchdown as a Viking.    

Vikings' Offense vs. Packers' Defense
Team Pass Yds Rank Rush Yds Rank Scoring Avg
Vikings' Offense 206.2 25th 111.5 16th 24.0
Packers' Defense 247.1 21st 103.8 13th 23.9

StatMilk

The Vikings offense should come out throwing the ball, early and often, since just the opposite—giving Adrian Peterson the ball—has not worked very well lately.

Besides, Ponder has been mildly successful running the no-huddle offense—it limits offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's input.

Ponder should find a way to continue getting the ball to tight end John Carlson. Over the last two games, Carlson has led the Vikings with 12 receptions and 167 yards. He's been most successful catching the ball in the middle of the field, picking up big chunks of yards—at least what is considered big chunks for the Vikings.  

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
After catching only eight passes in 2012, John Carlson has 23 receptions for 228 yards this season.

Emphasizing the passing game might be just the opposite of what the Packers expect. After all, Peterson had 409 yards on 55 carries in two regular-season games. With that success, the Packers limited Peterson to only one rushing touchdown per game. 

If Ponder and the Vikings can build any kind of a lead by passing the ball, then they can wear down the Packers by giving Peterson the ball. 

  

When the Packers Have the Ball

With the Packers starting Tolzien and having a better running offense than the Vikings, the Vikings' first task needs to be to stop running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks. In Week 8, they combined for 151 yards on 36 carries and each scored a touchdown. 

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Last week, the Vikings did a very good job limiting Marshawn Lynch to 54 yards on 17 carries. The only bad part is Lynch scored two rushing touchdowns.  

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

If the Vikings can take Lacy and Starks out of the game, like the New York Giants did last week, it will force the Packers to rely on Tolzien. In two games this season, he has thrown one touchdown and five interceptions.

Vikings' Defense vs. Packers' Offense
Team Pass Yds Rank Rush Yds Rank Scoring Avg
Vikings' Defense 279.9 29th 111.8 14th 32.0
Packers' Offense 283.1 5th 134.3 6th 25.8

Stat Milk

The Vikings should go all out to stop the run, and go with a man-to-man defense against the Packers receivers. With the Packers' injury report from Pro Football Reference listing 22 players, the Packers have a depleted roster—most significantly at quarterback.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Putting pressure on Tolzien, and taking away any time to find a secondary receiver, should work in favor for the Vikings—unless of course they have no intentions of winning this game. 

Then we know something is up.  

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