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

Tim Arcand@@TArcandCorrespondent INovember 21, 2013

Last year in Week 13 at Green Bay, Adrian Peterson rushed for 210 yards on 21 carries.
Last year in Week 13 at Green Bay, Adrian Peterson rushed for 210 yards on 21 carries.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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. 

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

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.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 22:  Brian Hoyer #6 of the Cleveland Browns looks to pass against the Minnesota Vikings on September 22, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Im
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

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
Scott Hunter58610246.3
Gary Cuozzo511420055.9
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
TeamPass YdsRankRush YdsRankScoring Avg
Vikings' Offense206.225th111.516th24.0
Packers' Defense247.121st103.813th23.9

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.  

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

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. 

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 27: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers pitches the football to teammate Eddie Lacy #27 during the game against the Minnesota Vikings on October 27, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minn
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.  

Nov 17, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) rushes against the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
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
TeamPass YdsRankRush YdsRankScoring Avg
Vikings' Defense279.929th111.814th32.0
Packers' Offense283.15th134.36th25.8
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.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 17:   Jacquian Williams #57 of the New York Giants tackles  Scott Tolzien #16 of the Green Bay Packers during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 17, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Image
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.  


    How Vick Came to Race the Stars of 'Atlanta'

    NFL logo

    How Vick Came to Race the Stars of 'Atlanta'

    Master Tesfatsion
    via Bleacher Report

    Ranking the Biggest Draft Implications of Free Agency

    NFL logo

    Ranking the Biggest Draft Implications of Free Agency

    Alex Kay
    via Bleacher Report

    Cowboys' Window of Opportunity Being Slammed Shut

    NFL logo

    Cowboys' Window of Opportunity Being Slammed Shut

    Mike Tanier
    via Bleacher Report

    Miller's Most Underrated Prospects in the Draft

    NFL logo

    Miller's Most Underrated Prospects in the Draft

    Matt Miller
    via Bleacher Report