Aaron Rodgers Was Nice, But Give Green Bay's Defense Some Credit

Aren DowCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2008

Did you see Aaron make that pass? Unbelievable! Did you see that he had no interceptions? Did you see him scramble out of the pocket? Did you see, did you see, did you see?

Yes, we all saw. Aaron Rodgers finished his first start and passed with flying colors. He was good, no doubt. But the reason the Packers were in the game and pulled it out in the end was that the defense played great.

It wasn't just one player making plays, either. Every single Packer defender came up big for the team sometime during the game. It was a complete team effort.

Not allowing a touchdown until the fourth quarter, the Packers shut down the passing game almost completely, and the running game, when they needed to.

All I heard this week was how Adrian Peterson was going to run all over the league. How he wanted 2,000 yards. I watched NFL Countdown to see Tom Jackson tell me how "All Day" was going to pound the Packers early and finesse his way around them late.

Well, he did rush for over 100 yards. The problem is, yards only count for points in fantasy leagues.

Peterson had two big rushes in the second quarter (one of 11 yards and the other 34 yards) to put the Vikings in the red zone. But the Packers held their ground and held the Vikings to a field goal.

The Packers stopped Peterson late in the first half on 3rd-and-2. As Peterson tried to dive over the pile, Johnny Jolly grabbed him from underneath, and Brady Poppinga met him up top.

Just into the third quarter, Peterson was denied again, this time on 3rd-and-3 by Nick Barnett, which forced the Vikings to kick another field goal.

Again, in the fourth quarter, on 3rd-and-1, Peterson failed to convert. 

The Packers stopped the No. 1 rushing offense when they needed to. It wasn't just one time during the game; they were consistently fantastic.

The most impressive part of the defense's play was how long they were on the field in the second half. For 13 minutes of the third quarter, due to Will Blackmon's punt return TD, the Packers' defense had to hold their ground. They allowed only three points in those 13 minutes. 

The Packers' defensive line was superb. Matched up against one of the premier offensive lines in the NFL, they still brought consistent pressure. Kampman recorded the only sack, but Jackson was hurried and hit throughout the entire game. Any casual fan could see that he was rattled from all of the pressure.

Jackson, a rather mobile quarterback, scrambled nine times Monday. Only one of those was intentional.

When the Packers play a team that doesn't have as mobile a quarterback, this line is just going to start to rack up the sacks.

Enough cannot be said for the secondary. Tarvaris Jackson looked lost in the first half. He didn't even complete half of his passes.

Exactly zero times did the Vikings complete a first down through the air on third down. The Packers' secondary was all over the Vikings' receivers, and it was the secondary, specifically Atari Bigby, that sealed the game with an interception.

While the defensive line and the secondary looked spectacular, it was the linebackers that stood out for me.

Many people wondered when A.J. Hawk was going to start playing like a fourth-overall pick. I had always defended him, and on Monday, he raised his play a notch. Time after time, he made open-field tackles on the elusive Peterson.

Brady Poppinga covered, blitzed, and stopped the run. Nick Barnett racked up the tackles, of which he had eight—all solo.

This defense showed, on Monday night, that they hadn't lost a step from last year. They won the turnover battle, contained the best rushing offense in the league, and flat-out dominated the pass.

The play of Aaron Rodgers brought a smile to my face, but it is the defense that makes me believe in the playoffs.