Packers vs. Vikings: 5 Observations from Green Bay's Thrashing of Minnesota
In one of the most satisfying victories in recent Green Bay Packers history, Aaron Rodgers and a smothering Packers defense dismantled Brett Favre and the hapless Minnesota Vikings 31-3 in front of a sold-out Metrodome crowd.
The Packers (7-3) extended their winning streak to four games, and the Vikings' second straight loss drops them to 3-7—unofficially ending their season.
There may be more than five important observations to take away from this game, but I'll try my best to narrow down the five biggest.
The Vikings "All-In" Season Is Over
It's been a nonstop comedy circus all year, but the Minnesota Vikings' 2010 season is now all but finished thanks to the proverbial "dagger" the Packers stuck in them Sunday.
That's a tough pill to swallow for a Vikings' team that went all-in on winning the Super Bowl this season.
It was well documented how three Vikings were sent to Mississippi to get Brett Favre out of retirement and help lead them one game farther than their NFC Championship game loss last season, but 2010 has been a far cry from the fairy tale season of 2009.
Favre has been nothing short of terrible all season, and he stayed right on track Sunday against the Packers. He finished 17-of-38 for 202 yards and an interception—a 51.2 quarterback rating—and was wildly inaccurate all game.
Was Sunday the last game Brett Favre ever plays? Was it the last game of the Brad Childress era in Minnesota?
One thing is for sure, the Packers made those questions much harder for Vikings owner Zygi Wilf by thrashing his team by 28 points in their own building.
Now, while the Vikings and their fans are left picking up the pieces from a lost season, the Packers can forget about Favre and Minnesota and continue on their path towards the Super Bowl.
Aaron Rodgers Shows Up Favre in Their Last Showdown
Rodgers would never admit it publicly, but Sunday's performance had to have been extra sweet.
After everything he's been through with Brett Favre, thoroughly outplaying him in their last matchup is a fitting end for Rodgers.
He's been a class act throughout the whole three-year ordeal, and if there were any doubters still left in regards to Ted Thompson's decision back in the summer of '08, Rodgers emphatically shut them up.
Rodgers finished 22-of-31 for 301 yards and four touchdowns, his highest regular-season touchdown total ever and arguably one the top performances of his young career.
And where are the Favre apologists now? While I never thought this day would come, they should officially be all but gone. Trust me when I say that's a relief for me, you, the Packers and Rodgers.
Because finally we can concentrate fully on our young quarterback, who just threw himself right into NFL MVP consideration with his performance Sunday.
The Packers Defense Is Legit
Over the Packers' last three games, their defense has only given up 10 points. If you go back even one more game to cover the Packers' four-game winning streak, they've only given up 34.
That's equates to only 3.5 points over the past three games and only 8.5 over four.
That's no misprint, folks. The Dom Capers-led defense is simply dominating teams, and they have to be the biggest reason for the Packers' winning streak.
It's a defense that has plenty of stars (Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson), Pro Bowl talent (Nick Collins, Tramon Williams, Cullen Jenkins, B.J. Raji), steady starters (Ryan Pickett, A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop) and ever-improving role players (Sam Shields, Charlie Peprah, Frank Zombo).
Which begs the question: Do the Packers have a defense that can carry them to the Super Bowl?
We always thought the Packers had the offense to take them far, but I think ultimately it'll be the defense that will lead the Packers to where they want to go.
And that defense is playing pretty dang good right now.
Greg Jennings Is on a Tear, Tramon Williams Makes the Play of the Game
Maybe saying Jennings is "on a tear" is an understatement. In fact, Jennings has all but carried the Packers offense since their overtime loss in Washington.
In the past five games, Jennings has 32 catches for 520 yards and six touchdowns, and his 152 yards and three touchdowns Sunday marks one of the most impressive performances from a Packers receiver in recent memory.
It was a member of the Packers defense, however, who made the play of the game Sunday. Up 10-3 with under two minutes to go in the first half, Favre and the Vikings were driving for what would have been the tying score.
Instead of tying the game, though, Packers cornerback Tramon Williams stepped in front of a Vikings slant and intercepted Favre, setting up the Packers to go up 17-3 before the first half ended.
A 10-10 score at halftime would have meant a much different game in the second half and a much closer game than the final 31-3 score.
Greg Jennings and Tramon Williams: your MVPs of Sunday's game.
Packers Special Teams and Defense Allows Offense Time To Shake off Rust
For the first quarter-and-a-half Sunday, it appeared only two-thirds of the Green Bay Packers had gotten off the plane in Minneapolis.
The Packers offense was seemingly invisible, to the tune of eight total yards in the first quarter. Not until Rodgers hit Jennings on a 47-yard pass play with just under nine minutes to go in the second quarter did the offense really show up, and they were nearly unstoppable after that.
It was the Packers special teams and defense that allowed the offense to shake off a little bye-week rust, however. In only allowing a single Vikings field goal during the shaky offensive start, the Packers weren't forced to dig themselves out of deep hole.
Punter Tim Masthay again didn't have overwhelming statistics, but he ensured the Vikings had a long field to work with while the Packers offense figured things out.
And the defense, who were giving up yards in the early going, stayed strong and only allowed three points. Because once the offense got going, this game was over in a hurry. The Packers scored 24 points on four straight possessions, in the end scoring 31 unanswered points to complete the thrashing.
But give credit to both the defense and special teams—they allowed the offense to shake the rust off and kept the game close.
The win Sunday puts the Packers back in a tie with the Chicago Bears atop the NFC North, but the road doesn't get any easier for Green Bay.
Next week they'll head to another dome in Atlanta to take on the NFC South-leading Falcons. Matt Ryan has been almost unbeatable at home during his career (only one loss), so there's no doubt it'll be tough to come home with a victory.
But if we've learned anything from the 2010 Green Bay Packers, should we ever doubt them?
Doubt them or not, that's enough about next week. Enjoy the win, Packers fans, because if you're like me, this was one of the most satisfying wins I've witnessed as a Packers' supporter.