The Week 8 matchup against the Packers was a huge game for the Vikings. Favreâ€™s homecoming to Green Bay obscured a lot of other reasonâ€™s the game was big. One was that the Vikings hadnâ€™t won in Green Bay since 2005, which was before Childress and also the last time they swept the season series against the Packers. But the biggest reason was that a win over the Packers would keep the Viking in first place in the NFC Norris Division with a 2.5 game lead and holding the tie breaker over the Packers; a loss would essentially put them in a tie with Green Bay (since Green Bay has already had their bye and they are playing Tampa Bay next week you could safely assume that after the Vikings bye week both teams would be 6-2).
The Vikings came out playing their best football of the year. The first half couldnâ€™t have been much better with the only Packer points coming off of an early turnover deep in Viking territory. Had the Vikings been able to convert a 4th and 1 at the Packers seven yard line the halftime score of 17-3 could have been much worse.
Speaking of the two 4th down plays the Vikings went for; I was quite happy with the choice to go for it instead of kicking a field goal. While the Packers arenâ€™t a great team, they are dangerous and if you can bury them you should.
However, the second half looked like another patented case of the Vikings defense falling asleep. It feels like the Vikings seem to have a pattern of getting up big on some teams and relaxing on defense. They do not go into a prevent defense, but they settle into a soft Tampa-2 zone, which good quarterbacks will pick apart.
But I donâ€™t believe that was the sole cause of the comeback. One reason was poor tackling. I couldnâ€™t find the stat but the Packersâ€™ yards after contact in the second half had to be off the charts. But the main reason for the game being closer than it should have been was that Aaron Rodgers was running for his life in the second half. His mobility allowed him to extend plays, convert third downs, and score touchdowns. He also didnâ€™t hold the ball as long and was taking quick 3 step drops instead of long 7 step drops. (Aside: after halftime the Fox commentator team went to Pam Oliver for a report and she mentioned that the Packers would move to a 3 step drop and focus on getting the ball out of Rodgers hands. Does the other team ever listen to the TV coverage? I know there is a lot of garbage they would need to sort through, but sometimes they make great points and get important information on a teamâ€™s strategy.) But I digress. My concern is that it took the Vikings four Packer scoring drives to make the adjustment to contain Rodgers. Looking ahead in the schedule (and to the playoffs) the team canâ€™t afford to fall asleep on teams like the Giants, Bengals, and Saints.
Long story short, the Vikings eventually made the adjustment and the offense was able to keep pace with the Packers. What could have been a 50-10 game ended up 38-26.
A win is a win, and it isnâ€™t all bad news about the defense. Yes they need to stay alert. Yes they need to clean up some poor tackling. However, the Vikings defense has proven to be very strong in the red zone. If they can continue to give up yards but hold teams to field goals I donâ€™t think any other team has the defense that can stop the Vikings offense from scoring points.
On a related note, the news gets better and better for the Vikings. This report on a possible schism in Green Bay comes from Kevin Seifert of ESPN.