Packers have timid tendencies under pressure

The Packers have built a sterling record since the start of 2011, but in their losses can be found the key to beating them. See how the Packers' five losses all have something in common when Aaron Rodgers starts feeling pressure.

The key to beating the Green Bay Packers isn't based on focusing on what they do right. It's focusing on what they do wrong. Over the last 29 regular season games, the Packers have lost just five times. That's an incredible number when put in the win-loss context – 24-5.

Those type of records can oftentimes be placed in a context of "Team X is 24-5 when leading heading into the fourth quarter" or "Team X is 24-5 when Player X runs for 100 yards." Those aren't ordinary numbers, because the Packers aren't an ordinary team.

Little is to be learned from watching film of the Packers dismantling an opponent. Five of their seven wins this year have been of nine points or more – two-score victories. If the Vikings want to beat Green Bay Sunday, they have to focus on what the four opponents who beat them did in order to win.

The answer, it would seem, is quite simple – pressure Aaron Rodgers and, more importantly, pressure head coach Mike McCarthy.

Rodgers is an athletic quarterback, but, first and foremost, he is a passer. When he drops to pass, he isn't looking for a QB draw like the RG3s and Cam Newtons of the world. When he drops to throw, he wants to throw. Every time. It's only his athleticism that makes him a running threat.

In order to decipher what teams have done to control Rodgers is to look at the critical times in games that the opposing defense had the upper hand on him.

San Francisco beat Green Bay at home in Week 1 by stringing together three drives of nine plays or more in the first half and holding the ball longer than the Packers in all four quarters. But it was what they did to Rodgers that made the difference. Rodgers was sacked three times, but he was his team's leading rusher because he avoided sacks to rush five times for 27 yards. In the entire game, the Packers rushed the ball nine times on plays intended to be runs – Cedric Benson had nine carries for a comatose 18 yards. The other 52 plays were intended to be passes – Rodgers threw 44 of them, scrambled five times and was sacked three more. The Niners scored on five straight possessions and played from ahead the entire game, building a 23-7 lead and coasting to victory in the fourth quarter.

Seattle may have the best example of how to beat the Packers and make McCarthy worry and over-think his strategy. In that game, Rodgers dropped to pass 49 times. He threw 39 passes, was sacked eight times and scrambled twice for 17 yards to avoid having 10 sacks on his record. In their five possessions in the first half, the Packers gained 86 yards and all five possessions ended in punts. In each of those drives, Rodgers was sacked – all eight sacks came in the first 28 minutes.

Green Bay's Week 5 loss to Indianapolis defied description. The Packers led 21-3 at halftime and it had all the earmarks of a blowout. On their first drive of the second half (Green Bay got the kick to start the half), Rodgers scrambled to avoid a sack and, one play later threw an interception. Indianapolis took advantage of the short field and cut the deficit to 21-10. On the next drive, Rodgers got sacked on second down and had to scramble to avoid another on third down. Green Bay punted and the Colts turned their next possession into a field goal to make the score 21-13. The comeback became complete when Rodgers was sacked four times in the fourth quarter and the Colts were allowed to make a late charge.

However, the most horrific example came Monday night when the Giants turned McCarthy from a head coach to the president of France during World Wars. The white was out and construction on the Arc de Capitulation. It was an embarrassment to McCarthy and an outrage to fantasy football enthusiasts. The Giants put the boots to Green Bay early, building a 31-10 halftime lead. Rodgers threw a 61-yard touchdown on his first drive and drove the Packers into field goal position on his second drive. Then Giants brought the heat and it wasn't good.

The final nine drives of the game for the Packers offense ended as follows: 1 play, interception; three plays, punt; 10 plays, field goal; four plays, end of half; four plays, punt; six plays, punt; 11 plays, downs; nine plays, punt. Of the second-half drives, the first one ended due to a sack, the second one Rodgers had to scramble to avoid a third-down sack, and the third drive included a sack – a drive that ended on downs with 14:16 to play.

The Giants then put their foot on the Packers' collective throat. They put together a 17-play drive that ate 9:23 off the clock. Of those plays, the Giants passed eight times and went on fourth down twice. They wanted to score more points. McCarthy wanted nothing to do with it. With five minutes to play, he pulled Rodgers. Backup Graham Harrell came in and handed the ball off five straight times – each play rolling 40 seconds off the clock to the two-minute warning. On the first play after that, Harrell completed an 11-yard pass. But instead of running the two-minute drill, McCarthy ran twice more and, with 21 seconds to play facing a fourth-and-4 from midfield, McCarthy punted.

Beating the Packers clearly isn't easy, much less at Lambeau Field, where they've only lost once since the start of the 2011 season. But, unlike coaches that defiantly say we're going to keep coming at you until the clock strikes 0:00, McCarthy has shown a timidity in coaching – sitting on a lead and trying to milk out the clock and, when trailing, effectively throwing the white flag of surrender.

It's hard to complain about their success – Rodgers and McCarthy have a Lombardi Trophy on their resumes. But, when you look at how to beat the Packers, it is to pressure Rodgers and get McCarthy to climb into a shell of the offense. The Vikings will be prohibitive underdogs. If there has ever been a game to bring the blitz early and take your chances, it's this game. If it works, McCarthy will call a series of plays to keep further damage from happening to Rodgers. If it doesn't work and Green Bay gets a couple scores ahead, they will go conservative in the second half and leave the door open to get beat.

That's how they've lost all four games this year. If the Vikings want to be No. 5, they had better pay special attention to those games, not the Packers' dominant Lambeau Field performances.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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