PLAY OF THE GAME
The Vikings needed a big play if they were going to upset the streaking Packers, and they got it with a 109-yard touchdown return of the opening kickoff.
The Packers could have been sent reeling by that play, especially considering the injury situation and depleted weaponry. But with Mall of America rocking and Johnathan Franklin's foolish kickoff return compounding matters by putting the offense in a hole, Green Bay answered with the type of drive limited only to legit championship contenders.
On third-and-6, Aaron Rodgers hit Jarrett Boykin for 11 against top pick Xavier Rhodes. On third-and-1, Eddie Lacy pounded for 2. On third-and-6, Rodgers stepped up in the pocket and ran for 12. Finally, on third-and-2 from the 11, Jordy Nelson lined up in the slot and ran a corner route. Cornerback Josh Peterson was in perfect position but Rodgers somehow got it Nelson for a touchdown.
"Well, it was a tough way to start," Rodgers said after a brilliant performance. "On the road, that's not the way you want to start but we answered back, much like we did a few years back against Atlanta when they had an early kick return. That possession after that is usually the most important one. We put together a sustained drive, about 8 minutes, converted third downs and got the ball in the end zone. I'm really proud of our guys."
Added guard T.J. Lang: "It was huge. It was huge. Obviously, that's not the way you want to start the game but I think we just kept composure. The urgency definitely picked up a little bit. We knew we couldn't afford to go out there and have a slow start and bury ourselves in a little bit of a hole. We went out there and went 17 plays for a touchdown and got the momentum back in our direction a little bit. That opening drive was big for us."
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Jared Allen remains one of the NFL's top defenders and most-feared pass rushers. However, other than having his name listed in the starting lineup of the 16-page gamebook, Allen's names is nowhere to be found.
Zero solo tackles. Zero assisted tackles. Zero sacks.
It's another feather in the cap of David Bakhtiari, the rookie fourth-round pick who was thrust into the starting lineup with Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL on Family Night. After allowing four sacks in the first three games, he's gone three in a row without allowing one. Plus, his toughness has been a major asset to the Packers' powerhouse running game.
"First of all, Jared is a hell of a player," Bakhtiari said. "I've got to tip my hat off to him. I just came out there and played football. It was a great learning opportunity and stepping stone for me to go on the road against a phenomenal player."
Rodgers made sure to point out Bakhtiari during his postgame press conference.
"Jared is one of the premier guys in the league and he's probably a Hall of Famer when he's done playing and David did a nice job tonight," Rodgers said. "I think he's playing really well. I've said it just about every week: He has not been a story. There hasn't been any issues over there. He's done a great job. I think he deserves a lot of credit."
LOOKING INTO CRYSTAL BALL
Green Bay is 5-2. Amazingly, it's won four in a row despite a run of injuries that left impact starters Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Brad Jones, Jermichael Finley and James Jones inactive. And that's not including Bulaga (season-ending injured reserve) and Randall Cobb (broken fibula; short-term injured reserve).
Really, who possibly could have predicted the Packers would score on every possession (other than taking a knee to end the game) with Rodgers down three of his top four playmakers in the passing game?
"I don't think that you could expect that at all," Rodgers said. "We expect greatness out of our guys. We expect guys to be prepared, to be accountable for the routes that are run, for the blocks they're making, and guys did a great job tonight. I know that we're going to look at the film and there are going to be things that we would have liked to do better, but we scored on all of the meaningful possessions. There's a lot to be said about that in this environment, against that defense, We're pretty proud about that."
Up next is Chicago, which is coming off its bye, on Monday night at Lambeau Field. Given the situation, the Packers have no business being in first place in the NFC North. Anybody who questions McCarthy's coaching and Thompson's team-picking acumen should have their heads examined.
0: Tackles (solo or assisted) by Jared Allen. He had at least one-half sack in a franchise-record 11 consecutive games.
0: Punts by the Packers. They scored on every possession of the game other than the take-a-knee to end the game.
0: Number of interceptions thrown by Rodgers in his final four games at Mall of America Field compared to 13 touchdowns.
1: Catch, for 9 yards, by Greg Jennings. Jennings had 68 catches for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns in 15 games against the Vikings while with the Packers.
4: Possessions of at least 10 plays by the Packers, the shortest of which took 6:36 off the clock.
4: Receptions by Vikings receivers out of nine targeted passes.
17: Receptions by Packers receivers out of 21 targeted passes.
40:54: Time of possession by the Packers. After holding the ball for barely 20 minutes in the opener at San Francisco, Green Bay has won the time-of-possession battle in each of the past six games.
72.2: The Packers dominated on third down, going 13-of-18. After a bad start to the season, Green Bay entered the game ranked 10th at 40.5 percent.
93: Yards on Micah Hyde's punt-return touchdown in the second quarter. That's tied for the fourth-longest in team history behind Veryl Switzer's runback vs. the Bears in 1954. Steve Odom holds the record with a 95-yarder against the Bears in 1974. Switzer, by the way, led the league in punt-return average as the team's first-round pick in 1954; his career was stalled by a two-year stint in the Air Force.
116.4: Rodgers' passer rating for his career against Minnesota entering the game was the best in NFL history for a quarterback against a single team (minimum 250 attempts). Rodgers had a rating of 150.3 in the first half and 130.6 for the game.
94: Rushing yards for Eddie Lacy.
83: Rushing yards for the season by Steven Jackson, the veteran running back who was courted by the Packers but signed with Atlanta. He had just 6 yards against Arizona on Sunday.
60: Rushing yards for Adrian Peterson. He rushed for 210 yards the last time the teams played here.
57: Rushing yards for James Starks, so the Packers almost had two running backs gain more yards than Peterson.
182: Rushing yards by the Packers. Three of the team's best four games since 2009 have come in the last four games.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.