The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, as division rivals, are common opponents. Saturday’s game will mark the sixth matchup between Mike McCarthy’s Packers and Mike Zimmer’s Vikings, and these adversaries know each other well.
Then again, plenty has changed since the Vikings held off the Packers 17-14 in Minneapolis in Week 2.
For Green Bay, Ty Montgomery has gone from a wide receiver who played zero snaps on offense in that game to the featured running back filling the shoes of Eddie Lacy. Outside linebacker Nick Perry has been out with an injured hand, fellow outside linebacker Clay Matthews is a shadow of his former Pro Bowl self with a shoulder injury and Joe Thomas has replaced Blake Martinez at inside linebacker.
For Minnesota, the differences are more stark. In Week 2, quarterback Sam Bradford made his first start with the Vikings — just 15 days after he was acquired from Philadelphia to replace injured Teddy Bridgewater. Running back Adrian Peterson suffered a knee injury against the Packers and returned last week. Both starting offensive tackles are on injured reserve. While cornerback Xavier Rhodes is back, safety Harrison Smith has missed the last couple of games.
“They’re different and we’re different,” McCarthy said on Wednesday. “Every team in the league is different, especially coming out of training camp, and just the way things are early in the season as opposed to late in the season. Both teams have endured a lot of injuries, so you have a lot of moving parts there. Still very good on defense. Offensively, they made a shift in coordinators, so they have established a different trend of how they’re going to play.”
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned at midseason and was replaced by Pat Shurmur. That’s only complicated matters for Bradford.
“Any time something like that happens during the season, it’s hard for there to be a dramatic shift because the offense is kind of in place,” Bradford said in his conference call. “I think Pat has come in and implemented some of the things that he likes and that he feels are best for this offense. I do feel like there has been a little bit of a change.”
The changes in the teams’ backfields have been huge.
Minnesota opened the season with an offensive system revolving around the singular talents of Peterson. Then, it had to adjust to life without Peterson and turn to a more pass-happy attack. Now, it has to figure out how to implement Peterson all over again.
There are some similarities to the story in Green Bay’s backfield. It opened the season with Lacy as a focal point of the offense. Without him, Aaron Rodgers and the passing game had to carry the load as McCarthy tried to cobble together something resembling a running game. Now, it appears he’s got it with Montgomery, who tore apart the Bears last week with 162 rushing yards — more than the Packers had rushed for in any game this season.
Zimmer is impressed by Montgomery — and by McCarthy’s innovation. But Zimmer knows who the offense revolves around.
“Rodgers is Rodgers,” he said during his conference call. “I think Jordy Nelson looks better now than when we played him. They’re getting a little more production from the tight end (Jared Cook) than they were earlier in the year. Offensive line is still good. And probably I think they’re getting the ball to 17 (Davante Adams) a lot more. I think he’s been doing a good job lately. He’s catching the ball good, he’s running good routes. Looks like Rodgers has a lot of trust in him. I would guess maybe with them getting the ball to Davante, it seems to be a little bit more opened up.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.