Pinpoint, prolific passing numbers by Aaron Rodgers the first 1 1/2 quarters of the second half — 19-of-22 for 238 yards and three touchdowns — didn't supersede the ugliness that permeated most of the game. While Rodgers was brilliant in bringing Green Bay almost all of the way back from a 24-3 deficit, plenty of blame goes his way for what contributed to getting behind by so much and also for the Packers' not being able to complete the rally down the stretch. He was just 5-of-11 for 38 yards in the first half, with three of the incompletions on bad overthrows. He had three passes batted down at the line in the game. Rodgers also made a poor decision to try to hit a well-covered Donald Driver on a deep pass along the sideline on third-and-8 from the Vikings' 33 when his would-be checkdown was open underneath, which led to a long and missed field goal with the Packers down by five points in the closing 6 minutes. Rodgers was sacked six more times, after he absorbed eight in the earlier meeting at Minnesota, and at least a couple of those Sunday were because he held onto the ball too long. Rookie left tackle T.J. Lang started strong against Jared Allen, but the All-Pro defensive end ultimately took over with three sacks. Ray Edwards had his way early on the other side with right tackle Allen Barbre for two sacks, four hits and two pass deflections. Rodgers finished 26-of-41 for 287 yards, didn't have a pick, and all three TD passes came on third down. Greg Jennings came to life in the second half with all eight catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Spencer Havner, the former practice-squad linebacker, continues to impress as a situational pass catcher — both receptions went for touchdowns (16 and 5 yards).
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
The Packers' longest run of the game and second-longest of the season belonged to none other than Rodgers, whose 35-yard scramble along the sideline came during the big second-half comeback. Rodgers eluded further sacks by churning out 52 yards in five rushes. Featured back Ryan Grant, on the other hand, came back to earth after his one and only 100-yard performance (148 yards) in 2009 the previous week. Grant barely had a third of the chances he did in that 27-carry outing against the Cleveland Browns with only 10 attempts and managed a paltry 30 yards. His long run was 8 yards. Grant resorted to his bad habits before the Cleveland game by not having the vision and patience on his cutbacks and running into his own blockers. Ahman Green made his season debut in his second go-around with the Packers but had only two carries for 1 yard.
PASS DEFENSE: F
A recurring theme ensued for the Packers against former teammate Brett Favre. Just like the Oct. 5 loss at the Metrodome, the defense failed to sack Favre and intercept any of his passes. Favre did one better than that initial engagement, throwing for four touchdowns, culminating with a 16-yard bullet to Bernard Berrian that safety Nick Collins couldn't knock away for the clinching score in the final four minutes. Favre's 17-of-28 accuracy wasn't anything special, but he maximized those completions against a pass-rush-challenged unit out of sorts in coverage for 244 yards. Favre's biggest throw — a 51-yard touchdown to rookie Percy Harvin — was into triple coverage, but the secondary trio of Collins, fellow safety Atari Bigby and cornerback Charles Woodson resembled "The Three Stooges" as they collided at the arrival of the downfield strike. On the previous play, Bigby was lax in zone coverage on a 19-yard pass to Berrian on third-and-17. Bigby also dropped coverage on a 2-yard touchdown flip from a bootlegging Favre to tight end Jeff Dugan on third down early in the fourth quarter that gave the Vikings some breathing room with a 31-20 lead. Desmond Bishop, who replaced an injured Brandon Chillar as a nickel linebacker, didn't fight off a block on the perimeter to prevent Adrian Peterson from going 44 yards on a screen pass to set up the late Berrian touchdown.
RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus
The only moral victory for Green Bay in being swept by the Vikings this season was that it held Peterson below 100 yards in each game. Peterson had only 55 yards in 25 carries in the first meeting. The rushing attempts were the same Sunday, but Peterson raised the yardage total appreciably to 97. The per-carry average was a welcomed 3.9 yards for the Packers, but Peterson hit them with huge runs of 33 and 22 yards in the first and second halves, respectively. Woodson and linebacker Nick Barnett were slow to react on the 33-yarder that was bounced to the outside. Bishop missed a tackle on Peterson's cutback into the middle past the line of scrimmage on the 22-yarder. Rookie defensive lineman B.J. Raji had a facemask penalty on a short run by Peterson that gave Minnesota a fresh set of downs, and goal-to-go to boot inside the Packers' 10, and led to a pivotal touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The Packers gave up a 1-yard touchdown dive by Peterson over the line on fourth down early in the game, but linebacker A.J. Hawk and nose tackle Ryan Pickett knocked him back for a 1-yard loss after Johnny Jolly got penetration on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 7 later in the first half. Pickett also dropped Peterson for another loss in the second half and was stout with six tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus
The argument can be made that the electric Harvin, not Favre, was the game MVP. He tilted the field in Minnesota's direction in a big way with his kickoff returns, averaging 35 yards. The Vikings' average starting point was their 46-yard line, compared to Green Bay's stepping off at its 29. Runbacks of 77 yards in the first quarter and 48 yards in the third quarter set up manageable touchdown drives. The lone success Green Bay enjoyed on special teams was a squib kick away from Harvin that Hawk stripped from defensive lineman Brian Robison with recovery by Collins. Jaymar Johnson had a 20-yard punt return in the second quarter that led to another TD march directed by Favre. Mason Crosby was wide right on a 51-yard field-goal try late in the game with the Packers behind 31-26. A neutral-zone infraction by lineman Michael Montgomery on fourth-and-6 on a Minnesota field-goal attempt in the second quarter would have been costly, but the tackle for loss on Peterson ensued when the Vikings went for it on fourth-and-1. The Packers' return game has gone south the last couple games as they try to make do without the injured duo of Will Blackmon and Jordy Nelson. Tramon Williams' only punt return went for eight yards, and Green showed no burst on kickoff returns, averaging a subpar 20.1 in seven runbacks.
It was a game the Packers had to win, not so much to keep Favre from gloating in his highly scrutinized return to Lambeau Field as it was for Green Bay to keep pace with the Vikings atop the NFC North. Instead, the Packers have gone down two in the loss column to Minnesota, which has effectively opened a three-game bulge because it has the tiebreaker for the season sweep. Green Bay clearly didn't play with the urgency needed at the start, and spotting the Vikings a 21-point lead early in the third quarter was inexcusable. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers blitzed more than he did in the teams' first meeting, but his version of the 3-4 scheme does anything but rattle the seasoned Favre. The protection woes persist on offense, and head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy gave up early on the run game. Thinking they could get away with kicking the football to Harvin was a big mistake. The continued lack of discipline by players reared its ugly head when Jolly head-butted running back Chester Taylor after a key third-down stop, allowing the Vikings to go in for a touchdown rather than have to settle for a field goal in their first scoring series.
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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.