For the first 20 minutes of the Vikings-Packers matchup Sunday, it appeared as though the game was going to be a tight defensive battle. That was until the Packers offense came alive and the Vikings self-destructed to create a disappointing and, quite possibly, season-ending turning point of the game.
The game was tied 3-3 in the second quarter with 8:43 and the Packers were on their own 20-yard line. Having limited success on the ground, Aaron Rodgers decided to open things up through the air. He converted a pair of first downs with passes of 13 yards to Jennings and a 10-yard pass to Donald Driver. Faced with a third-and-10 from midfield, Rodgers avoided a pass rush and fired a 39-yard pass to Greg Jennings, getting the ball to the 11-yard line. One play later, he would seal the deal with an 11-yard pass to Jennings for a touchdown to give the Packers a 10-3 lead with 5:14 to play in the half.
The Packers chose to attack young cornerbacks Chris Cook and Asher Allen and made good more times than not.
"Coaches in this league are smart," said cornerback Antoine Winfield, who had few passes thrown his way most of the game. "When they see young guys out there, they will target them and go after them. That's what they did and it hurt us pretty bad."
The Vikings appeared primed for a retaliatory strike, as a 17-yard pass to Sidney Rice, runs of 10 and 11 yards by Peterson and a 16-yard run by Harvin put the Vikings on the Packers 25-yard line. However, on the next play, cornerback Tramon Williams jumped a route intended for Harvin and intercepted the pass. When an illegal-block penalty on the Vikings added 10 more yards to the return, the Packers were in business at midfield with 1:03 to play in the half.
Rodgers would take advantage. He completed five straight passes – the last one being a 3-yard touchdown to James Jones with five seconds to play in the half and, what looked like it could be a 10-10 or a 10-6 halftime deficit ended up being a 17-3 Green Bay lead.
Needing a stop to start the second half, it didn't happen for the Vikings. Faced with a third-and-8 from his own 29, Rodgers scrambled for 15 yards and a first down. Two plays later, he threw a 10-yard pass to Jennings, who slipped a tackle from Allen and was off to the races for a 46-yard touchdown, turning what could have been a 10-10 tie in the first half into a 24-3 lead that blew the game open.
"It's hard to believe that we came out this flat," linebacker Ben Leber said. "Everyone came into the game ready to make a statement, but we didn't have it and they did. It was a sickening feeling."
Even sicker are the Vikings' postseason chances following the loss Sunday. The Vikings had chances to turn their season around, but, following a script that has haunted them all season, failures to get off the field defensively in third-and-long situations and offensive turnovers led to what may well be a season-ending turning point.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Turning point: Packers' consecutive scores
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