When you have a game that ends up 45-7, any turning point has to come early. Even if the final score had been 31-24, it could be argued that the Vikings' poor start was going to be the turning of the game regardless.
With the Vikings coming in against an unbeaten team at home in prime time, it was clear that they needed to play a near-flawless game. Their first quarter performance could only be described as "flawed."
"Just disgusted. I mean 45-7, are you kidding me? I haven't lost this bad since I don't know when," defensive end Jared Allen said. "I don't know. We've got some issues we've got to get cleaned up. We've got to play better. They throttled us out there today."
It was critical for the Vikings to get off to a strong start with the crowd at Lambeau Field whipped into a frenzy leading up to the kickoff. The best way to plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of the Packers' players and coaches was to shut up the 70,000 fans that were ready when the game began. Instead, the Vikings got the crowd in even more of a frenzy.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did the Vikings a potential favor by winning the coin toss but deferring to the second half. Instead of sending the hottest quarterback in the league out onto the field to start the game, the Packers offense was kept on the sidelines. The Vikings offense went three-and-out and, when rookie Randall Cobb returned Chris Kluwe's punt 79 yards for a touchdown, the Packers were ahead 7-0 without Aaron Rodgers even putting on his helmet.
The Vikings got the ball back, but weren't able to sustain a drive thanks to a sack by linebacker Clay Matthews to force another punt to the Packers.
"I think they're excited about that," Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said of his defense's performance Monday night. "They've definitely been taking some heat in the media, but it's nice to see Clay get a couple sacks and they gave up seven points, but it was a short field after the fumble. I think they're very happy. You've got to give Dom Capers a lot of credit."
Rodgers finally got on the field and did what so many thought he would had the Packers accepted the opening kickoff – march right down the field for a touchdown.
Starting on his own 30-yard line, Rodgers' start was less than stellar. He fumbled the ball untouched on a rollout and had to fall on the ball for a 7-yard loss. But, from there, he was the same old Rodgers fans have seen put on a clinic all season.
He converted three straight third-down plays to drive Green Bay into Vikings territory and, when he saw a mismatch with Greg Jennings, he fired a 24-yard strike for a touchdown. Just 10 minutes into the game, the Packers had a 14-0 lead and everything the Vikings had planned went into the waste basket. No ball control. No wearing time off the clock. The play-calling had to receive an audible.
The Vikings were able to move the ball into Packers territory, but after winning a challenge that negated the ruling of a Charles Woodson interception, a field goal attempt of 47 yards was made by Ryan Longwell. Unfortunately for the Vikings, a false start was called on Fred Evans. The ball was moved back five yards and, kicking into the wind, Longwell's 52-yard attempt came up short, keeping the Vikings off the scoreboard and setting up Rodgers again.
It only took him one play to get into Vikings territory and, as the game moved to the second quarter, the Packers were faced with a fourth-and-5 from their own 34-yard line. It was going to be a difficult field goal with the Packers now heading into the wind, so they opted to go for it and Rodgers completed a perfect 25-yard dart to Jermichael Finley to the Vikings 9-yard line. A sack by Jared Allen would kill the drive, but the Packers were able to hit a 25-yard field goal to take a 17-0 lead with 12:04 to play in the half.
The game was 60 minutes long, but, for all intents it was over at that point. In order to pull off the upset, the Vikings needed to play as close to perfect as they could. Instead, they did just the opposite and it became a steamrolling turning point from the outset that never subsided.
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: Vikings lose it early
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