Notebook: Players at loss for answers

Players sounded confused as to how things could get so bad in a 44-31 drubbing. Defenders were especially upset that they couldn't get off the field on third downs. Plus, get nearly two dozen notes that help tell the tale of the game.

The Vikings knew entering Sunday night's game with the Green Bay Packers that they would have to execute in every phase of the game to win. Clearly, that didn't happen and, following the game, the Vikings locker room was as somber as it has been in some time.

There have been games where the offense has struggled. There have been times that the defense has struggled. There have been times when the special teams have struggled. At critical times Sunday night, all three phases had critical breakdowns in a 44-31 loss.

The most troubling, and obvious, was that the Vikings allowed Green Bay to convert on 13 of 18 third-down situations – a brutal stat made even worse by the fact that two of the five times the Vikings did stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense on third down they converted on fourth down the next play. The other three were followed up by Mason Crosby field goals.

The frustration in the Vikings locker room was evident Sunday night, as players shook their heads in dismay and talked in somber monotones. It would be one thing if the Packers had played a perfect game, but what Green Bay did to the Vikings defense Sunday night wasn't much different than what other opponents have done – executing plays against the Vikings on third down.

"I can't go into detail in what needs to be changed, but something needs to be changed," defensive end Brian Robison said. "The bottom line is that we're not playing winning ball across the board. If we can take one good thing away from this, the offense scored 31 points and you should win ball games when they do that. But you can't do that when we're giving up 44."

The third-down problem was especially frustrating for players because it has been the Vikings' defensive calling card for years – getting opponents into third-down situations and bringing the heat to the quarterback. While the Vikings got decent pass rushes at times, it seemed as though Rodgers could escape almost at will and make plays.

"Third down is what we pride ourselves on," Robison said. "We pride ourselves in getting into third downs, pinning our ears back and getting after the quarterback. It didn't happen today. It's a ‘riddle me this, riddle me that' type of deal. It seems like every week we're trying to come up with a new saying of what's going on. But we look back at the film and it's the same thing. Guys are putting in effort. Every week this team is fighting, but we're just not getting it done."

The baffling part for the Vikings is that they know what needs fixing and they have put in solid weeks of preparation, but, when it comes down to game day, all the things that have been drilled into the players seems to vanish and the same mistakes get made over and over again.

"It's easy for people to say we're not doing enough, we're not practicing well," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "The reality is that we're having great weeks of practice and we're prepared coming into games. We're in the game until that sequence of events (in the third quarter) with that long touchdown pass. There wasn't necessarily a breakdown. They just made a play. The punt return, the same way."

With the loss, the Vikings drop to 1-6 on the season and have a loss in hand to each of the other three teams in the division. While any glimmer of hope for making the playoffs seems to be all but eliminated, Adrian Peterson said he and his teammates aren't about to pack in the 2013 season. They're remaining tight as a group and are going try to keep their focus on what is in front of them, not what has happened in the season's first seven games.

"It definitely doesn't feel good, but what can you do?" Peterson said. "One thing I'm going to do is I'm going to fight no matter what. I don't see anyone giving up. The effort was there. We just weren't able to execute in all phases. That's what we're going to need to do to win and what we needed to do to beat the Packers."

GAME DAY NOTES

  • Cordarrelle Patterson tied an NFL record on the opening play of the game, taking a kickoff with his foot hugging the back line of the end zone and returning it 109 yards for a touchdown.

    "I feel like I can bring one back every time," Patterson said. "I don't care if I'm at the back of the end zone, I always have the feeling I can house it."

  • The Packers had almost double the total yardage of the Vikings, outgaining Minnesota 464-243, while running 73 plays to just 43 from the Vikings.

  • Entering the game, it was thought the Vikings would have the more pronounced running attack. The Vikings had 111 rushing yards, but it came on just 19 carries. The Packers had 182 rushing yards on 42 carries.

  • Rodgers had just five incompletions on 29 pass attempts and two of those were the result of drops from his receivers.

  • For the first game all season, there wasn't a turnover in Sunday's game.

  • The Packers enjoyed a massive advantage in time of possession. The Vikings had the ball for just 19:06 of the game's 60 minutes.

  • Before taking a knee at the end of the game, the first six times the Packers had the ball, they had drives of 14, 17, 3, 15, 9 and 10 plays. Ironically, the three-play drive was an 80-yard touchdown drive in which Rodgers connected with Jordy Nelson for a back-breaking score.

  • Of the Vikings' eight drives in the game, six of them were of five plays or less.

  • The Vikings had the ball for 6:29 of the second half.

  • One of the few bright spots was linebacker Erin Henderson, who had 14 tackles to lead all players.

  • The Vikings had the ball for just 2:02 of the third quarter and didn't throw a pass. They ran just three plays – two Peterson runs for 11 yards and a 7-yard sack of Ponder.

  • As they had done on their first two drives of the game, the Packers methodically drove down the field on their first drive of the second half, marching 80 yards in 15 plays in a drive that took eight minutes, 10 seconds.

  • In the first half, Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy had 13 carries for 31 yards. On the first drive of the second half, Lacy had 39 yards on seven carries.

  • Green Bay outgained the Vikings 219-149 in the first half, thanks to big first half from Rodgers, who completed 13 of 16 passes for 169 yards and a passer rating of 150.3. Ponder completed nine of 13 passes for 95 yards and a passer rating of 90.2.

  • Packers punt returner Micah Hyde, who replaced the injured Randall Cobb returning punts for Green Bay, had a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

  • The first two Packers drives of the game elapsed 31 plays against the Vikings defense and took 15:48 off the game clock and resulted in 10 points. The third drive lasted just 1:31, thanks to a 76-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to Nelson.

  • In the first quarter, the Packers dominated both time of possession and yardage gained. Green Bay ran 22 plays, gaining 107 yards, while the Vikings ran just five plays for 26 yards. Green Bay had the ball for 11:17 of the first quarter.

  • Rodgers completed 10 of 12 passes in the first quarter for 80 yards and a touchdown – completing two passes to five different receivers.

  • The Packers converted all six of their third-down attempts in the first quarter and added a conversion to start the second quarter. The first time Green Bay failed on third down, they converted on a fourth-and-1.

  • The first Packers drive of the game went 90 yards on 14 plays and lasted 7:24 on the game clock. Green Bay converted four third downs on the drive, including the touchdown that finished it – an 11 yard pass from Rodgers to Nelson.

  • Joey Browner, who was the 21st member inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday's game, sounded the ceremonial Gjallarhorn to introduce the Vikings.

  • The attendance was 64,134, the second straight sellout at the Metrodome, as the Vikings look to start a new streak that was snapped last season.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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