WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The decision that hurt: Trailing by three points with three minutes, 23 seconds to go after scoring a touchdown and two-point conversion, the Vikings had the added benefit of a 15-yard penalty assessed against the Packers on the kickoff, a result of roughing the passer on the two-point conversion. Kicking off from midfield, instead of trying an onside kick, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer elected to have Blair Walsh kick a touchback and trusted the defense would hold.
Instead, the Vikings allowed two first downs on Eddie Lacy runs and Minnesota never got the ball again.
“Hindsight, I probably should have (kicked the onside), but you’re trying to pop it up and keep it in play and try to pin them back down in there deep, but I assumed that we would stop them,” Zimmer said.
Instead, Lacy ran five times for 26 yards before the Packers kneeled down for the win.
Bridgewater-Johnson connection: Last week, Charles Johnson was the favorite target, with six catches for 87 yards. On Sunday, Johnson was targeted 11 times but the QB-WR combo only connected three times for 52 yards, as Bridgewater had several overthrows of Johnson in the first half, and Johnson dropped one pass he should have caught.
“I heard that he slipped coming out of the cut but I don’t know,” Zimmer said.
Forcing it into coverage: Bridgewater struggled with accuracy during the first half, but it was his decision-making on one play that was most costly. Facing first-and-10 from his own 22-yard line, Bridgewater wasn’t under much pressure when he forced a ball into coverage while targeting Greg Jennings 25 yards downfield. CB Micah Hyde high-pointed the ball for an interception on the left sideline.
“It was just a poor decision, a ball that I should have thrown away,” Bridgewater said. “It was covered very well by the Green Bay Packers, but it was a situation that occurred throughout the game but I have to put it behind me. We continue to fight through adversity. Like I said, that turnover, we did a great job of just bouncing back and making adjustments.”
Lacy loves Vikings: Packers RB Eddie Lacy has only two 100-yard games this season, both against the Vikings. On Oct. 2, he averaged 8.1 yards per carry, rushing for 105 yards on 13 carries. On Sunday, he averaged 5 yards a carry, rushing for 125 yards on 25 carries and scoring a touchdown rushing and another receiving.
“He’s a load and he’s tough to tackle. We did a good job a lot of times today. They ran a few new plays, new running plays that we had to adjust to, but he’s a load,” Zimmer said. “The run game today was more about the end of the ball game, that’s what got us at the end there.”
Déjà vu with Rodgers: Zimmer said he knew Aaron Rodgers was going to be a great quarterback when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati and Rodgers pulled off a ridiculous play against the Bengals.
“I remember playing him when I was in Cincinnati in a preseason game maybe four years ago and he came out and kind of got flushed a little bit and rolled to his right on the right hash, kind of ducked around and threw about a 40-yard dart to the sideline and it was a rope, and I knew back then that this guy was really special,” Zimmer said. “He’s obviously got great vision and has great confidence in the things he can do and he’s got a great arm, too.”
That actually could have been the play-call on Rodgers’ touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers. Facing first-and-goal on the 1-yard line in the second quarter, Aaron Rodgers rolled right. While under pressure and about 5 yards outside the right hashmark, he quickly turned, threw most of the way across the field while falling backwards with pressure in his face and into the end zone for a wide open tight end. The pass might have travel 40 yards, but it will go in the books as a 1-yard touchdown pass.
The defense: The Packers had scored at 30 points against the Vikings in six of their last eight regular-season games against the Vikings, averaging 33.7 a game. The Vikings held the Packers to 24 points on Sunday, and one of the Packers’ touchdowns came after Bridgewater’s interception.
Holding a team to 24 points after the Packers put up 108 points in their last two games had to be seen as a sign of progress, at least.
Shutting down the quick starts: The Packers entered the game outscoring their opponents 107-44 in the first quarter and 101-51 in the second quarter. They had scored on their first possession in their last five games, and six out of their last seven, but the Vikings held them to three first downs and two punts in their first two possessions and trailed 14-10 at halftime.
Shortening the game: Mike Zimmer admitted he wanted to “shorten” the game with extended drives designed to keep Rodgers on the sideline as much as possible.
That didn’t happen on the Vikings’ first two drive, when they got only two first downs, but on their third drive that started in the first quarter and extended into the second quarter they got that accomplished. They went 74 yards in 14 plays, converted two fourth downs – one by a penalty – to tie the game at 7-7 with 11:06 to play in the second quarter.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy declined an illegal shift penalty on the Vikings after a 5-yard Bridgewater scramble to make it fourth-and-5. On the next play, Cordarrelle Patterson drew a holding call for a first down. Five plays later, the Vikings tied the game at 7 apiece.
In the second quarter, the Vikings ran 25 plays to the Packers’ 10.
Former Packers receivers: While Bridgewater struggled to connect with Johnson, the former Packers receiver did catch the first touchdown of his career against his former team when he beat the press coverage of Tramon Williams for a 22-yard score. Johnson also added a two-point conversion following the Vikings’ second touchdown.
The second touchdown went to another former Packers receiver, Greg Jennings. Jennings ran a drag route to his left as Bridgewater created misdirection to the right for a 5-yard touchdown with 3:23 to play. Jennings’ touchdown was a similar to play to Johnson’s two-point conversion following the touchdown, both being drag routes to the left with the appearance of the play going to the right.
“He made some extra yards after contact a bunch of times,” Zimmer said. “He looked like he had some juice running and carried his pads low. He deserved to keep playing.”