One of the primary storylines coming into Sunday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers was going to be the battle of the ground games. The Vikings had Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s leading rusher. Green Bay had a running game that had struggled for the last month to get any consistency.
Yet, when all was said and done, it was Green Bay’s rushing game that dominated the game. Had someone said that there would be a running back that would run 22 times for 100 yards, most likely wouldn’t have said it would be Eddie Lacy. Most would have thought Adrian Peterson, who had just 13 carries for 45 yards.
“It was one of those games,” guard Brandon Fusco said. “On offense, I don’t think any of us played well. They contend the run and made us pretty one-dimensional by the end. The game plan is always around 28 (Peterson) and they did a great job of containing that. But we didn’t do ourselves any favors. We had too many penalties that killed drives.”
The M.O. of the Vikings offense has been pretty clear cut all season –success follows Peterson. When A.P. has run 19 or more times, the
Vikings are 7-0. When he has run fewer than 19 times, the Vikings are 0-3. His 13 carries and 45 yards were his lowest totals since the Week 1 debacle against San Francisco and it was apparent throughout that things weren’t going the Vikings’ way.
With a game plan designed to run the ball, control the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field, the Vikings weren’t able to accomplish any of those things.
“We just couldn’t get going,” Peterson said. “We couldn’t keep Rodgers on the sideline how we game planned it. We have to take a step back and see what we did wrong and just improve.”
The defense didn’t do the offense any favors, as all three phases of the game struggled. Teddy Bridgewater was able to make some plays but was under duress all game long and took a beating from start to finish. For a team that typically dictates the pace, the Vikings found themselves on the receiving end of the physical nature of Sunday’s game.
“That’s not Vikings football,” Fusco said. “Vikings football is playing physical, which we didn’t do. It’s being able to control the clock, which we didn’t do. There were a lot of things we didn’t do that we usually do.”
Even when the Vikings made plays on offense, they found ways to shoot themselves in the foot, whether it was a fumble by Peterson just outside the red zone with the Vikings marching while trailing by 14 points or the numerous penalties that plagued Minnesota on both sides of the ball.
Offensive tackle Matt Kalil got called for a couple penalties that had him feeling like he was costing his team. But it was far from just Kalil who was the problem. The entire offense struggled to get anything going offensively and it never had the feel of a game that the Vikings could dominate.
“That’s not how we play,” Kalil said. “We had some decent plays, but we didn’t sustain drives and we didn’t get the running game established. It’s tough when you get kind of stagnant on the field. We’d get a big play here or there, but we could never build off of it.”
With first place no longer in their own possession, the Vikings are going to face a similar challenge Sunday when they travel to Atlanta to face the 6-4 Falcons. The Vikings are currently the top wild card, but will need to beat Atlanta to maintain that position.
Peterson said the Vikings will take a long, hard look at the game film from Sunday and try to make sense of what they did and didn’t do, what they need to do to improve and get things back on track, because the schedule isn’t going to get any easier with their next two games coming against teams chasing them in the playoff race – Atlanta and Seattle.
“We’ve just got to be better running the ball,” Peterson said. “We were just kind of out of sync for whatever reason. I think we’ll be able to look at this tape, regroup and see the things we definitely need to improve on.”
The disappointment in the Vikings locker room was palpable Sunday. There was the feeling that the team blew a golden opportunity to take control of the NFC North and make a statement. They made a statement, but it wasn’t the one they wanted – struggling when the national spotlight is on.
“You hate to be part of game like this because there was so much being made of what we could get with a win,” Kalil said. “We have a really good team here. Unfortunately, we didn’t show it today. Green Bay made the plays and we didn’t. The only good news is that we can put this behind us, move on to Atlanta and get back to doing what has got us in the position we’re in to be a playoff team.”