For the majority of Aaron Rodgers’ career, his Green Bay Packers have dominated the Minnesota Vikings and it was felt that, for there to be a changing of the guard in the NFC North, taking out Green Bay was Job One.
On Sunday night in front of a national television audience, the Vikings hammered Rodgers, pressuring him, sacking him five times and, with the game on the line in the final two minutes, getting an interception from Trae Waynes to close out a 17-14 win.
The players were battered and bruised following the game, but extremely happy to inaugurate their new stadium with a hard-nosed, hard-fought win.
“When you play Green Bay, you know it’s always a battle,” linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “We’ve got a lot of heart and a lot of grit and we don’t mind those kind of fights.”
There has been a lot of talk about the Vikings being improved in the third year of the Mike Zimmer defense, but safety Harrison Smith said the team has been in sync since the summer OTAs and that the work done in the offseason and preseason is paying dividends now.
“We’ve been on the same page defensively since we got to training camp,” Smith said. “We’ve had each other’s back and have been picking each other up. We had some opportunities we left out there, but we came in and went after them. That’s how we operate on defense and we brought it tonight. It’s fun when it works.”
There were a lot of players who made contributions, from the Waynes interception to a Brian Robison strip sack of Rodgers to five different players posting sacks as part of the cause.
One of the prime beneficiaries was defensive lineman Tom Johnson. He put as big a beating down on Rodgers as anyone and said it was part of the game plan – whoever gets singled up needs to be the man making plays.
“We came into the game knowing we were going to have some opportunities one-on-one and it was just my night where I had a lot of those one-on-one situations and was able to make plays and get some hits on Rodgers,” Johnson said. “We don’t worry about who the opponent is. It’s all about us. As a unit, everyone has great attributes. Everybody is playing on all cylinders. When that happens, good things follow.”
Waynes was getting picked on early in the game and had a couple of pass interference calls go against him. But, when the game was on the line, he joined a long list of teammates making big plays that combined to lock down the win.
“I had some ups and downs, but you just keep playing,” Waynes said. “We had a great game and our playmakers made plays when we had to get them.”
Zimmer has preached since he arrived that his defense isn’t about individual stars. It’s about group achievement, and defensive end and team captain Everson Griffen said rarely has that been on display as decisively as it was Sunday night.
“It’s a team game,” Griffen said. “You expect a lot of different guys on this defense to make plays. That’s how you win as a team. Each guy made their own plays and you win the individual battles and that’s what did and got the victory.”
- The win came potentially with a heavy price. With 3:07 to play in the third quarter, running back Adrian Peterson went down with a right knee injury. He was unable to put weight on it coming off the field or heading to the locker room. When seen in the locker room after the game, he was on crutches and had an immobilizing brace that extended from high on his thigh all the way done to his ankle – never a good sign.
- Despite dominating time of possession and a yardage edge, when all was said and done, the Vikings had 284 total yards and Green Bay had 263 and what was once a big time-of-possession disparity shrunk to just 36 seconds – 30:18 to 29:42.
- The Vikings had just 30 rushing yards on 22 carries – a stat that rarely translates into winning.
- Mike Zimmer won’t be happy with one key stat – penalties. The Vikings committed a whopping 13 penalties for 137 yards.
- For the second straight week the Vikings won the turnover battle. The Vikings had one turnover and the Packers had three – not to mention a couple of more they should have lost.
- Sam Bradford won the battle of the quarterbacks. Bradford completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 122.1. Aaron Rodgers completed 20 of 36 passes for 213 yards with one TD pass, one interception and a passer rating of 70.7.
- Stefon Diggs put together his second straight 100-yard receiving game – the first time a Vikings receiver has accomplished that in the first two games since Cris Carter did it in 1997.
- Of their first eight offensive drives of the game, none of them lasted more than six plays. Of the six drives the Vikings had in the second half, none of them went longer than six plays.
- Andrew Sendejo led the Vikings with 11 tackles.
- The Vikings recorded five sacks of Rodgers, setting a new record for any opposing QB facing the Vikings – a record that stands at 52. Who held the record before? Former Rogers teammate Brett Favre.
- Diggs continued to pile up the big plays with Bradford in the second half as well as the first. In a Vikings touchdown drive late in the third quarter, Diggs caught two passes for 71 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown.
- In the third quarter, the Packers looked to take the biggest risk of the game. Facing a fourth-and-2 from the Minnesota 14-yard line, instead of going for a field goal that would have tied the game, the Packers went for a first down and James Starks was stuffed for a 1-yard gain as Robison and Linval Joseph combined to make the stop.
- The Vikings were called for seven penalties in the first half for 66 yards. The Packers were flagged just once for 10 yards.
- Bradford had one of the most productive halves of any Vikings QB in some time, completing 16 of 23 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. Rodgers didn’t fare nearly as well, completing just 8 of 15 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.
- Diggs was the main man in the first half, catching five passes for 86 yards. Seven different Vikings had receptions in the first half.
- Neither team was successful on the ground in the first half. Lacy had six carries for 16 yards and, as a team, Green Bay ran eight times for 19 yards. Peterson had all of the Vikings’ rushing attempts, running nine times for just 12 yards.
- Minnesota dominated the team stats in the first half, outgaining Green Bay 171-65, which helped explain why the Vikings held the ball for 18:50 of the half
- The Vikings got the biggest play of the first half shortly before the 2-minute warning, as Bradford launched a 44-yard pass to Diggs that set up a field goal to give the Vikings a 10-7 halftime lead.
- Perhaps the Tony Sparano influence was brought into play in the second quarter. The Vikings ran a play out of the Wildcat formation, with a direct snap to Peterson, who ran the ball for four yards. The Vikings would run the Wildcat again in the second half. Neither play gained significant yardage.
- Minnesota got a scare early in the second quarter, as Bradford went back to the locker room after injuring his non-throwing hand. But he came back out quickly and was ready for the next drive.
- Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion went out in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return.
- The Vikings’ first scoring drive of the game came on their first drive of the second quarter. After Peterson was stuffed for a 4-yard loss on the first play of the drive, Bradford threw nine straight times, completing two passes each to Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph – the last being an 8-yard TD pass to Rudolph.
- What made the Vikings scoring drive more impressive was that Bradford had to overcome back-to-back false start penalties on Andre Smith and Brandon Fusco.
- The Vikings outgained the Packers 46-21 in the first quarter, but the big difference was penalties, where the Vikings had three penalties for 46 yards while the Packers had no penalties called.
- The Vikings narrowly missed a huge turnover on the final play of the first quarter. Danielle Hunter sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble. Kendricks had the ball roll by him and didn’t see it, allowing the Packers to recover on their own 12-yard line.
- The Packers got the first big break of the game six minutes into the first quarter when Ty Montgomery blocked a Jeff Locke punt at midfield. The Packers scored on the drive, thanks to a 40-yard pass interference penalty on Terence Newman and a defensive holding call on Newman from the 2-yard line. Rodgers hit Nelson for a 1-yard touchdown two plays later to give the Packers a 7-0 lead.
- The first chance for a game-changing play came on Green Bay’s first drive. On Rodgers’ first pass of the game, he threw a bubble screen to Davante Adams, who was stripped by Captain Munnerlyn and it appeared as though the Vikings would have the ball at the Green Bay 10-yard line. However, after recovering the fumble, Sendejo had the ball ripped out of his hands by Randall Cobb to put the ball back in Green Bay’s possession.
- The series record has Green Bay holding a lead at 59-51-1. The Packers had been 10-2-1 in the last 13 games, but with Sunday’s win the Vikings have now won two straight.
- Zimmer is now 7-6 vs. division. He had never been above .500 vs. the NFC North in his short head coaching career prior to Sunday night.
- Prior to the game, the Vikings did a 15-minute welcome to the new stadium, featuring a video narrated by Ahmad Rashad and the Vikings war clap performed by Fran Tarkenton, Cris Carter and Randall McDaniel.
- The Gjallarhorn was sounded by Vikings coaching legend Bud Grant.
- The paid attendance was 66,813 – a new home record for Vikings football.