The Vikings needed an impressive drive when it looked like the game was slipping away. What they got was some hope that they might have the ability to come back in the future with some more seasoning on offense. Plus, get more than three dozen game notes that help tell the tale of the 24-19 loss to the Packers.
There is never such a thing as a good loss, but what will likely go largely unnoticed in the aftermath of the Vikings' 24-19 loss to Green Bay Monday night to open the 2008 regular season was a drive put together by the Vikings that showed a lot of heart, character and determination that may have not been there a year ago when Tarvaris Jackson
was in his first year as Vikings' starting quarterback.
After falling behind 10-3 at halftime, the Vikings opened the second half with a scoring drive to cut the deficit to 10-6. After forcing a three-and-out for the Packers, the Vikings offense couldn't replicate that efficiency and had to punt. What resulted was a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown by Will Blackmon
that gave the Packers a 17-6 lead. A year ago, a blow like that could have steamrolled on the Vikings, as the Packer defense was ready to pin its ears back and come after Jackson. What resulted was an impressive drive that should be remembered despite the loss.
Starting from his own 21, Jackson converted four consecutive third-down plays – a third-and-3 on an 8-yard pass to Sidney Rice
, a hard count on a third-and-4 that got Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila
to jump offside, a 7-yard scramble by Jackson on a third-and-6 play and a 6-yard run by Adrian Peterson
on a third-and-6 play from the Packers 38. When the Vikings didn't convert on third-and-1 play from the 22 on the first play of the fourth quarter, they went on fourth down and got a 22-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Rice.
When good teams face adversity, they either re-commit themselves or they fold. A year ago, the Vikings and Jackson may have folded. This time around, they put together a drive that kept the team in contention until the final minute. It might be a glass half-full outlook to a season-opening loss, but its bears noting that, later in the season if faced with a similar situation, the Vikings will know they have the ability to come from behind … even in a place where they lost 34-0 the previous season.
Despite a ton of pressure being applied to Aaron Rodgers in the first game of the post-Brett Favre era in Green Bay, Rodgers responded with an extraordinarily efficient game. He completed the last 10 passes he threw, including all six passes he threw in the second half, to finish 18 of 22 for 178 yards and a touchdown. And he ran eight times for 35 yards and another score.
Jackson was more dangerous on the ground than through the air much of the night. He finished completing 16 of 35 passes for 178 yards with one TD and one interception as well as rushing nine times for 65 yards.
Adrian Peterson notched the seventh 100-yard rushing game of his career with 19 carries for 103 yards. Ironically, in his NFL debut against the Falcons, he had 19 carries for 103 yards and caught a 60-yard screen pass for a touchdown.
The Vikings didn't allow Ryan Grant to get 100 yards of his own, but he came close with 92 yards on 12 carries – 35 on his first 11 attempts and 57 yards on his last carry of the night.
Jackson, who played the game with a brace on his injured right knee, spread the ball around. Seven different players caught passes, but nobody caught more than three. Four players – Garrett Mills, Bernard Berrian, Visanthe Shiancoe and Chester Taylor – each caught three passes.
The Vikings had only five receptions by their wide receivers – three by Berrian, two by Rice and none by last year's leading receiver, Bobby Wade.
Greg Jennings led the Packers with five receptions for 91 yards – all in the first half.
Linebackers Chad Greenway, A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett were the big tacklers Monday night. Greenway led the Vikings with eight tackles (six solo), while Hawk led all players with 10 (seven solo) and Barnett had eight (all solos).
Hats off to the Packers' variety of blocking schemes and specifically Chad Clifton, who not only prevented Jared Allen from getting his first sack as a Viking, but prevented him from even being in on a single tackle during the game.
The only sack of the game was registered by Aaron Kampman, who beat Ryan Cook on the first drive of the game. While Kampman would be in five tackles during the game, neither he nor his Packers teammates would get to Jackson again during the game. But the Packers' one sack was one more than the Vikings registered.
The Vikings won the time of possession battle by holding the ball for 32:01, as opposed to 27:59 for the Packers. What makes that stat impressive is that the Vikings held the ball for just 12:08 of the first half, meaning they held the ball for slightly under 20 minutes of the second half.
The Vikings had 355 yards of total offense (168 passing, 187 rushing) on 69 plays, while Green Bay had 317 yards (178 passing, 139 rushing) on 49 plays. The Vikings had a 21-15 advantage in first downs as well. The Vikings were also better on third-down conversion (7-for-16) than the Packers (4-for-10) and made good on both of their fourth-down conversion attempts.
Teams hate penalties, but, as you will see below, when they came, they came in bunches. There were 21 penalties in the game – 12 against Green Bay for 118 yards and nine against the Vikings for 42 yards – and that doesn't include four that were declined.
Backup guard and right tackle Marcus Johnson was pressed into action in the third quarter to play left tackle in place of Artis Hicks. Hicks, who started the game at left tackle in place of the suspended Bryant McKinnie, suffered a right elbow injury midway through the third quarter on a play where Chester Taylor picked up 14 yards on a pass play. Hicks did not return to the game.
Mark Tauscher nearly made a catastrophic play for the Packers late in the fourth quarter. With the Vikings out of timeouts, Tauscher was called for holding on a second-down run by Brandon Jackson with 2:29 to play. The Vikings declined the penalty, but because play was whistled dead because of the penalty, the play clock was reset to just 25 seconds instead of 40 seconds. Without the penalty, the Packers could have let the clock wind down to the two-minute warning, run another play on third down and punted to the Vikings with about 1:20 to play. Instead, the Packers had to run a play before the two-minute warning and punt to the Vikings after the stoppage, giving Minnesota one last chance with 1:51 to play instead of about a minute.
It is unclear whether there was some sort of disciplinary action taken against Aundrae Allison, but in the first half of the game, the Vikings had Chester Taylor return the first kickoff and Charles Gordon return the first punt, despite never returning punts during his pro career. Allison was returning both punts and kickoffs in the second half, sending a mixed signal that there may have been a reason for him not being in those spots in the first half.
With the Vikings lining up in the shotgun formation for much of the second half, Jackson took a series a shots from onrushing defenders and, on the interception during his final play of the night, he grabbed at his injured right knee as if in pain.
The Packers ran just three offensive plays in the entire third quarter.
The Vikings now have lost 38 straight games in which they have trailed heading into the fourth quarter – the longest such streak in the league.
Packers safety Nick Collins was hurt late in the third quarter and replaced by Aaron Rouse. The Vikings never took full advantage of the change and Collins played sparingly in the fourth quarter.
Between the two quarterbacks, they scrambled for eight first downs – Jackson moving the chains five times with runs and Rodgers doing it three times, not counting a QB sneak for a TD in the second half.
Rice didn't have his first reception until 5:10 remained in the third quarter.
The Vikings lost their first challenge of the season and brought into question how valid the system is. The Vikings challenged a ruling of an incompletion to Shiancoe only after seeing a slow motion replay clearly show he made a catch, got both feet down and had the ball pop loose when he hit the ground. The Packers would score on the Blackmon punt return at the end of that drive and it also robbed the Vikings of a timeout for making the challenge, a timeout that could have changed how they approached the onside kick late in the game or the final drive of the game.
Had to Packers lost, guard Tony Moll would have been the biggest goat of the night. In the third quarter, Rodgers read a hot read and Driver made a double-move on Antoine Winfield that resulted in a 68-yard touchdown that was called back because Moll, who was pushed into service as the Packers shifted their line with center Scott Wells out of action, was five yards downfield when the pass was thrown.
Early in the third quarter, Vikings fans came within an eyelash of seeing why the team signed Berrian. He took a slant pass on a play in which he had beaten Packers cornerback Charles Woodson and appeared to be off to the races for a touchdown, but a diving toe-tackle saved a Vikings touchdown. The Vikes wound end up settling for a field goal on the drive.
The Packers dominated the halftime stats thanks to an oppressive second quarter. Green Bay had 223 total yards (139 passing, 84 rushing) while the Vikings had 100 total yards (94 rushing, 6 passing). In the second quarter, the Packers out-gained the Vikings by gaining 180 yards to just 22 for Minnesota.
Rodgers completed 12 of 16 passes in the first half for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson completed just 2 of 7 passes in the first half for 16 yards and it wasn't until eight minutes remained in the first half that the Vikings had a plus-number next to team passing yards.
Cedric Griffin, who was injured in the first half, returned to block a Mason Crosby field goal as time ran out in the first half, preventing the Packers from taking a 13-3 lead to the locker room.
Trouble came in bunches for both teams when it came to penalties. In the first quarter with the ball on their own 32, the Packers had three straight penalties – 12 men in the huddle, a tripping call on Moll and a holding penalty on Clifton – to set up a first-and-33 from the 9-yard line. Later in the quarter, with the ball on the Vikings 6-yard line, the Minnesota defense had three straight penalties of its own – an offside on Allen, a holding call on Vinny Ciurciu and an offside penalty on Ben Leber. Rodgers would eventually sneak the ball in from 1 yard out, but it took the Packers seven snaps – four penalties and three plays – to score from the 6-yard line.
The holding call on Ciurciu negated an 11-yard sack by Ray Edwards in which he drilled Rodgers with his shoulder.
Griffin was injured covering a punt and was sidelined. On the first play after he was replaced by Charles Gordon, Rodgers fired a 56-yard pass to Jennings.
In the first quarter, the Vikings had 78 total yards (79 rushing, minus-1 passing) to just 43 yards (27 rushing, 16 passing) for the Packers.
Peterson had five carries for 61 yards in the first quarter. In the final three quarters, he ran 14 times for 42 yards.
One of the early highlights was an attempted tackle by Al Harris on Peterson in which Peterson lowered his shoulder and drove Harris backward.
In what could have turned out to be a big turnaround, Brandon Jackson fumbled on his own 29-yard line. Instead of falling on the ball, Darren Sharper tried to the scoop the ball and run with it. Instead, he was hit, the ball popped up in the air and Jennings grabbed it – advancing it to the 32-yard line. The Packers didn't score on the drive, but when the Vikings took over for their next possession they weren't inside the Packers 30, they were on their own 30.
On the first offensive drive of the game, in nine plays, Jackson dropped to pass five times. He threw two passes, was forced to scramble twice and was sacked once.
Childress is now 0-5 in his head coaching career against the Packers.