Jackson ended the first half completing only 2 of 7 passes and, combined with a 10-yard sack he took, that left the Vikings with 6 yards of net passing in the first half.
"I thought we had some opportunities," head coach Brad Childress said. "We need to be able to throw it a little bit better. I thought we threw it around a little better in the second half, but again you want to be consistent. You don't just want a half where you throw the ball and a half where you have 16 yards (gross passing)."
Jackson's slow start left the Vikings with no passing first downs in the first half, which was the case last year when Brooks Bollinger was starting at Lambeau Field for the Vikings. This time, the Vikings had 100 total net yards in the first half compared to Green Bay's 223.
Jackson eventually rebounded to finish the game completing 16 of 35 passes for 178 yards, a touchdown and an interception. However, a two-point conversion pass to Sidney Rice could have brought the Vikings within three points in the fourth quarter, 17-14, but that pass sailed high and behind Rice, keeping the Packers' lead at five, which they stretched to 12 not too much later.
Jackson avoided throwing an interception until the team's final drive, when a pass that appeared to be intended for tight end Visanthe Shiancoe wound up being intercepted by Atari Bigby.
"I was trying to get it out on time, but I threw it too high. I need to check my mechanics on the film and see if my footwork was messed up," Jackson said. "I feel like if I didn't throw an interception we would have won the game."
While Jackson struggled to start the game, running back Adrian Peterson did not. Peterson rushed nine times in the first half for 75 yards, including a 34-yarder on his second drive.
"I thought they came out and ran the ball very well. We were giving up too much per carry there and I thought our defense did a good job hunkering down," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He bounced out of there a couple times early. But I thought our defense played well. Our problems on defense, frankly, were on third down. We had a number of favorable down and distances on third down and we need to do a better job on getting off the field."
Peterson finished with 103 yards on 19 carries.
During the Packers' first two drives, Jared Allen's presence was felt. Just ask Packers veteran tackle Chad Clifton, who put the Packers in a hole on their first drive with a hold on Allen on a 2-yard run by Ryan Grant.
On the next drive, the Packers completely self-destructed, and only a forward fumble allowed them a first down on their second drive. Clifton was part of the problem then, holding Allen on a pass play – one of four penalties on the drive, which at one point left the Packers with first-and-33.
But Clifton settled in quickly and, with help from his teammates, shut down Allen, holding him to no tackles and no sacks. Childress explained how the Packers neutralized Allen.
"I think your basic chip help and sliding the protection that way," he said. "I thought he had a couple of good rushes. I think it was the basic stuff that we will see all year long."
COOK vs. KAMPMAN
Aaron Kampman ended the Vikings' first drive with a 10-yard sack of Tarvaris Jackson, but it wasn't necessarily offensive tackle Ryan Cook's fault. Kampman ran a stunt with Cullen Jenkins, who occupied two blockers, and Cook was walled off from being able to get to Kampman, who ducked inside and had a clear path to Jackson and brought him down before he had a chance to find a receiver.
As it turned out, that was the only sack of the game by either team.
Pat Williams, the self-appointed gatekeeper of the Vikings' running game, spent the offseason thinking about Ryan Grant being the only running back to rush for more than 100 yards against the Vikings defense last year.
"He had a hundred-some yards on us last year, so I've been thinking about that all summer," Williams said last week.
As it turned out, Grant nearly had 100 yards again on Monday night. He rushed 12 times for 92 yards, with a 57-yarder being the main culprit. Grant's big run stopped at the 2-yard line, something that might not have happened if he wasn't still recovering from a sore hamstring.
"I don't have that gear yet. My hamstring's not 100 percent yet," he said. "When it's back, I'll get it in there, but it was a run we needed, the line did a hell of a job and was able to open it up."
The Packers also limited the amount of carries Grant received or he might have surpassed 100 yards.
"I thought he did a nice job. I thought we were smart with him, too. I wasn't interested in seeing him play a bunch of plays tonight. I was conscious of that," McCarthy said. "I thought he did a nice job when he was in there. It didn't change the way we called the game. It didn't factor at all with Ryan or Brandon (Jackson). That was a nice situation to be able to call to. He had the big run there, and he had a chance to finish it off. I thought he ran well."
The Vikings lost out on several special-teams categories.
The most obvious was in punt returns, where the Vikings averaged only 4.3 yards on four returns while Will Blackmon's 76-yard punt return for a touchdown sprang him to a 26-yard average on three returns (his other two returns netted 2 yards).
"Huge. That was a big play in the game. Big plays are important," McCarthy said. "We talk about explosive gains all the time, especially in big time games. It's great to have him back healthy. We talked about it particularly before the game, and we talked about it again at halftime. It was time for special teams to step up and make a big play. We thought we had some favorable matchups on our special teams units, and they played big tonight."
Because of Blackmon's 76-yard return, the Packers held a 42.6- to 27.8-yard advantage on net punting average.
"The main thing is that my teammates on special teams, they're really convinced they can spring me for a big run, and they can't wait to block for me," Blackmon said. "If you saw, I pretty much ran untouched. I made a couple of moves, but they told me, 'We're going to get you one, we're going to get you one.' Just like the one last year against Oakland, they were ready and excited, and if I keep running behind those guys, we're going to see plenty more."
The Packers also did better in kickoff returns, averaging 23 yards on four returns while the Vikings averaged 20 yards on three returns. Mason Crosby's stronger kickoffs gave the Packers an average starting position of the 29-yard line compared to the Vikings' 19-yard line following kickoffs. All five of Crosby's kickoffs made it into the end zone, with two of them resulting in touchbacks. None of Ryan Longwell's kickoffs were close to the end zone.
OTHER STATS TO NOTE