Minnesota Vikings 25 – 38 Green Bay Packers

First off, Happy Holidays! I hope everyone had a wonderful time, ate too much, drank very responsibly (ahem) and enjoyed some good company. Onto the game!
The Packers hosted the bitter rival Minnesota Vikings for their final home game at Lambeau of the regular season and proceeded to thrash them in a 38-25 victory that was nowhere as close as the score would suggest with the Vikings chewing up clock in garbage time for 2 touchdowns after being held to a score of 38-13 until the final 5 minutes of game time.

With this fifth victory in a row, this time against what is still a premier defense, the Packers set up the week 17 game at Detroit as the de facto NFC North title game, bringing them within reach of Aaron Rodgers’ “run the table” prediction for what at one point seemed to most of us a lost season.

Keys To The Game

Aaron’s Aerial Assault
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers magnificent performance, as usual, was the Packers driving force in this victory. With 28 completions on 38 attempts, for 347 yards and 4 touchdown passes, and a fifth touchdown rushing, it was a masterpiece of quarterbacking put together against a premier defense. It should have been 6 touchdown passes, with a drop by Davante Adams in the end zone with 1:23 remaining in the third quarter on one of the best thrown balls I have seen in all my time watching football. Rodgers escaped pressure in the pocket, rolled out right and threw 20 yards across his body into a miniscule window through two defenders that went right through Adams’ hands.

This merely accentuates the MVP level play of Aaron Rodgers over the past 5 game winning streak. Over 5 games, he has completed 72% of his passes for almost 1400 yards, with 11 passing touchdowns to 0 interceptions, with an average rating of 120, dropping below 100 only once. All of that, versus defenses that average in the top 10 of defensive DVOA. Aaron Rodgers is effectively willing this team to the playoffs, playing as well at quarterback as almost anyone ever has (which has become a necessity with how terrible his defense is). While it would be nice not to have to rely on the offense to score on every possession, right now I wouldn’t take any other quarterback in football for that situation.

A Tired Tale of Secondary Woes
At this point I feel like every week I’m ready to write a paragraph on the poor performance of this secondary. This week, the incompetent coverage decided to give up 382 yards receiving to a team quarterbacked by Sam Bradford on an offense that had disappeared versus their previous opponents. Former undrafted Vikings receiver Adam Thielen looked like a Jordy Nelson clone versus the Packers secondary, putting up 202 yards and 2 touchdowns, although some of that came in garbage time.

Throughout the game, he was left wide open both down the sidelines and in the middle of the field that Dom Capers has forgotten exists. The mid 2nd quarter 71 yard touchdown pass to Thielen came on an ugly blown coverage by cornerback Rollins, on which safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix also took an uncharacteristically bad angle, wiping out both defenders and leaving Thielen to sprint into the end zone, in one of the ugliest displays of defensive incompetence for a single play you could possibly have.

We gave Dom Capers some slack while he was missing 5 cornerbacks through much of the season, but it has continued as all but Shields have returned and needs to stop. Dom Capers has been provided with 8 of the Packers last 10 first round picks and continually puts out a subpar unit. Look no further than the fact our last two trips to the postseason have ended up overtime defensive collapse, and nothing his secondary has done this season gives me any confidence it would not be the same this year if the Packers beat Detroit and squeeze into the playoffs. Dom has to go.

Pressure Package
For the first time in the last few games, the Packers finally started to get some pressure on an opposing quarterback. I’ve written in recent weeks about the fact that the anaemic pass rush was only exacerbating the problems in the back end of the defense, but now with Clay Matthews seeming to become healthier the pressure, at least against a bad Vikings offensive line, started to return. The defense racked up 4 sacks of Sam Bradford, two of which came from Nick Perry who was playing with a frankly enormous club on his injured hand. Clay Matthews batted down two passes to pair with his sack of Bradford, and Mike Daniels and rookie Kenny Clark recovered a pair of Vikings fumbles.

It was nice to see Kenny Clark have an impact play, as the first rounder has been somewhat of a disappointment, effectively being invisible up until this point on the season. In a year where defense has been a major issue for this Packers team, it would have been helpful to get some impact from defensive rookies, especially one a first round pick had been invested in. Going forward into week 17 and (hopefully) the postseason, his lack of production thus far means his legs are fresh and he can make further impact there.

Vagabond Vikings
Shortly after the game, the news came out that the huge game from Jordy Nelson may have had another deciding factor to go along with it being because of his greatness. The Vikings cornerbacks had decided to ignore the game plan of their head coach. According to reports, Mike Zimmer had intended premier cornerback Xavier Rhodes to follow Jordy, but the players themselves had decided to freelance the coverage and allow him to switch between the cornerbacks. While I’m trying to contain my glee and not revel in the joy of the systemic dysfunction of that organisation and the fact that it would appear (despite their attempts to roll back what happened in interviews over the last two days) that Mike Zimmer has no control of his team, I’m definitely thankful that they allowed Jordy to go off and win this game.

If for no other reason than, since the NFL has flexed the game vs. the Lions on Sunday into Sunday Night Football, we get to watch the final game of the 2016 regular season full of excitement and anticipation.

Ty Montgomery Player of the Week Award

Good Lordy, Jordy Nelson! 9 receptions, 154 yards, 2 touchdowns. Ladies and gentlemen, your NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Jordy went off against this Vikings team, averaging over 17 yards per reception for the second year in a row. The new Jordy who is playing often out of the slot to allow Davante Adams to take on a new role on the boundary has been spectacular. In this game, especially in the first half, Jordy was effectively uncoverable by the Vikings. In a game where an offensive performance was needed to push us to the brink of playoff contention he showed up hard.

Jordy is the biggest Pro Bowl snub in football. He’s 6th in receiving yards (1,191), leads the league in touchdowns (14) by two, ahead of the otherworldly Antonio Brown, and is 7th in yards per game (79.4). Leading the league in touchdowns, and being well inside the top 10 in most other major categories, it’s baffling that he didn’t make the Pro Bowl, and is just more proof that that whole affair is ridiculous.

Jordy, screw what the rest of the league thinks. You’re our favourite farmer.

Totally-Not-Knee-Jerk Reactions

  1. This is the last time I’m going to write this until I get around to an angry offseason article (hopefully post-Superbowl): Dom Capers needs to be fired. I’m sure he’s an incredibly nice guy, but when his response in pressers to an entire season of defensive ineptitude to a query on what the problem is is “Well, we’ve given up too many big plays.” he obviously just doesn’t have what it takes anymore. For the past 5+ years the middle of his defenses has been a sieve, and as mentioned earlier it’s not for lack of providing him with talent with 8 of our last 10 first round picks being provided to him on defense. It’s time to bring in some younger blood to the defensive coordinator position that can keep pace with defending against the modern offensive game.
  2. NFC North teams that dome their stadiums should be flagged for unsportsmanlike franchise management. Game 256 of the 2016 NFL season is the decider for the NFC North title between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, on the first day of January. That should be a game with snow tumbling down, the breath of players misting like the breath of a dragon from their red, frozen faces. But no, it will be indistinguishable from a game in Dallas or New Orleans courtesy of the roof on Ford Field.
  3. Dome aside, I’m excited for the game against the Lions. We’ve been spoiled the last few years with these week 17 division deciding games. I’ll take this over locking the division up in week 14 any time. We only get 16 of these regular season games a year, and as the season comes to a close I’d rather they were all crucial. The schedulers did a great job with a lot of teams this year in backloading the division games to keep stuff special. Bring it on!
  4. I’m super bummed out for the Raiders. They’ve been both a great story and a wonderful team to watch all year. Watching Derek Carr play reminds me of when I first had a visiting American relative turn on American football and I sat with him and watched Brett Favre chuck this small rugby ball around the air with his characteristic childish joy on the field. They’ve turned that organisation around (with a Packers personnel guy at the helm), and after Carr breaking his leg the playoffs will be significantly less exciting to watch.