By Jake McCormick and Andy Weise
How do you force objectivity out of football fans? Our answer is simply to have them grade the team they love to hate. That’s what Packer fan Jake McCormick and Viking fan Andy Weise did as a follow up to Monday’s record-setting showdown between Green Bay and Minnesota. As it turns out, the only man with cameras on him, other than Ted Thompson and Mark Murphy, ended up living up to the highly anticipated hype as Brett Favre orchestrated possibly one of his best games ever. The Vikings left the Metrodome with more answers and the Packers left with more questions. Here are some of those inquiries we had about our respective nemesis’s:
Minnesota Vikings positional grades:
As much as I hate to say it, you can’t downgrade a guy one bit when he has recently had problems in big games, but goes 24-31 for 271 yards and three TDs against a team that two years ago considered him Jesus reincarnate. Oh yeah, he took home the NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors too. It was the first game with an opened up passing offense for Minnesota, which makes me wonder if this was promised to Favre before he signed…
Adrian Peterson easily had his worst game of the season, but give credit to the Green Bay defense for game planning against him effectively. Peterson still had 25 carries and indirectly helped Favre throw the ball all over the field like a kid again. Have I heard that somewhere before?
Wide receiver/tight end
Also give credit to the Packer defense for only looking at Viking running plays during the week’s preparation. The Viking receivers did their jobs of catching balls in wide open space as the Packers blew their coverage assignments like it was a pickup game. As long as the ghost of Troy Williamson doesn’t return, the unit as a whole should continue to improve in their abilities and chemistry with Favre.
According to ESPN, Favre had one pass play where he was given 7.34 seconds to throw the ball. The line didn’t allow a sack all game and Favre was sitting in his impenetrable space bubble all night. The usually dependable run blocking line did look overpowered at times as the Packers ran numerous run blitzes and sniper shots at AP. But eight men against five or six is a fair fight, isn’t it?
I think eight sacks speak for themselves. Granted the Packer offensive line nearly escorted the Viking pass rush to Aaron Rodgers, but Jared Allen looked like he would’ve gotten 4.5 sacks against any left tackle. The biggest strength of the Minnesota defense continued to shine, and will be crucial to its future success. As if that last statement was some sort of revelation; I sound like a Monday Night Football announcer.
Chad Greenway recovered a fumble and made a huge tackle on a goalline run by Packer fullback John Kuhn, and Ben Leber recorded a sack. EJ Henderson played well through the pain, and the unit did a good job of keeping Ryan Grant from getting to the next level. But the Packer tight ends were responsible for a good chunk of Aaron Rodgers’ 384 passing yards, and although he dropped the ball, Donald Lee was wide open for a touchdown on the Viking goalline.
This was the unit that was going to face the biggest test against the Packers, and it didn’t fail, but it barely passed. Antoine Winfield is the only consistent piece of the Minnesota secondary, and got credit for an interception that killed the Packers’ opening drive in Viking territory. Giving up 384 passing yards is never a good thing to put on a team’s resume, especially when the defensive line is severely pressuring the quarterback.
Overall, this was the first high pressure game of the year for Minnesota, and they won it with the typically strong defense and not so typical high octane passing game. The team will be riding on a golden chariot of confidence heading into this week’s matchup against the lowly St. Louis Rams. But the biggest tests this season come in the following weeks, before Favre’s just as highly anticipated return to Lambeau Field. I’ll bet that game becomes the highest rated Sunday game in league history if it’s broadcast nationally.
Green Bay Packer grades:
Aaron Rodgers is going to be a special player in the NFL for awhile. This wasn’t news to me but Rodgers proved himself as a franchise QB and the guy who deserved to take over the Packers over a year ago. He remained calm for much of the game even though his offensive line continued to crumble. He was most effective in the three step drop getting the ball quickly out of his hands but if he couldn’t find his first couple targets, he was generally getting hurried by some Viking.
Ryan Grant had an average game for a slightly above average running back against an above average run defense. Grant didn’t get the ball much once the Vikings took a two touchdown lead but he seemed to be doing OK when he was in before that. The Packers seem to have a drop off on third downs when Wynn goes in too.
Wide receiver/tight end
For the second week in a row the tight ends ran wild against the Vikings in the center of the field. Jordy Nelson also made it look easy down the middle when he scored on his touchdown. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver were relatively quiet being held under 100 yards combined with eight catches. The Vikings corners seemed to hold those two down but that’s when it opened things up for Jermichael Finley who went for 128 and a touchdown.
I knew this would be the difference in the game and it was. In four games the Packers have given up 20 sacks and Rodgers was brought down 8 times alone in the Vikings game. With Clifton out, Colledge struggled and T.J. Lang replaced him later because of injury only to look like a practice dummy as Jared Allen blew by him a few times (not always for a sack). Allen Barbre, who got a lot of flack earlier in the season, actually seemed to hold down a decent game but Jared Allen was attached to Rodgers for much of the game.
Minnesota’s offensive line had given up sacks just like the Packers in the previous three games but somehow here they were able to block Green Bay from getting to Favre minus a couple of hits after the throw. Maybe the grade should be higher because they were able to stop Peterson in the running game but the lack of pressure on Favre was a big reason the Packers lost.
This unit was very active in the game, produced a big turnover that led to a touchdown and seemed to cover the field well when Peterson ran outside of the tackles. This was my first real chance to see how Aaron Kampman is transitioning and I have to say I was disappointed. While he does line up on the line sometimes, he’s not the same dangerous player he was when the Packers ran the 4-3.
We all know Al Harris and Charles Woodson are probably the best duo in the league. They’re physical guys who battle every single play but didn’t come away with a good game. Harris was beaten badly on the Berrian touchdown though he ended up getting no help from the safety. He bit badly on Favre’s pump fake (how many times did I see that when he was in Green Bay, too many) and Woodson had a couple of costly penalties. The safeties didn’t factor in too much to the game.
The biggest thing I take away from this game is Aaron Rodgers really played a great game despite the horrible offensive line play. Packers’ fans have to be satisfied with that guy under center because the offensive line cannot get worse at this point. I’ve read Mark Tauscher might be coming back to take over at the right tackle spot he previously took care of and once Clifton is back they should be fine. It will be exciting to see Favre at Lambeau Field in a few weeks but I’m sure for now he is just happy to come away with the first win over his former team.
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