As the Vikings prepare for next Monday night’s game at Lambeau Field, we asked Tyler Dunne, the Packers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to give us his up-close-and-personal scouting report on Green Bay. Here are four things you need to know …
1) News flash: The Packers are undefeated. But truthfully, going 16-0 is the farthest thing from their minds.
That’s not just lip service either. Yes, the Packers have been dominant offensively. But they have been wise enough to look in the mirror and acknowledge their many flaws.
“Wake-up call,” Dunne said. “You have three touchdown lead in the fourth quarter and you almost blow it. In the locker room afterwards, some of the guys on the defense were talking as if they lost. They were far from thrilled. And there’s an honesty that they have a lot to work on.”
Early on, a handful of injuries in the secondary hurt the Packers. But against the Chargers, communication breakdowns were prevalent defensively.
As for the realistic nature of 16-0?
“Definitely possible,” Dunne said. “There aren’t many daunting games left on the schedule. You look at road games at New York [against the Giants] and at Detroit as the biggest hurdles. But that’s far from overwhelming. They can run the table.”
2) Believe the budding Jordy Nelson hype.
“It’s been four years in the making with the chemistry between Nelson and Aaron Rodgers,” Dunne said. “And it’s all come together this year. Honestly, it comes down to these by-the-inch intricacies of running his routes and knowing exactly where Rodgers is going to put the ball. That touchdown in San Diego was an incredible example. He knew he’d have to contort his body all the way around and catch the ball low in a split second. That’s probably not a pass they complete a couple years ago. From experience, knowing what Rodgers does, Nelson has carved out a niche. Plus, the guy’s just fast. He routinely can burn defensive backs and get separation. And even now, other teams don’t seem to take his speed as seriously as they should.”
3) Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers remains on the attack.
Dunne believes Capers has dialed up the blitz knob more this season, hoping to get pressure from somewhere. Last season’s team-leader in sacks, Clay Matthews, has only three through eight games. Starting defensive ends Ryan Pickett and Jarius Wynn have combined for three sacks.
“The last few weeks, they’ve been blitzing something like 55 percent of the time,” Dunne said. “They feel like they need to get pressure on the quarterback somehow. And right now, the best way to do so is to keep sending more guys.”
4) For the second time in three games, the Packers are worried about Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder.
Ponder’s stats from his first NFL start weren’t all that impressive. He was 13-for-32 for 219 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in the 33-27 loss to Green Bay. But Ponder’s resolve and composure was undeniable. Even the Packers took note.
“He didn’t have that rookie timidness,” Dunne said. “He made mistakes. But he kept going right back at it. He didn’t turtle up. The Packers all had good things to say. They went against Cam Newton earlier in the season. And a lot of the things they were saying about his confidence and fearlessness they were saying about Ponder after that [Week 7] game. His willingness to rally after a dismal third quarter was impressive and even a little surprising.”