1. Hanging with the Hall of Famers
The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson captured his third NFL rushing title in nine seasons an hour before Sunday night’s kickoff against the Packers at Lambeau Field. In a two-man race, Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin trailed Peterson by 64 yards entering Week 17 but gained only 48 yards in a loss to Carolina. He finished with 1,402 yards while Peterson added 67 yards on Sunday night to finish with 1,485, the eighth-most by a player in his 30s in NFL history. Peterson, 30, is the eighth running back in league history with at least three rushing titles. The other seven are Pro Football Hall of Famers. Jim Brown won a record eight titles in nine seasons (1957 to ’65). Eric Dickerson, Emmitt Smith, O.J. Simpson, Steve Van Buren and Barry Sanders each won four. Earl Campbell won three. Peterson also is only the third running back in his 30s to win a rushing title since the NFL began keeping official stats in 1932. Marion Motley (30) did it in 1950 and Curtis Martin (31) did it in 2004. They, too, are in the Hall of Fame. Peterson shrugged last week when asked about winning a third title. “I see myself having the opportunity to win it a couple more years,” he said.
2. First down and bad to good
When these teams met on Nov. 22, Peterson had 3 yards on seven first-down carries. He had 203 against the Raiders the week before and would post an additional 158 against the Falcons a week later. Against the Packers: 45. In Sunday’s first half, Peterson carried the ball on six of the Vikings’ 12 first-down plays for 14 yards (2.3 yards per carry). He had four carries on first down in the second half, gaining 24 yards (6.0 per carry).
3. Catching the Packers … finally
The Packers went 19-4-1 against the Vikings, Bears and Lions while winning four consecutive division titles from 2011 to ’14. In 2011, they won the division with four games left. But Sunday night was their third straight Week 17 winner-take-all matchup after tamping down the Bears in 2013 and the Lions last season. The Vikings’ win Sunday night marked the first time since 1991 that the Packers lost to the Lions, Bears and Vikings at home in the same season. Green Bay also went 3-3 in the division, their first nonwinning division record since 2005. In 2006, coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson joined forces. Since then, the Bears, Vikings and Lions have had three head coaches apiece. The Bears are on their third general manager, and the Lions will be hiring their third general manager and possibly a fourth head coach after the season.
4. Eyeing Rudolph vs. Hyde
The last time these teams met, Kyle Rudolph caught six passes, posted the only 100-yard game (106) of his career and caught a career-long 47-yard touchdown to give the Vikings an early lead. He caught the touchdown over safety Micah Hyde, who then left the game because of an injury. Sunday, Bridgewater looked for Rudolph multiple times in the first half but had to go to his next option when Rudolph was covered. Technically, Rudolph was targeted once in the first half, but it basically was a throw-away. Rudolph finished without a catch and wasn’t targeted in the second half. In his previous six games, Rudolph had caught 26 passes for 313 yards.
5. Defensive keys: Stopping Lacy and pressuring Rodgers
The Vikings went into Sunday’s game with nine sacks and five takeaways in their past two games. To continue that pace, they first needed to stop running back Eddie Lacy on first down. Four of Lacy’s 11 career 100-yard games had come in his past four meetings with the Vikings. Sunday night, Lacy finished with 34 yards on 13 carries. On first down, he ran nine times for 24 yards (2.7 average). Meanwhile, quarterback Aaron Rodgers entered the game with an 11-4 record against the Vikings. A week earlier, he was sacked eight times, losing two fumbles that were returned for touchdowns in a 38-8 loss at Arizona. Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari (ankle) missed his second straight game. This time, instead of starting Don Barclay, who gave up four sacks at Arizona, the Packers moved Josh Sitton from left guard to left tackle and inserted Lane Taylor at left guard. It didn’t help much as Everson Griffen had two key sacks.