Mark Craig's Five Extra Points

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2012 - 1:36 AM

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison tracked down Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and forced a key fumble in the third quarter. The Vikings recovered, squelching Green Bay’s momentum and converting the turnover into a touchdown.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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1. That was Musgrave's best game

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave had his best game in the Vikings' biggest game since he was hired before last season. Three plays highlighted his afternoon and showed that even with a limited arsenal, he can mix things up. Putting rookie receiver Jarius Wright -- all 5-10, 180 pounds of him -- at fullback in front of Adrian Peterson late in the second quarter caused the Packers to hesitate long enough for Wright to slip out of the backfield and catch an 8-yard touchdown. Late in the third quarter, Musgrave called something the Vikings hardly ever run: a play-fake to Peterson from the Packers' 2-yard line followed by a pass to Peterson in the end zone. Peterson was wide open for his first touchdown catch of the season. And, finally, did anyone expect Musgrave to open a series in the fourth quarter by having Christian Ponder drop back and launch a perfectly thrown deep ball to Wright for a 65-yard gain? I think not. The Vikings capped the drive with a touchdown and a 34-27 lead. "It just seemed like the right time to call it," coach Leslie Frazier said.

2. Despite bum shoulder, Robison makes huge play

How does a guy suit up when he has a Grade 3 sprain of his right shoulder? Let Vikings left defensive end Brian Robison explain. "I was in a brace," he said. "I was taped up. I had a pad on it. It was hard to breathe. But sometimes that's what you have to do if you want to make a playoff push." It paid off. Robison might have had the biggest defensive play of the game. The Packers had closed the gap to three points in the third quarter and had the ball at midfield when Robison beat right tackle Don Barclay, sacked Aaron Rodgers and forced a fumble that safety Jamarca Sanford recovered. Nine plays later, the Vikings scored a touchdown.

3. Winfield admits thinking maybe an 8-8 record

So, cornerback Antoine Winfield, what were you really thinking this team would do record-wise before the season started? "Ah, maybe 8-8," he said. "Something like that. Think about it. We're really in a tough division. Chicago is loaded. Green Bay is loaded. Detroit coming off the playoffs. But look at us now. Ten wins." Although Winfield missed the second half when he aggravated his broken right hand, he said he'll definitely play in Saturday night's game at Green Bay. We'll see about that. Winfield's right hand was badly swollen after the game. Losing Winfield for the second half also took rookie nickel back Josh Robinson off the field and put dime back Marcus Sherels on the field. The Packers exploited mismatches with Sherels a number of times, including the 73-yarder to Jordy Nelson. When Winfield is on the field, he shifts into the slot in the nickel. That allows Robinson to play outside. "When I'm out, Marcus is next man up in the slot," Winfield said. "Josh is more comfortable playing on the outside." The Vikings might want to reconsider that thinking and just make sure Robinson is on the field if Winfield can't play.

4. Home Dome advantage certainly proves to be real

The Packers had three false starts, including one on third-and-two that led to Robison's strip sack on the next play. But you knew the Packers were really rattled by the home crowd when even cool-handed Rodgers made a mistake because of the noise level. On second-and-22, Rodgers completed a pass 15 yards downfield to Jermichael Finley, who was moving for a much longer gain. But the play didn't count. In all the confusion, Rodgers had let the play clock wind down and was flagged for delay of game. The Packers ended up punting two plays later.

5. AP makes bad things good

Peterson defines the term "Most Valuable Player" because, well, he usually makes all bad things good again. Right tackle Phil Loadholt gets flagged 15 yards for taunting, putting the Vikings in a second-and-27 situation from the Packers 35? No problem. Peterson busts off a 28-yarder on the next snap. Fourth-and-one from the Packers 44? Easy call. Go for it. Peterson breaks two tackles, gains 6 yards and helps set up a field goal and a 13-0 lead.

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