Fred Pagac is an Ohio State guy to the very base of his being. And Ohio State guys set the bar high.
A couple of years back, when Pagac was Vikings defensive coordinator, he had to speak to the media once a week during the season. He liked speaking to the media about as much as Woody Hayes liked Clemson linebackers intercepting his quarterback’s passes.
It was Packers week and Pagac, who is now the team’s linebackers coach, was asked about a fella named Aaron Rodgers.
“Aaron Rodgers,” said Pagac, “is a good football player.”
And that was pretty much that.
Fortunately, the Packers media relations department puts out a weekly release called “the Dope Sheet.” It’s chock full of great stats and not a bad place to turn if you ever want to go deeper than “Aaron Rodgers is a good football player.”
So while Pagac’s assessment remains accurate to this day, let us embellish it a little bit via the Dope Sheet’s “Stat of the Week.”
In 10 regular-season games against the Vikings, Rodgers has completed 70.7 percent of his passes (232 of 328) for 2,840 yards, 24 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 116.4. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, via the Dope Sheet, the 116.4 rating against a single opponent ranks No. 1 since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. No. 2 is Dan Fouts’ 112.6 rating against the Browns. No. 3 is Rodgers’ 111.0 rating against the Lions.
Alan Williams, the more talkative current Vikings defensive coordinator, was asked this week how in the world he prepares for Rodgers knowing that Rodgers knows the Vikings defensive scheme better than any other team in the league except Chicago. Sunday night’s game will be the 12th time, including one playoff victory, that Rodgers has faced essentially the same Purple scheme.
“We want to make sure we focus on ourselves, and I think that’s what we did last year,” Williams said. “If you focus on yourself, I think that’s the way to get the job done. We don’t expect to do anything different this week.”
Even in the Vikings’ Week 17 playoff-clinching victory a year ago, it took a last-second field goal to beat a red-hot Rodgers 37-34. Rodgers was 28-of-40 (70 percent) for 365 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 131.8 passer rating.
The Vikings are blitzing more this year, but they still pretty much depend on a no-frills 4-3 scheme that relies on front-four pressure, the back seven players being where they are supposed to be and everyone tackling well.
More than any other game the Vikings play, the pressure is on the defensive linemen to beat their man physically. With time, Rodgers doesn’t get fooled and, unlike Brett Favre, he is careful not to throw games away.
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has 17 sacks in 12 games against the Packers, including 4½ in the 2009 “MNF” game that was Favre’s first game against his former team. He will be facing rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari.
Allen said it’s important not to overthink one’s approach to stopping Rodgers.
“You can’t get outside yourself, you know what I mean?” he said. “… You can’t get out of sorts, you can’t start trying new things. With a guy like Aaron, the last thing you [want to] do is be wondering where am I supposed to be? You can’t be afraid to play your defense, you can’t be afraid to play what you play. It’s going to come down to guys making plays, being where you’re supposed to be.”