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.”
Upon eight seasons of further review, it does appear the Packers will be OK with the Vikings signing Brad Childress before he had a chance to interview for the Green Bay job in 2006. Mike McCarthy stepped in, won a Lombardi Trophy and is on pace to have a street named after him.
He is also 33-10 against NFC North opponents. That’s a .767 winning percentage that’s second only to Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s .800 mark (36-9) against AFC East teams.
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For the fourth consecutive season, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will not play an entire 16-game season. A torn groin muscle suffered last week has sidelined him indefinitely.
Normally, that would be a bad thing for a player in his contract year. But the effect of Cutler’s absence on the Bears has been well documented since a 7-3 start in 2011 became an 8-8 finish after Cutler broke his thumb. With a 64.9 completion percentage and a 91.7 passer rating in seven games under new coach Marc Trestman, Cutler likely isn’t going anywhere.
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The records keep piling up for Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, who is only 28 years old. With 155 yards and two touchdowns, he broke one of Herman Moore’s team records and moved within one touchdown of matching another. Johnson moved past Moore with his 35th 100-yard game.
And he now has 61 career touchdown catches, one shy of Moore. Johnson also extended his NFL mark of consecutive games with at least two touchdown catches to 11.
Three observations …
• Wouldn’t you feel more secure in believing that Brett Favre doesn’t want to come back if he had talked about turning down a better offer than a Rams team that’s 3-4 and playing in the NFC West?
• Call it the NFL media’s circle of life.
A, Reporters ask if Matt Cassel replacing Christian Ponder is the spark the team needs. B, Reporters ask if Josh Freeman replacing Cassel is the spark the team needs. C, Reporters ask if Ponder’s experience in the offense is the spark the team needs.
• It sure looks as though Percy Harvin’s comeback from a hip injury is on a collision course with the Vikings when they visit Seattle on Nov. 17.
Two predictions …
• The Giants’ smiles will be short-lived as the Eagles, unlike the Vikings, hang on to Eli’s pick-six opportunities.
• Mike Shanahan would have had a more enjoyable return to Denver if his Redskins weren’t catching Peyton Manning coming off a loss.