Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings defense still has plenty to worry about after Green Bay's explosion

Posted by: under Vikings, Packers, Vikings defense Updated: January 1, 2013 - 3:26 PM

Thanks to a season-best 444 yards from the offense Sunday, the Vikings won a shootout over Green Bay 37-34. But that should not give the defense a false sense of security heading for the rubber match this weekend. The Vikings allowed 286 yards and 24 points after halftime, unable to disrupt Aaron Rodgers’ rhythm much at all.

Green Bay opened the second half with an 80-yard touchdown drive as Greg Jennings provided an uncovered 5-yard scoring reception. Linebacker Erin Henderson accepted full blame for the defensive breakdown on that play, allowing Jennings to race into the end zone uncovered with no defender within 20 yards of him.

“I’m an idiot,” Henderson said. “That’s pretty much what it was.”

The more complex explanation is that Henderson panicked and bit on the play-action fake by Rodgers, worried that running back DuJuan Harris was getting the ball and cutting back through the gap that Henderson was supposed to control.

“My eyes were too big,” Henderson said. “I was trying to do too much. … If the ball would have cut back I would have had to make that tackle. But my eyes just got too big. Got too nosey.”

It was a split-second decision with major consequences.

“That’s what this game is,” Henderson said. “It’s those little plays that separate a [pass breakup] from a touchdown. It’s what separates a touchdown from somebody being down on the 6-inch line. It’s little things like that that make the game what it is.”

The Packers’ biggest play of the day came two possessions later, a 73-yard Rodgers pass to Jordy Nelson, with the Green Bay receiver streaking past nickel back Marcus Sherels. Safety Harrison Smith couldn’t get over in time to help. And Nelson was loose, putting the Packers in position for another TD.

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