On at least two occasions, the Vikings thought they were in absolutely perfect position to stop Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers from hurting them on third down.
The result of those two plays: Rodgers going 2-for-2 for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the Packers’ 44-31 victory Sunday night at Mall of America Field.
“It’s so frustrating,” cornerback Josh Robinson said. “He’s one of the best to ever play his position. But, at the same time, we have to figure out a way to make the play.”
Sunday sure wasn’t the day the Vikings solved the riddle that is Rodgers.
The first of those two aforementioned third-down plays was an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson in the back-right portion of the end zone. It was third-and-2 and the Vikings were ahead 7-0.
Nelson was being tightly covered by Robinson, whose struggles this season have been well-documented. Some other quarterbacks not named Peyton or Brady might never have thrown the ball into the minuscule window that Rodgers threw into.
“Yeah, I was there to make a play, but he just made a great throw,” Robinson said. “I tried to get my head around, but the ball was already coming in before I could turn. It happened real fast.”
So fast that Rodgers threw the touchdown right under Robinson’s nose. Literally.
In the second quarter, the score was tied when the Vikings put Rodgers in yet another third-down situation. It was third-and-6 from the Green Bay 24-yard line when linebacker Chad Greenway was covering Nelson over the middle in zone coverage.
But, once again, Rodgers zipped the ball into a window only Nelson could grab. He latched onto it, Greenway fell and Nelson split the defense for a 76-yard touchdown.
“They’re going to make plays, but technique-wise and how we draw it up, that’s how you’re supposed to [cover the receiver],” Greenway said.
“I don’t know what else you’re supposed to do on a receiver. You got to put yourself in the best position possible, which I thought I was in. They’re going to make plays. That’s why they’re so good. Give them credit.”
The Packers’ season high for third-down conversions was seven entering Monday night’s game. They went 6-for-6 in the first quarter and 13-for-18 for the game.
Rodgers completed 10 of 10 third-down passes to five different receivers for 172 yards, six first downs and two touchdowns.
Not bad for a quarterback missing wide receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley.
Rodgers also ran three times on third down, converting first downs all three times with runs of 12, 14 and 3 yards.
The runs of 12 and 14 came on two of the better rushes by Jared Allen and the Vikings’ defensive front.
“It’s frustration, total frustration,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “Bottom line is we have to find a way to make plays. And we didn’t do that all the way across the board.”
It’s something that’s been going on for quite a while, too. Rodgers entered the game with a 70.7 completion percentage, 24 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 116.4 passer rating in 10 regular-season games against the Vikings.
The passer rating was the highest by one player against an opponent since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
And all Rodgers did Monday was improve greatly upon the completion percentage (24-for-29 for 82.3) and the passer rating (130.6) while raising the touchdown-to-interception ratio to 24-4.