1. Smith pick highlights Vikings’ third-down dominance
The Vikings went into Saturday’s game at Lambeau Field ranked first in the league in third-down defense. And they flexed their timely playmaking ability once again in their first shutout victory (16-0) since 1993. Before Saturday, opponents had converted only 26.3 percent of their third downs. The Vikings also had held teams to fewer than two third-down conversions a league-high three times. The Packers converted only three of 12. The third-down highlights included tight coverage by Trae Waynes on a deep-ball incompletion on the game’s first third down, a 6-yard tackle for loss by Mackensie Alexander and an interception by Harrison Smith on third-and-3 at the Vikings 15-yard line late in the first half.
2. Rudolph irked about Pro Bowl
Give tight end Kyle Rudolph credit for being honest. Asked if it bothers him that he wasn’t named to his second Pro Bowl this week, he said, “Of course it does.” Rudolph has eight touchdowns, including seven in the red zone. The NFC tight ends selected to the Pro Bowl were Seattle’s Jimmy Graham, who has nine touchdowns, and Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz, who has eight. “Being right up there with everybody in our league, it is disappointing for me,” said Rudolph, who caught only one pass for 6 yards Saturday. “Obviously, the Pro Bowl is not why you do this, but it means that you’re respected by your peers, coaches and fans.” Oddly, the Vikings took Rudolph out for three straight plays when they got first-and-goal from 7 in the third quarter. They settled for a field goal
3. Yellow flag issue corrected
For the most part, the Vikings do a good job limiting their penalties. They went into Saturday with 105 penalties, the 13th fewest in the league. They had only two for 10 yards on Saturday. They went 27 minutes before committing their only first-half penalty, a 5-yarder for 12 defenders on the field. In last week’s 34-7 win over the Bengals, they tied their season high with 11 penalties. Rhodes leads the Vikings in total penalties with nine this season. Seven were accepted. Left guard Nick Easton also has seven accepted penalties. He has drawn 60 yards in penalties while also negating 42 yards gained. Five of Easton’s penalties led to stalled drives.
4. Everson’s Cowboy connection
Vikings fans old enough to hate the Cowboys because of Drew Pearson’s push-off in 1975 might need to sit down for this next sentence. Team-leading sack machine Everson Griffen was named after Everson Walls, the former Cowboys cornerback who made the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s list of 25 modern-era semifinalists this fall. “I grew up a Cowboys fan,” said Griffen, who was held without a sack on Saturday and remains at a career-high 13 on the season. “I didn’t follow Everson Walls’ career, but my dad [Charles] sure did. He was a huge Cowboys fan. There aren’t too many of us Eversons out there.” Griffen has 61 career sacks.
5. No. 7 a fitting number Saturday
The zero windchill didn’t agree with either quarterback. At times, it seemed fitting that both quarterbacks were wearing No. 7. Some throws looked downright Christian Ponder-esque (Google 26-26 tie, 2013). But Brett also had 23 incompletions — including a bad drop by Lance Kendricks on third-down in the red zone — 17 completions, two interceptions and a 30.2 passer rating. Meanwhile, Case Keenum wasn’t nearly as bad. But something tells me it might be a good idea to keep the young Texan indoors come playoff time. Keenum had season lows for completions (14) and yards passing (139). He didn’t turn the ball over but got away with an underthrown ball that should have been intercepted but drew a 39-yard pass interference penalty.