1. Rodgers’ fast starts are unmatched
Heading into Saturday’s game, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the league, and had since 2014, in first-half passer rating (105.1) and passing touchdowns (59). The Packers also led the league this year in points on their first possessions (58). The Vikings forced a punt on the first possession before Rodgers let them have it with a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in the first quarter. He completed 12 of 13 passes to six different receivers for 163 yards and third-down touchdown passes of 21 yards to Jordy Nelson and 20 yards to Davante Adams. The Vikings’ rush and coverage were soft and, well, pathetic. Nelson had three first-quarter catches for 84 yards, including an easy 48-yarder while wide open down the sideline. “I fell down in coverage,” said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, “and Aaron Rodgers found my guy for 48.” Twenty-one minutes into the game, Rodgers was 14-for-16 for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Nelson had five catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns. And, yes, the Packers led comfortably, 21-6. Rodgers finished the half going 19-for-22 for 268 yards, three touchdowns and a rushing touchdown.
2. Packers’ undrafted rookie has four catches
The Packers have 15 players on their roster who weren’t drafted, including seven rookie free agents. One of those seven is Geronimo Allison out of Illinois. He had four catches, matching his season total and surpassing Vikings first-round draft pick Laquon Treadwell’s season total by three. Allison was wide open for a 15-yard catch to help set up the game’s first touchdown. And his 33-yard catch while wide open again helped the Packers score their fourth and final TD of the first half. Twenty-one of the Packers’ 53 players (39.6 percent) entered the league as sixth- or seventh-round picks or free agents. Starting left guard Lane Taylor was an undrafted free agent in 2013. Only 19 (35.8 percent) were selected in the first three rounds. Twelve of those are starters, including seven first-rounders. The Packers also have a nice age mix. Forty-three players (81.1 percent) are 28 or younger. Twenty-four (47.2) are 24 or younger.
3. McCarthy reclaims control of series
Not long after Mike Tice was fired moments after the 2005 season, the Vikings brought then-Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress in for an interview. Chilly was supposed to go on to interview in Green Bay, but the Vikings hurried things along and hired the league’s hottest coaching candidate before Green Bay got its crack at him. The Packers hired Mike McCarthy and since then his 113 regular-season wins are second only to Bill Belichick (137). The Packers and Patriots also are the only teams that have made the playoffs in each of the past seven seasons. Besides Belichick and McCarthy, the only other coaches to lead their teams to at least seven straight playoffs are Hall of Famers Tom Landry, Chuck Noll and Tony Dungy. Including playoffs, McCarthy is 121-68-1 with a Super Bowl victory. Against the Vikings, McCarthy is 15-6-1, including 1-0 in the playoffs. He’s 9-2-1 against the Vikings at Lambeau Field.
4. Penalties continue to haunt Vikings
Last Monday, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer essentially threw up his hands and admitted that nothing he’s tried has helped the Vikings avoid dumb penalties. Nothing he did Saturday worked either. Trailing 14-3 early in the second quarter, the Vikings completed a 10-yard pass to Jerick McKinnon on third-and-9. But they actually lost 5 yards on the play because right tackle Jeremiah Sirles came flying in and delivered a late hit for an unnecessary-roughness penalty. Four snaps later, on third-and-6 from the Packers 12, the Vikings had a delay-of-game penalty. On third-and-11, they gained 9 yards on a pass to Stefon Diggs and had to settle for a field goal. “It’s all about just being disciplined,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “We had eight penalties. They had three. We didn’t do what Coach asked us today and we lost.”
5. Takeaways fueling Packers’ playoff run
When the Packers were 4-6, they were minus-6 in the turnover ratio. Today, they’re 9-6 and plus-7. That’s right, they’re plus-13 during their five-game winning streak. They’re plus-12 with 12 takeaways and no giveaways the past three weeks. Of course, it helps when the team’s center loses his grip on the ball and never snaps it, as the Vikings’ Nick Easton did early in the second quarter on Saturday. The Packers scored 14 points off two Vikings turnovers Saturday.