The skinny: Obviously, we all knew the first Vikings-Packers meeting of the year — Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium — would feature the first-place Vikings (7-2) riding a five-game winning streak while the second-place Packers (6-3) would be on a three-game slide after losing to Detroit (18-16) in Wisconsin for the first time since 1991. Too bad this league is so predictable, eh?
Play-calling problems? Think anyone can call plays for Aaron Rodgers? Well, Packers fans aren’t so sure of that in recent weeks as their team’s offense has sputtered uncharacteristically with three games of fewer than 20 points, including two in the past three weeks. Coach Mike McCarthy handed his play-calling duties to Tom Clements this season so he could focus more on managing the entire team and game situations. Things looked OK for six games and six wins. Now, after 16 points against the league’s worst defense, McCarthy might want to consider grabbing the offensive reins back.
Here’s one example why: The Packers led 3-0 late in the first half last week. There were 52 seconds left and Rodgers is the quarterback. Even on an off day, the guy is the anti-Favre when it comes to a refusal to throw anything that might have a chance of being intercepted. And what does Clements call? An inside run out of the shotgun against a Lions team that was playing the run well. The Packers punted and the Lions kicked a game-tying field goal as the first half expired. Would McCarthy have made that call on third down?
A LOOK AT THE FILM
Offense: The Lions played with passion and the kind of focus and motivation that comes right after the owner cans the president and the general manager. They pressured Rodgers consistently and played even better in coverage. Rodgers looked uncharacteristically jittery and rushed in the pocket. And the anti-Favre in him refuses to let him take risks when the windows were shut as often as they were by Detroit defenders in tight coverage. But, that being said, Rodgers also wasn’t Rodgers for at least the second straight week. On Green Bay’s second possession, Rodgers had perfect protection, no wind and a bright sunshiny day when he overthrew Davante Adams by 3 to 4 yards on a deep route. The coverage was tight, but not tight enough to beat the typical Rodgers deep-ball laser. Rodgers also threw passes that were too wide and one that even did a T-Jackian one-hopper to the target. On what could have been the game-tying two-point conversion, Rodgers was pressured up the middle and didn’t lead Adams to the open space in the corner of the end zone, as he typically would. Throwing the ball right on Adams enabled the cornerback, Crezdon Butler, who was signed off the practice squad two days earlier, to get a hand in and knock the ball from Adams’ grasp. It also didn’t help that Randall Cobb dropped what could have been a catch-and-run touchdown. Adams also dropped a ball. It’s obvious that Rodgers misses Jordy Nelson and still is trying to get comfortable with his other receivers.
Defense: Lost in the shadows of the Packers’ struggling offense is a defense that played exceptionally well Sunday. The Packers forced five three-and-outs and got an INT in the red zone by safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Yes, the Packers didn’t record a sack for the third straight game. But watch the game and you’ll see enough pressure to make a difference. One of Detroit’s two TDs was a 1-yard drive set up by a 104-yard kickoff return by Ameer Abdullah. Other than the poor tackling on a 43-yard reception on Detroit’s 80-yard touchdown drive late in the game, the Packers defense looked very good.
Stat of the week : 7.3
That’s Rodgers’ yards per pass attempt, which ranks 16th in the league. Rodgers has been first or second in that category in four of the past five years. In 2011, he was No. 1 at 9.2. Last year, he was No. 2 at 8.4.