Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter met at the quarterback.
Anthony Harris, shifting his hips side to side trying to stick with T.Y. Hilton, wouldn’t have needed to track an entire 35-yard route. But Andrew Luck escaped and uncorked a ridiculous throw off one foot and across his body for the 31-yard catch on third down.
With Aaron Rodgers on deck, plays like that don’t bode well for the Vikings defense, which has previously held Rodgers in check, but is limping into Lambeau Field on Saturday. And Rodgers is capable of doing everything Luck did to pick apart the Vikings defense on Sunday.
“They’re both very mobile in the pocket. They both have the ability to throw on the run and throw accurately on the run,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “And the next thing is they have the ability to pull the football down and run it. It’s a tough tackle. No doubt about it.”
The Vikings don’t allow many deep completions because of a potent combination of pass rush and sound coverage. When one fails, the other needs to be there to compensate. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, when Luck wasn’t sacked for the first time in 17 starts, against a defense that entered with the third-most sacks in the league.
“We didn’t do a good job in coverage, either,” head coach Mike Zimmer said.
After Sunday, the Vikings’ chief concern against Rodgers might be the coverage play of their safeties.
Stalwart safety Harrison Smith has been missed in many ways, even if he wasn’t the same player while gutting through a severe ankle sprain. On Sunday, Frank Gore knifed through the middle of the defense for more than 100 rushing yards and Luck successfully targeted tight ends and backs vs. Vikings linebackers and safeties.
On this third-and-7 below, Hilton runs a deep post from the bottom of the screen. It’s unclear if cornerback Mackensie Alexander, briefly in for Terence Newman, was supposed to run downfield longer with Hilton. However, Harris turns the wrong way as Hilton cuts inside and gets open for Luck.
Rodgers made a similar play on the third play of the Packers’ win vs. Chicago. He had a somewhat easier task of evading the pressure in front of him, but throws into a tighter window for the 27-yard completion to Randall Cobb.
Arm strength is another obvious comparison between the two quarterbacks. The Vikings didn’t blitz Luck often, opting instead to trust their coverage and a four-man rush. Neither produced, with the biggest busts coming in coverage, including the 50-yard touchdown to Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett breezes between both Vikings safeties with Andrew Sendejo unable to make up ground from the deep middle of the field.
The Packers, meanwhile, nearly gave away the game in Chicago before Rodgers delivered a 60-yard strike to set up the game-winning field goal.
The Vikings could do without the embarrassment of anotherlackadaisical effort, as cornerback Captain Munnerlyn described, in Green Bay. One key difference between the Colts and Packers could play into the Vikings’ favor.
The Packers predominantly use a three-receiver offense, which puts the Vikings in their nickel package — the best version of their current defense. The Colts kept the Vikings in the base defense much of Sunday’s loss because they use two-, three-tight end formations. Luck didn’t target Vikings cornerbacks much, hitting big only when aiming at Vikings safeties and linebackers.
Should Rodgers take a similar approach, the Vikings could be in for a long day after what they displayed on Sunday.