The Green Bay Packers made their claim on first place in the NFC North Sunday by disposing of the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 23 – 14. The 103rd meeting of the so-called border battle brought together two teams constructed vastly differently in their offensive approach to the game. The Packers have an outstanding quarterback and the Vikings have an outstanding running back. Although Adrian Peterson enjoyed a career day rushing for over 200 yards, Aaron Rodgers and company provided the most firepower and the win.
Rodgers, celebrating his 29th birthday, drew first blood when he hit James Jones with a beautiful 32-yard touchdown strike, but in the second quarter Peterson countered when he ripped off an 82-yard touchdown scamper, and the Vikings took a 14-10 lead into halftime. The injuries continued to pile up for the Packers in the first half as Jordy Nelson left with a hamstring injury and T.J. Lang later exited with an ankle injury. Lang’s injury left the Packers’ already depleted offensive line dipping into the third string to replace him. Enter undrafted rookie Don Barclay, who performed surprisingly well at right tackle for the balance of the game.
As the second half began, the Vikings had momentum, and after Peterson contributed another long run, it looked as though this might be a long day in Titletown. However, Viking quarterback Christian Ponder threw an ill-advised pass which was intercepted in the end zone by Morgan Burnett. That play was the turning point. The Packers converted the turnover into a field goal and then dominated the rest of the third quarter. Burnett had two interceptions on the day as the Viking quarterback (I’ll be kind here) didn’t play very well, turning over the ball deep in Packer territory twice.
Professional football has gradually evolved into a pass-happy spectacle. Rule changes and consumer demand for points scored have paved the way to the point where quarterbacks are the premium player in the NFL. Good teams with a really good quarterback are the ticket to win NFL championships, and those that don’t, draft high in next year’s collegiate draft.
The Packer defense held the Vikings to zero points in the second half and in the fourth quarter the Packers iced this game by maintaining ball possession on an incredibly long 11-minute, 18-play drive. The Packers needed to win this game, and in spite of an incredibly unlucky rash of injuries, did exactly that. The Packers’ record now stands at 8–4 on the season and they are in total control of their playoff destiny with just four games remaining in the regular season. Incredibly, the Pack has won 10 straight games in the NFC North division.
Next week, the Detroit Lions visit Lambeau for a Sunday night engagement. The Lions lost a game they should have won last week against the Indianapolis Colts and are starting to look like the bumbling losers that they have been for the past decade. A couple weeks ago the Packers defeated the Lions on their home turf when their quarterback, Matthew Stafford, had an off day. It will be interesting to see if the Pack can overcome their latest bout of injuries and whether or not the Lions have any fight left in them.
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