The regular season finale was a thrilling game to watch but unfortunately for Cheeseheads, the Green Bay Packers came up short in the Humpty Dump, falling to the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 37 – 34. The Packers finished the 2012 season at 11 – 5. They are thus the third-seed in the NFC playoffs and will ironically face a rematch with the sixth-seed Vikings next week within the friendly confines of Lambeau Field.
The Packers got off to a slow start and had to play catch up with the Vikings the entire game. The Vikings were on a mission to feed the ball to running back Adrian Peterson and that they did. Peterson is an incredible runner and the Packer defenders seemed at times intimidated as their tackling Sunday was atrocious. As the first half closed, a last second 51-yard field goal by Mason Crosby brought the Pack back to within striking distance, and at halftime the Vikings led by a score of 20 – 10.
Aaron Rodgers and company had to produce points and they did. Rodgers threw four touchdown passes on the day and pulled the Packers to a 27 – 27 tie in the fourth quarter. The Packers battled back three times after being down double digits so it was a fun game to watch, although the horrible officiating made it less so. The Vikings countered with more of Peterson, who was on a mission to best the all-time single-season rushing record held by Eric Dickerson. He ended up nine yards short of the record, but that is little solace to Cheeseheads who witnessed woeful tackling attempts too often.
Tramon Williams has been a great cornerback but he had a horrible game. One particularly bad play came late in the game when the Pack had stopped a drive, but Williams committed a boneheaded hands-to-the-face penalty. Tackling Peterson was a big problem and Williams wasn’t the only Packer to have a bad day. The Packers needed someone like Desmond Bishop, who unfortunately was lost to a serious injury and placed on Injured Reserve months ago. Bishop was the physical “thumper” that the Packers’ defense is sorely missing right now. Perhaps next week the return of Charles Woodson will provide the tackling leadership that was sadly needed in this contest.
So, the Packers have six days to regroup and get ready for Peterson and the Vikings again next Saturday evening. Other than possibly getting Woodson back, what can the Packer defense do better to ensure a second playoff game for the Green and Gold? That is the question Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers will have to answer this week. The home crowd and the cold environment should help, but the bottom line is that the Packer defense has to get better if a deep playoff run is going to be had.
A first-round bye would have been nice, but that didn’t happen this year. So, it is time for the Packers to get into playoff mindset and buck it up a notch. Lambeau itself is an intimidating force in cold weather. The Packers need to force a turnover or two and get more physical on defense; that plus the love of the hometown crowd ought to be the ticket to eliminating the Vikings next week.
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