Monday, October 12, 2009


Well it is not difficult to say that the much anticipated heavy weight battle for bragging rights in the NFC North was far from a disappointment. The pre game story lines alone cause any football fan to salivate at the mouth. Brett Favre facing his old team and his replacement at quarterback; not to mention a victory over the Packers makes Favre the only player in NFL history to defeat all 32 teams. Aaron Rodgers wanted to show that he can beat his 39 year old mentor and prove he was the correct choice for the future of the Green Bay Packers franchise. And all this is before the game even started!

Once the game started, all football fans got a real treat (except Packers fans of course). Brett Favre facing off against his old team drew in 21.8 million viewers tuning in to the Monday night affair, the highest rating ever in ESPN's 30 year broadcast history.

This was an old fashion shoot out with both teams putting 7 points on the board in the first quarter. Favre threw another touch down pass across his body to his very talented and large tight end Visante Shancoe. Unfortunately our defense let up a huge 65 yard score when Tyrell Johnson broke a cardinal rule on defense: when you are the only player in space between an offensive player and the end zone, wrap your arms around him. Johnson tried to throw down a vicious hit and over ran Jermichael Finley. Wrap your arms around him, even if he doesn't go down your teammates can come help bring him down. Poor play by Tyrell Johnson.

The second quarter was when Vikings fans realized that it was indeed Favre's night. With the running game hitting a wall, Favre made so many veteran reads finding any open target and sometimes "looking" defenders away with his eyes. This lead the Vikings back to the red zone where Favre hit another one of his favorite targets Sidney Rice for the 18 yard touchdown when it was 3rd and 11. Well done old man.
Favre not having a favorite target on the team is something that all Vikings fans should love. He utilizes all his targets to their potential forcing defenses to have to cover every eligible receiver on the field. It is so awesome to see Favre spreading the love to all the talent on the offensive side of the ball. 

The Vikings defense then pummeled the Packers offense and caused them to punt the ball right back to us, causing everything to roll in our favor. But then rookie Packers LB Clay Matthews made one of the plays of the night ripping the ball out of AP's grasp as he was being gang tackled. Clay took the ball down the sideline to the house to tie the game at 14 a piece. Though AP has been criticized for his fumbling fingers, this fumble was definitely not his fault. Sometimes in the NFL, players make plays. Just like you cannot blame the Browns for trying and failing to tackle AP in Week 1. Clay Matthews made a big play.

However, the Vikings offensive unit continued to roll on as Favre continued his assault on the Packers aging secondary. By this I mean finally getting Bernard Berrian into the end zone. Al Harris has been overrated in my book for a couple of years now because of his aging body slowing him down, and his vulnerability was displayed in the second half. Bernard and Farve picked on the slow dread locked Packer.
I have to throw some love out to the Vikings and their 4 down goal line stand. It is just demoralizing to a team to march that far and be stopped so close. Though I will admit Donald Lee should have caught the 4th down pass from Rodgers, but he didn't. Great work from our D, especially Ben Leber's tackle in the open field on the 1 yard line.

A really good sign for the Vikings was the pass rush our purple combatants put on Aaron Rodgers the entire game. The Vikings front four especially worked well to force the issue by notching 7 of the 8 sacks on Rodgers. Jared Allen was in Aaron Rodgers mind's eye whether he was in the backfield or not because he put Rodgers on the turf 4.5 times of the course of the game. Allen also notched 6 tackles, a safety and a forced fumble. It was one of the greatest performances by a defensive end I have seen in football.
A bad sign for Vikings fans is once again the coaches failure to change their strategies on the fly. In the 4th quarter when the Vikings were trying to kill the clock and protect their lead the defense continued relentlessly to blitz Aaron Rodgers. This has already been shown as less effective than the pressure we create with just our D line (seen above), but by doing this the LB's vacate the center of the field in which they should be patrolling for passes from the Packer QB. If any fans noticed, almost all Rodgers completions were quick passes or dump passes to players open in the middle of the field. When we were not blitzing, our pass coverage was not excellent on the non primary receivers (i.e. Donald Driver and Greg Jennings).

Both Jennings and Driver for the most part were shut down amidst the Packers 384 yards of passing. That says a lot about our two stud corners Antoine Winfiled and Cedric Griffin. It also says a lot about our zone passing coverage and nickel packages. The Packer formula of dump passes, quick routes, and screens could spell disaster for the Vikings if they cannot consistently stop small passing plays turning into huge ones.

AP had yet another quite game against the 3-4 defensive scheme. He was never established because he never showed any flashes of light to make the coaches even want to continue handing the ball off to him. It was obvious early that it was Farve's night so the offense was structured around him. While I understand great backs have sub par games, the last two have been a far cry from the domination fans saw in Week 1. 
I will finish saying that I think Antoine Winfield was the player of the game. Not only did he establish the defenses mind set early with important teeth rattling tackles (seen above: sorry Ryan Grant), but he kept one of the most dangerous wide outs in the game (Jennings) quite as Hellen Keller's phone conversations. Winfield's first half interception was as good of a play as a defensive back can make baiting Rodgers to throw a pass Winfield was anticipating. Winfield led the Vikings with 9 tackles, all of them solo. Antoine better make his second consecutive Pro Bowl roster this season.


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