MINNEAPOLIS - What a difference a week makes.
The Packers bounced back from a stunning home loss to the Lions by scoring a huge 30-13 road victory Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings before 52,529 at TCF Bank Stadium. Kicker Mason Crosby made five field goals after botching a game-winning attempt against Detroit.
The Packers improved to 7-3 and regained a share of first place in the NFC North with the Vikings (7-3).
Here are five quick thoughts on the game.
Clicking again: Aaron Rodgers was up to his old tricks Sunday, and so was James Jones. Rodgers came in with a passer rating of 117.9 against Minnesota in 15 career games and tormented the Vikings again. Rodgers connected early with Jones, who had been invisible for weeks, on a 25-yard gain that set up Green Bay’s first field goal. During an 80-yard touchdown drive at the end of the first half, Rodgers threw deep to Jeff Janis on third-and-6 from his own 14 and drew a 50-yard pass interference penalty, then hit Randall Cobb on a 10-yard scoring toss with six seconds left. On the first drive of the second half, Rodgers hit Starks on a 30-yard screen pass to set up Mason Crosby’s fourth field goal. Then, at the outset of the fourth quarter, Rodgers found Jones alone in the back corner of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown pass that (with a two-point conversion) put the Packers ahead 27-13. With his 86.9 passer rating Sunday, Rodgers (16-of-34, 212 yards, two TDs and no interceptions) failed to achieve a 100-plus rating for only the third time in his last 13 games against the Vikings — but so what?
Looking for Lacy: Eddie Lacy carried the Packers to a road win over the Vikings last season with a season-high 25 rushes for 125 yards and a touchdown. On Sunday, he showed flashes of his former self, setting up the Packers’ third field goal with a 27-yard run, his longest of the season.On the first drive of the second half, the Packers fed the ball to Lacy again and he gained 26 yards on six carries to help sustain a drive that produced another field goal. With a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter, the Packers used Lacy to move the chains and kill the clock. Lacy finished with 100 yards on 22 carries.
Assignment, Adrian Peterson: Suspect at the start of the season, Green Bay’s run defense passed early tests against Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles and Carlos Hyde. And the Packers more than held their own Sunday against Adrian Peterson, holding the Vikings’ star to 32 yards in the first half (45 for the game) and forcing him into a momentum-killing fumble (stripped by Morgan Burnett, recovered by Sam Shields) with Minnesota driving early in the fourth quarter. They did have trouble containing nimble Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who frequently danced away from pass rushers for big gains.
Applying pressure: After failing to record a sack during their three-game losing streak, the Packers turned up the heat on second-year man Bridgewater, sacking him six times and pressuring him relentlessly. The third sack, by Julius Peppers, briefly knocked Bridgewater out of the game with a shoulder injury. The pass defense was burned early when Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph beat Micah Hyde (who injured his hip on the play) for a 47-yard TD pass. Hyde did not return. Rudolph struck again late in the third quarter, beating safety Morgan Burnett on a 33-yard reception that set up Peterson's six-yard touchdown run to pull the Vikings within six at 19-13. But sacks on consecutive fourth-quarter plays by Mike Daniels and Datone Jones helped salt the game away.
What it all means: It’s amazing how quickly an NFL team’s fortunes can turn around. Given up for dead by many after a stunning home loss to the Lions dropped them to 6-3, the Packers roared back with a huge victory that puts them back in the driver’s seat for the NFC North title. They now have the upper hand on the Vikings, who have a more difficult remaining schedule that concludes Jan. 3 in Green Bay.