Insider: Thumbs down to Randall, up to run D
The Week 2 showdown with arch-rival Minnesota loomed as potentially the most difficult on a soft Packers schedule, even with the Vikings determined to show they still can contend despite a season-ending injury to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. That they did, with Sam Bradford having a big night and Minnesota improving to 2-0 with a 17-14 victory in brand new U.S. Bank Stadium. The Packers came away with a split of their two season-opening road tests and now can look forward to four straight games at Lambeau Field (with a bye week mixed in).
Trailing 10-7, the Packers passed up a chance at a game-tying field goal facing fourth-and-2 at the Minnesota 13 with 4:57 left in the third quarter. James Starks was stopped for a one-yard gain, and Minnesota then went 87 yards in six plays, scoring on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs to take a 10-point lead. The Packers came back to score a touchdown but never did make up that missed field-goal opportunity.
BOX SCORE: Vikings 17, Packers 14
PHOTOS: Week 2 gallery
It may be the toughest challenge facing any run defense in the NFL: Stopping Adrian Peterson. The Packers managed to bottle up the Vikings star last season at Minnesota, holding him to 45 yards on 13 carries. On Sunday, Green Bay again put the clamps on Peterson, who gained a mere 19 yards on 12 carries before leaving in the third quarter with a knee injury.
Green Bay came in paper-thin at cornerback without top cover man Sam Shields (concussion) and rookie Josh Hawkins (hamstring). That put the pressure on cornerbacks Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter, and Randall got torched all night by Diggs (nine catches for 182 yards and a TD). Making matters worse for Randall, he was flagged for pass interference on Diggs on the key third-down play that enabled the Vikings to keep their final drive alive and run out the clock.
Aaron Rodgers was 11-4 against Minnesota before losing to the Vikings in the 2015 regular-season finale, and still had won 10 of the last 12 meetings entering Sunday. But much like last season, Rodgers was erratic, making some big plays (especially with his feet, scoring on a 10-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter) but making too many mistakes (lost fumble, interception). His passing numbers (20 of 36 for 213 yards, 70.7 passer rating) were pedestrian on a night when he clearly was outplayed by Vikings newcomer Bradford.
The Packers’ offensive line has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, first with the release of guard Josh Sitton on cuts day and then last week with news of a four-year contract extension for left tackle David Bakhtiari. Lane Taylor more than held his own in his first game replacing Sitton, but he and his teammates on the line figured to have their hands full with coach Mike Zimmer’s blitz-happy Vikings defense. And struggle they did, allowing Rodgers to be sacked five times. The line also failed to open holes for the run game (just 83 yards on 23 attempts).
The Packers needed to play error-free football against a Vikings team renowned for scoring off turnovers and kick returns. Minnesota had scored eight such touchdowns in its last 17 regular-season games, according to stats guru Eric Goska. In beating the Titans last week, the Vikings’ defense scored on a 77-yard interception return by linebacker Eric Kendricks and on a 24-yard fumble return by defensive end Danielle Hunter. Against Green Bay, Minnesota again thrived on turnovers, recovering fumbles by Rodgers and Davante Adams and making a key fourth-quarter interception of Rodgers.
The Packers had managed to avoid the injury bug during the preseason, but lost Shields (concussion) in the season opener at Jacksonville. Sunday, they lost defensive tackle Letroy Guion to a knee injury in the second quarter. Morgan Burnett exited in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury.
DID YOU NOTICE?
» Tight end Kyle Rudolph forever will be immortalized for scoring the first Minnesota touchdown in U.S. Bank Stadium, an eight-yard reception from Bradford at the 10:14 mark of the second quarter.
» At age 36, Julius Peppers chalked up a second-quarter sack of Bradford with help from elephant linebacker Datone Jones, who applied the initial pressure. Then in the fourth quarter, Peppers teamed with Nick Perry on a big third-down sack.
» The Packers scored a first-quarter touchdown after Adams drew a pass-interference penalty from Vikings cornerback Terence Newman. Just before halftime, the Packers again tried a bomb to Adams, who this time was called for offensive pass interference on Trae Waynes. But Adams drew another flag in the fourth quarter.
» Rookie wide receiver Trevor Davis made first official NFL appearance to start the Packers’ first second-quarter drive. On third down, Davis was wide open over the middle but Rodgers, under pressure, didn’t see him.
» Twenty of the last 29 meetings between the Packers and Vikings have been decided by seven points or fewer.
» The Packers now are 10-3-1 in their last 14 regular-season and postseason meetings with the Vikings.