Every week I’ll share four observations after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 38-25 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
First down: Aaron Rodgers mentioned in his postgame news conference that the Packers hit one of their special teams goals, and it was one of those seemingly little things that might have helped win a game. Packers kicker Mason Crosby didn’t give Cordarrelle Patterson a kickoff return despite kicking off seven times. Patterson is a big, fast guy who can change a game on a return — he has five returns for touchdowns in his four-year career, and his season and career averages per return (31.5 yards and 30.4 yards) are both above the 30-yard mark. But Crosby kept the ball out of his hands. Crosby kicked touchbacks on five of his seven kickoffs. On one of the others, Crosby directed the kick to the Vikings’ other deep man, Adam Thielen, who returned it 19 yards. On the other, in the final half-minute of the first half, Crosby hit a short, high ball that one of the wedge blockers, tight end David Morgan, returned only to the Vikings’ 29.
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Second down: In the latest sign that Ty Montgomery is going to get more and more carries each week, the Packers didn’t use him on kickoff returns against the Vikings. In recent weeks, Montgomery still had held those duties as one of the two deep men along with Jeff Janis. But against the Vikings, Janis and Christine Michael were the Packers’ two deep returners. Montgomery had only nine carries, but that was mainly because Aaron Rodgers was moving the ball so well through the air that the Packers didn’t need to run. Coach Mike McCarthy clearly is looking to reduce Montgomery’s workload elsewhere because he has taken on a full-time role at halfback.
Third down: Going into the 2014 draft, I remember a long-time scout describing the difference between two later first-round safety prospects who were possibly going to be available when the Packers picked at No. 21 overall. “One guy hits really hard, and one guy takes great angles,” the scout said. The hard hitter was Louisville’s Calvin Pryor; the good angles was the player the Packers’ drafted, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. That’s what made Clinton-Dix’s error on Thielen’s 71-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter such a surprise. Clinton-Dix, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl this year, took a bad angle coming over from his safety position to help on Thielen, who’d gotten behind Quinten Rollins with a double move. Clinton-Dix undershot his meeting point with Thielen and instead wiped out Rollins, leaving both on the ground as Thielen jogged the final 30 yards for the score.
Fourth down: The Vikings used a blitz you don’t see often in the NFL when they sent eight rushers at Rodgers on a third and 10 on the final play of the third quarter. That left only three defenders in coverage. It worked. The Packers kept in tight end Richard Rodgers and Montgomery as extra blockers, but that still left one rusher unblocked. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was untouched off the Packers’ right edge, which helped linebacker Eric Kendricks sack Aaron Rodgers with an ankle tackle after he’d beaten Montgomery’s block.