Aaron Nagler and Pete Dougherty talk about the Vikings takeover of Lambeau Field and what they saw from some of the young players the Packers played on Saturday night. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY – Michael Clark’s opportunity came early Saturday night. Maybe too early. On the Green Bay Packers' initial third down against the Minnesota Vikings, Brett Hundley targeted his rookie receiver down the right sideline.
On this pass, at least, Hundley’s accuracy couldn’t have been better. Clark didn’t have separation against Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes, but at 6-foot-6 he towered six inches above his opponent. Clark used his size to box out Waynes, but the football slipped through his arms incomplete.
“I lost the ball in the lights,” Clark said.
The Packers didn’t come back to their newly promoted rookie until later in the game. This time, Clark was ready.
In his first opportunity on the Packers' game-day roster, Clark led the Packers with 36 yards on three receptions. His most impressive catch came early in the fourth quarter when he dove away from Waynes, stretching out to grab Hundley’s pass 19 yards downfield.
Clark needed all 6-feet, 6-inches to haul in the football.
“Definitely a finger-tips catch,” Clark said.
DOUGHERTY: Appalling sights plentiful on dreary night
INSIDER: Thumbs up to struggling defense
BOX SCORE: Vikings 16, Packers 0
It wasn’t a perfect night for Clark. Later in the early fourth-quarter drive, Clark appeared to short-arm a potential touchdown pass in the end zone. Regardless, it was a promising debut for a receiver who was hyped by teammates after spending most of the season on the practice squad.
“I was having fun,” Clark said. “It’s the weirdest thing. I had no jitters. The most jitters I had was knowing I was playing this week. This is a Tuesday, Wednesday, and then after that, it’s, ‘I want to play. I want to have fun.’”
Solid debut: Reggie Gilbert didn’t have a sack, but he showed enough raw potential to perhaps keep himself in contention for a roster job next season.
Gilbert, who joined the Packers after being undrafted in 2016, had his first NFL game after two seasons on the practice squad. He was added to the 53-man roster this week when cornerback Demetri Goodson was put on injured reserve, and didn’t have to wait before getting his first snaps.
“It was crazy,” Gilbert said, “because it was like boom, boom, boom. Had to change my whole mindset. It was crazy, but we had great coaches here, we have great guys. So they all just were pouring into me, trying to help me get ready as much as possible. But we definitely felt that tonight was going to be a huge night for me, so try to make the most of it.”
Gilbert, along with defensive tackle Kenny Clark, led the Packers with a pair of quarterback hits. One pressure forced Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum to throw incomplete on third down.
“Since I’ve been here a couple years,” Gilbert said, “I pretty much had the playbook already down. So it was just pretty much just transitioning to game planning for a specific opponent. So it went pretty smooth.”
Mano-a-mano: Left tackle David Bakhtiari said his matchup with Vikings defensive end Everson Griffin was not a referendum on whether he should have been selected to the Pro Bowl.
At least, he didn’t approach it like that.
“He’s a stud,” Bakhtiari said. “I’ve played him a lot. I understand him, but at the same side he understands me. It’s always a fun test to go against him.”
Bakhtiari fared pretty well. Griffin, who leads the Vikings with 13 sacks and has three forced fumbles, finished with one tackle and one quarterback knockdown playing mostly against Bakhtiari.
The Vikings had only one sack and it came from Waynes.
“Those guys had some kind words to say to me,” Bakhtiari said of the Pro Bowl motivation. “But that side is that side. End of the day, he’s a defensive end and I’m an offensive tackle and I have to protect the quarterback.
“But we appreciate going against one another.”
Season sweep: The Vikings swept the season series for the first time since 2009 when Minnesota’s quarterback was Brett Favre.
The Packers had swept the series in ’14, ’11 and ’10.
Coach Mike Zimmer said winning both games wasn’t as important as increasing their record to 12-3.
“It was important that we came out here and won tonight because we need to win this game and then you need to win the next game and then we get the chance to sit at home for a week and kind of get refocused and regrouped,” Zimmer said. “I’m hoping we can get one more win and work on some things that we need to work on and play our rear ends off in the playoffs.”