GREEN BAY - When Aaron Rodgers looked at where the football was spotted late in the second quarter, he thought the Green Bay Packers had a first down.
They didn’t. Instead, it was fourth-and-1 with a little more than 90 seconds until halftime. The Packers, up 21-7 at the time, had a chance to kick a short field goal and take a three-possession lead into the locker room.
But Rodgers said he thought it was first down, not fourth.
“It looked,” Rodgers explained, “from my vantage point that it might have been a positive, questionable spot for us, and under two minutes that’s a booth review. So I just wanted to get us on the ball quickly.”
So the Packers ran a play on fourth-and-1, and it went nowhere. Vikings defensive lineman Linval Joseph dropped Packers running back Jamaal Williams for a 2-yard loss. Points were left on the field.
Coach Matt LaFleur said he would have chosen to kick the field goal if given the opportunity, but he didn’t blame Rodgers for the miscue.
“I’ve got to do a better job of communicating to Aaron in that situation,” LaFleur said. “He thought it was a first down, and I’ve got to let him know that we’re going to take points there. But it is what it is. You live and learn. But again, that falls on me right there.”
In hindsight, LaFleur said, he should have called a timeout. But Rodgers ran the play quickly, the way he has been known to do when catching his opponent with an extra defender.
Rodgers said, “It was a bad play by me. I don’t make plays like that.
“I’ve always prided myself on having really good clock awareness and game awareness. I just assumed first down based on the spot. And I should have just looked and made sure it was first and not a fourth, because obviously fourth-and-1 we don’t want to run that play.
“… Much to my surprise, I came out of the fake there and realized it was fourth down. That'll earn me an extra finger of Scotch tonight probably.”
Big plays burn Packers' defense
It was an odd day for the Packers' defense.
On 56 of the Vikings’ 60 snaps (93 percent), the Packers held a talented Minnesota offense to 3.75 yards per play. Three of those plays were forced turnovers: a Preston Smith interception, a Kevin King interception and a Kenny Clark strip sack with Dean Lowry recovering the fumble.
That, by definition, would be a dominant performance.
Except there were four other plays Sunday. Four plays the Packers no doubt wanted back: a 75-yard touchdown run from Dalvin Cook, a 61-yard reception from Chad Beebe, a 45-yard touchdown catch from Stefon Diggs and a 30-yard reception from Adam Thielen on third-and-4.
Those four plays produced more yards (211) than the other 56 (210).
“We just had to limit the explosive plays,” cornerback Jaire Alexander said. “If we limit the explosive plays, we beat them by at least 30.”
That might be a bit of an exaggeration, given the Packers only scored 21 points themselves. Still, the point was clear. If not for four snaps, the Packers might have pitched a shutout. They at least would have kept the Vikings out of the end zone.
Naturally, cornerback Kevin King said, clamping down on big plays will be a point of emphasis in practice this week before the Packers host the Denver Broncos.
“There’s always room to get better,” King said. “You said we played great for 95 percent of the plays, that’s great for us. That means we’ve got 5 percent more to go. That means we’re close, but we’ve got a ways to go.”
Crucial pass interference call
The Vikings thought they were about to pull within seven points of the Packers with 1:12 left in the first half when Diggs caught a pass over the middle for a touchdown.
But since every scoring play under 2 minutes is automatically reviewed, instant replay officials in New York took a look at it and felt there was offensive pass interference. It was called on running back Dalvin Cook, who was ruled to have interfered with safety Will Redmond as Diggs crossed in front of him.
“Every time, by rule, there’s a score or turnover, here in New York we automatically take a look at all aspects of the plays, which this year includes offensive and defensive pass interference,” senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron told a pool reporter.
“After we looked at the play, we saw clear and obvious visual evidence that No. 33 significantly hinders the opponent while the ball is still in the air. Therefore, we negate the score and call offensive pass interference here from New York and penalize them 10 yards.”
The Vikings settled for a field goal that made it 21-10.
Savage, Greene leave in walking boots
There was a scary moment for Packers second-year safety Raven Greene to start the third quarter as he fell awkwardly in the secondary away from the ball. A cart came out immediately for him, but he did get up and help himself onto the vehicle. After the game he was seen in the locker room with a walking boot on his right ankle and used a scooter to keep the weight off.
Rookie Darnell Savage also left the locker room in a walking boot on his right foot. Savage forced one fumble (the Vikings recovered) and deflected a pass that Preston Smith intercepted. He made six tackles.
Bakhtiari guts it out
In the middle of the week, Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari was limited in a practice and then missed a session due to a back issue — but he was in the lineup and played the entire game protecting Aaron Rodgers’ blind side against Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen.
“There’s never really a question with us about whether he’s going to play,” Rodgers said. “He’s a stud. He was obviously dealing with some stuff midweek but he tells you he’s going to be OK, you expect him to play and play really well. I heard Everson a lot. He loves to kind of talk and stuff, and he’s got a good energy about him on the field, but seems like Dave held his own pretty good — as expected.”
After the game, Griffen signed a jersey and sent it over to the Packers locker room. Bakhtiari then returned the favor.
Packers rotate Taylor, Jenkins at guard
To open the preseason, Matt LaFleur declared the left guard position open for competition between Lane Taylor and second-round pick Elgton Jenkins. After three exhibition games, he declared Taylor the season-opening starter.
On Sunday, Jenkins rotated in beginning on the third Packers series. While it was not exactly an even rotation, the rookie out of Mississippi State saw extended playing time.
“Just because Lane started the year, every position is going to be up for competition throughout the entire season,” LaFleur said. “So, we feel good about both those guys, that’s why they’re both here and it’s a competitive situation.”
The Packers found success running behind Jenkins, and Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams said they were proud of the way the rookie run blocked.
“He ain’t scared,” Williams said. “He’s doing his thing. That’s what we like out there.”
And the coaches stuck with him even when his turn came at a time when Aaron Rodgers set up in his own end zone after a punt started the Packers at their own 1-yard line in the third quarter.
“It was a little bit of an adjustment, but honestly as long as he’s on the same page as us — I thought he was — obviously Lane is going to be on the same page as us and he knows the drill,” Packers center Corey Linsley said. “So obviously there’s no adjustment when Lane comes in. Just Elgton being able to step up when his number’s called and when he comes in making sure he’s on the same page with everybody. I thought he did well at that. That’s the deal.
“It’s really on Elgton to make sure that he’s up to speed with everything and making sure that he’s not slowing down the offense. We know we’re running 100 miles an hour with Lane and he did do a good job of that for sure.”