4 Downs With Dougherty on Packers' loss
Every week I’ll share four leftover observations from the Packers' game the previous day. Here they are after the Packers’ 17-14 loss at Minnesota.
First down: It’s hard to know whether U.S. Bank Stadium is as loud as the old Metrodome, but at least from the press box it didn’t seem so. That could be just a matter of press-box location — at the Metrodome it was open air and smack in the middle of the crowd, so it was just like sitting in the stands; at U.S. Bank Stadium, it’s higher up, in the corner of the end zone, and there’s a concrete overhang that probably shields some of the noise too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s loud, and they still amplify the sound of the drum that beats on and off all game. The Vikings also went all-out for the stadium’s debut, bringing back their famed Purple People Eaters (Alan Page, Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Gary Larsen and Doug Sutherland) as honorary captains; having famed former coach Bud Grant blow the big horn before kickoff; and conducting short in-game interviews with Pro Football Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton and Cris Carter to keep the crowd revved up. The atmosphere was great, but at least from where I was sitting, it wasn’t quite as headache-inducingly loud. Maybe on the field it was a different story.
Second down: Coach Mike McCarthy’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Vikings’ 14 in the third quarter was a questionable call, just like it was when the Vikings went for it in similar circumstances in the second quarter. It backfired on McCarthy but worked for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. That failure was especially costly for the Packers, because those three lost points were the difference in this low-scoring game. McCarthy ran James Starks up the middle on the play, but Linval Joseph and Brian Robison stuffed Starks for only a one-yard gain. The Packers trailed only 10-7 at the time.
Third down: Safe to say Aaron Rodgers and Sam Bradford woke up sore today. The Vikings hit Rodgers eight times, and the Packers hit Bradford 10 times. More than several of those were hard shots that ended with a defender planting Rodgers or Bradford into the ground. The NFL keeps changing rules to protect quarterbacks, but they still sometimes take hard shots.
Fourth down: The Packers haven’t missed defensive lineman Mike Pennel like I thought they would. Pennel still has two games to go on his drug suspension, and I thought his absence would create a hole in the Packers’ run defense that either the Jacksonville heat or the Adrian Peterson would expose in the first two weeks. But coordinator Dom Capers’ run defense came through for a second straight game, this time holding Peterson to 19 yards on 12 carries before he left the game late in the third quarter because of a knee injury. Pennel might be the Packers’ best run defender on the defensive line, but Mike Daniels (two tackles for a loss against Minnesota) and Letroy Guion (one tackle for loss before leaving the game in the second quarter with a knee injury) have been stalwarts against the run, and first-round pick Kenny Clark put in a respectable if uneven performance Sunday night at Minnesota.