It was a strange game Sunday afternoon in Green Bay as the Packers and Vikings finished with a 26-26 tie in overtime. After struggling miserably for most of the game, Matt Flynn, who entered the game early in the third, led a furious comeback from a 23-7 fourth quarter deficit to send it into overtime. After a promising opening drive for the Packers, they had to settle for a short field goal to take the lead. Unfortuntely, the Vikings were able to answer with a field goal of their own. In the remaining minutes, both teams struggled to put together another scoring drive and the game ended in a tie.
As with every game, there are positive and negative takeaways. Here are some of the positives.
The Running Game: Similarly to the first meeting this season, the Packers were able to run the ball successfully against the Vikings. They finished with 34 carries for 196 yards collectively. Once again, Eddie Lacy looked like the leading Offensive Rookie of the Year Candidate, leading the way with 25 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown. James Starks also had a big 34 yard contribution to help continue a Packers drive late. With the recent offensive struggles, fans have to be pleased with the way the Packers running game rebounded after being shut down by the Giants last week.
Matt Flynn: It seems as though Matt Flynn only has success as a Green Bay Packer backup. While he did not lead the Packers to a victory, he did lead an improbable fourth quarter comeback. He entered the game after starter Scott Tolzien carried his first half accuracy struggles into the third quarter. Flynn was able to complete passes and drive the Packers down for score multiple times in the fourth quarter. It looked like a completely different offense than the one in the first half. With Rodgers likely out again, many Packers fans would like to see Flynn start against the Lions. Last time Flynn played against the Lions, he had one of the best performances for a quarterback in Packers history.
Clay Matthews: After missing four games and being essentially non-existent in the last two games playing with a club on his right hand, Clay Matthews and the Packers pass-rush showed up, at times. Clay had two of the Packers’ six sacks on the day, and it was good to see him back putting pressure on the quarterback. Even though the Packers defense made Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder look like a top three NFL quarterback at times, Clay Matthews’ presence assisted in a more improved pass-rush than in recent weeks.
Here are some of the negatives from Sunday’s game.
The Run Defense: What happened to that top eight run defense everyone was talking about earlier in the season? I’d like to believe that the reason for the Vikings being able to run up the middle at will on Sunday was because Johnny Jolly was out with a groin injury. He has been a major reason why the Packers have an improved run defense this year. That being said, this poor performance against the run has been a trend for the last few weeks. Up until the game against the Chicago Bears in week 9, the Packers were among the best in rush yards allowed per game. Ever since the Rodgers injury, which does not seem relevant from a defensive standpoint, the run defense has just not looked the same. To speculate, the Rodgers injury could very well have an impact on the defensive performance. With the backup quarterbacks it has seemed as though there have been a lot more short drives or three-and-outs, which leads to the defense being on the field longer. The long list of injuries, and the increased time on the field, is not a recipe for success for the defense. However, that is still no excuse for the defense to be doing such a poor job of getting off of the field lately.
Finishing Drives: For the last few weeks the Packers have been able to get into the redzone, but not get in the endzone. In overtime, the Packers drove the ball inside the ten yard line, but were unable to put it in the endzone for the win. Instead, they kicked a field goal and the game ended in a tie. Part of the issue is the play-calling, and McCarthy has been somewhat conservative with the backups at times. Next week, the Packers take on a high-powered Detroit Lions offesne. Field goals and turnovers in the redzone will not cut it in this crucial divisional game for the Packers.
As a fan, this has been one of the hardest stretches of games to watch in awhile. It is very easy to criticize the team and blame the injuries for the poor performance. Although the Packers are missing an elite quarterback, and impact players in key spots, the NFL is all about next man up. The Packers have historically done well applying this philosophy and are hanging on for dear life in the NFC North. A tie against the Minnesota Vikings is pretty depressing but considering the Bears and Lions lost on Sunday, the Packers still have a shot at the NFC North title.