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Packers vs Vikings: How It Breaks Down

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Packers vs Vikings: How It Breaks Down

When The Packers Have The Ball:

Everything starts with Aaron Rodgers - or more importantly, keeping Rodgers upright.

The biggest storyline coming into this game, at least from an offensive standpoint, is how Mike McCarthy and company plan on handling Vikings defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison.

McCarthy has actually done a pretty good job early on in games utilizing the screen game when facing Allen and his line mates in the Metrodome to slow down their relentless pass rush. Look for that trend to continue, and not just with traditional running back screens but with middle screens to the tight ends and slip screens to the weakside where the Packers allow Allen to fly up field and then take advantage of his aggressiveness by slipping out a back into the space vacated by Allen.

(Of course, McCrathy tried this very thing last year on the opening series in Lambeau only to see it intercepted by Allen...but that was mostly due to bad timing between Rodgers and Dimitri Nance)

One thing that always helps keep pass rushers at bay is keeping ahead of the sticks. The Packers struggled to the run the ball last week, especially in the second half, but it will be necessary to keep the Vikings honest throughout Sunday's game.

One interesting trend I noticed from the Rams game - after calling "shot" plays from power formations near mid-field the last month, McCarthy actually called a running play out of one of those sets and was quite successful:

The Packers have actually done a good job getting Ryan Grant going in the Metrodome since McCarthy took over the playcalling. Look for some more compacted formations, be it extra tight ends online or a bunch of receivers, for Grant and James Starks to try and get to the edge on the Vikings defense, which is much better at home than they are on the road.

When the Packers do pass the ball, if Allen and Robison are kept under control, this could very well be a repeat of last years fireworks display from Rodgers and the Packers offense. The one Vikings DB who has given Rodgers and his receivers problems, the perennially underrated Antonie Winfield, is listed as doubtful and most likely won't play on Sunday due to a neck injury. The secondary that remains, Chris Cook, Cedric Griffin, and Asher Allen are all competitive and fly around but none of them are going to be able to slow down Jennings, Finley and company.

When The Vikings Have The Ball:

Obviously, the big story here is Christian Ponder making his first NFL start. Almost as obviously, expect a big dose of Adrian Peterson to try and protect Ponder as much as possible.

Actually, this won't be that big a change for the Vikings offense. They've been hiding veteran Donavan McNabb all year, just for different reasons.

Ponder certainly looked ready in his brief mop-up duty against the Bears last week. He seems to be able to make all the throws asked of him in Bill Musgrave's pop-gun offense and has very good pocket awareness. (And with Phil Loadholt manning the right tackle position - he'll need it.)

The Vikings have been running a very basic NFL offense all year. This week shouldn't be any different. They will simply give the ball to Peterson and look to get Percy Harvin in space anyway they can, be that by throwing the ball, getting it to him on a reverse, whatever. The whole idea will be to stay ahead on down and distance and to put their rookie quarterback in as few positions as possible where he might make mistakes.

Enough Already, Who Wins?:

The Vikings one chance is to force a turnover or two early, get Peterson going and get ahead. Obviously the Vikings have struggled holding leads this year, but if the Packers are forced into a throw-only mode and Allen and Robison are allowed to tee-off on Rodgers...

Yes. I'm reaching. All I'm saying is the Vikings have a chance. Not a big one - but a chance.

Packers: 38

Vikings: 17

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (9) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

LED's picture

Aaron, did you notice on the Packers'first drive of the Rams game where Rodgers was sacked, it looked to be a screen-- to me anyway -- and ironically it was Brady Poppinga who sniffed it out and Rodgers had to bail on the toss and eat the ball.

And while the Packers have had a small handful of screens work over the past few seasons, the one against Pittsburg in '09 by Brandon Jackson comes to mind, overall, in my opinion, the Packers under McCarthy have been average at best in the screen game. Rodgers and his running backs/linemen are never on the same page it seems. Starks has done better than Grant, but still-- I have little confidence in the screen game. That is to say, for such a high powered offense, and one of the best quarterbacks in the game, I guess I'd just think they'd be a little more fined tuned, so to say. Not a complaint so much as an observation...

packeraaron's picture

It's been up and down. I think Jackson was good in that area. Grant has been ok. Starks has been pretty good. And like I said, they've worked in at least one or two tight end screens almost every time they've visited the Metrodome under McCarthy.

Also, defenses have just gotten better at sniffing them out. They're coached on it and do film work on it more than ever before.

Kevin's picture

That sack was actually a play where Jennings ran the wrong route. I think it was originally a running play and Rodgers checked out but Jennings didn't catch it. They talked about it in an interview on NFL Countdown last Sunday

PackersRS's picture

It's a number of things.

Rodgers lacks touch on those short throws, the backs aren't great pass catchers and don't run the greatest routes, and McCarthy simply doesn't emphasise the screen play.

For what's worth, every coach has a certain type of play that it's the staple of his offense, at least in perception. With Holmgren and later Sherman the screen was the big thing, we were always one of the best screen teams, and Andy Reid took that to the Eagles. With McCarthy is the go route, and the playaction.

I've yelled at the TV calling for screens when our OL was getting manhandled, but I've learned my lesson... It's just not a strenght of this offense.

Bart's picture

I would rather see rodgers deliver on quick slants then risk getting hit on a slow developing screen play.

LED's picture

Good point.

AJKUHN's picture

I think Newhouse is a big x factor. If I recall correctly Clifton had a lot of problems with Allen, Newhouse being younger maybe able to remain more physical with him and hold the point better. At the same time, being younger he may just blow it all together. What leaves me feeling ok is the Atlanta game. Mccarthy saw them (LT RT)having trouble and gave them some help for a few series (something he used to not do) and then went to spread sets after they settled in. I think Allen will be dealt with and our offense will proceed in the usual manner.
Ponder made some good throws, a lot better than McNabb, but is still young. I see him moving the ball well, but probably getting picked off a few times. Peterson is Peterson, but we have had decent success at holding him in check.

Mel's picture

I think the vikings need to mail it in and trade us Allen for Brad Jones!!! Wishful thinking I gues lol!!

mark's picture

Looks like Chris Cook is going to miss the game tomorrow. Oh well, it's not like the Packers throw the ball a lot.

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