The Green Bay Packers (5-2) used their final trip to the Metrodome to stage an offensive clinic, setting new season highs in rushing, third down conversions and time of possession during a 44-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings (1-6) Sunday night.
It was over when…
… James Starks channelled his inner Adrian Peterson and rumbled violently through the heart of the Minnesota defense for a dagger 25-yard touchdown. Just one minute into the fourth quarter, the Packers were up comfortably, 38-17.
- Aaron Rodgers: An important distinction has been made over the last two weeks: Aaron Rodgers makes his receivers, not the other way around. Take away Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley, and Rodgers still completed 24-of-29 passes for almost 300 yards and two scores Sunday night. Over the last two weeks, Rodgers has connected on over 75 percent of his attempts with five touchdowns and zero interceptions.
- Packers Run Game: With each passing week comes more validation that the Packers are one of the NFL's better running teams. It's still difficult to fully grasp, but Sunday night was another notch on the belt of Eddie Lacy, James Starks and the offensive line. Lacy ran hard all night, Starks looked as dangerous as ever and the offensive line mauled the Vikings up front. The result was a season high in attempts (42) and rushing yards (182).
- Mike Daniels: The Packers sacked Christian Ponder on three of his 29 drop backs, including two from Daniels. Green Bay did well for most of the night to create inside pressure, with Daniels in the sub-packages leading the way. He's tireless and slippery, and without much doubt, the Packers best interior pass rusher.
- Micah Hyde: With Casey Hayward healed up, Hyde's days of impacting the defense might be getting short. However, he showed Sunday night that he can help the Packers win in other ways. His 93-yard punt return for a touchdown was a big play in the first half, and he was later called on to take over on kick returns. Hyde is so confident catching the football, and his score proved that he can spring big plays, too.
A week after recording a plus-69.2 passer rating differential against the Browns, Green Bay was plus-44.2 Sunday night. Rodgers finished at 130.6, his second best of the season…The Packers ran 73 plays and held the football for 40:54. The Vikings ran just 43 and had less than 20 minutes of possession...Green Bay picked up 26 first downs, including 13 from passes and 11 from rushes. The Packers were also 13-for-18 on third down and 2-for-2 on fourth...Green Bay was penalized six times for 120 yards, including two long pass interference flags on Tramon Williams...Jordy Nelson caught six passes for 123 yards and his sixth and seventh touchdowns of the season. He now has four touchdown catches of over 75 yards since 2010, which is tied with Julio Jones for the most in the NFL...Minnesota didn't have a play over 20 yards. Green Bay had four...Rodgers' total QBR—a metric used by ESPN to calculate quarterback performance—was 98.6 Sunday night, which set a new career best...The Packers didn't punt. They scored on their first eight possessions and then ran out the clock on their ninth...Green Bay had five different scoring drives that lasted five minutes or more. The Vikings had one five-minute drive the entire night...Former Packers receiver Greg Jennings caught just one passes on three targets for nine yards...Eddie Lacy's 395 rushing yards over the last four games are the most in the NFL.
– The Packers dominated the game's biggest downs. The offense converted 13 of 18 third down opportunities and both fourth down chances, while the defense held Minnesota to just 2 of 8. No team in the NFL this season has converted at a higher percentage than Green Bay's 72.2 Sunday night. Rodgers played a big hand, as he completed all 10 of his third down throws and had two scrambles for first downs. Long, demoralizing and clock-eating drives were the final result.
– Cordarrelle Patterson is going to be a thorn in the side of the Packers for many years. He's already the most dangerous kick returner in the NFL—as evidenced by his NFL record 109-yard kick return to open the game—but he'll eventually be able to translate his explosive tools to offense. When he does, look out.
– Credit Mike McCarthy for creating opportunities for Jordy Nelson. He hasn't played much at all in the slot during his career in Green Bay, mostly because Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Randall Cobb have been so good inside. But on Sunday night, McCarthy slid his best remaining receiver inside early and created the one-on-one opportunities Nelson took advantage of. In fact, both of Nelson's touchdowns came from the slot, including his second which saw the Packers receiver matched up with a linebacker. Smart game-planning paid off.
– The schedule keeps putting difficult tests in front of Packers rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari, and he just continues passing those tests with flying colors. Jared Allen, typically a nightmare for Green Bay at the Metrodome, was unusually quiet Sunday night. Bakhtiari has a strong case for being the top rookie tackle in the NFL this season.
– The Packers are playing their best football of the season, and it's being done without the likes of Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, James Jones and Nick Perry. While some teams crumble when injuries strike, Green Bay seems to use the chaotic opportunity to gel, year-after-year. As the difference makers continue to trickle back from injury, the Packers will continue to grow in dangerousness.
– Winners of four straight, the Packers are now 5-2 and still in first place in the NFC North. The Chicago Bears, minus Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs, are up next. Chicago has lost three of four but will be coming off a much-needed bye week.
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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