The margin of victory may have only been two possessions, but the game was not as close as the final score would indicate as the Green Bay Packers’ offense manhandled the Minnesota defense in a 38-25 win on Christmas Eve.
The win leaves Green Bay just one victory away from an NFC North title and an eighth straight playoff berth. It was the Packers’ fifth straight win and brought the team to 9-6, securing an overall winning season for Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers threw for a 347 yards and accounted for all five of the Packers’ touchdowns (four passing and one rushing) as he led Green Bay to a 38-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Vikings’ offense racked up yards all day, but failed to finish off drives. Two Sam Bradford touchdown passes in garbage time brought the score to 38-25, giving the Packers a 13-point win.
For the second time in three weeks, Green Bay found offensive success—especially through the air—against a top tier defense. The Vikings succeeded in shutting down the run, holding the Packers to just 40 yards on the ground, but had no answer for Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, and the passing game. Rodgers completed 74 percent of his passes, hitting eight different receivers, while Nelson finished with 154 yards and two touchdowns, bringing his season total to a league-leading 14.
A 21-yard catch and run by Nelson and a 20-yard dart to Davante Adams gave the Packers a 14-3 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Green Bay defense gave up yards all afternoon, but was able to limit Minnesota to field goals early in the game to give the offense the chance to pull away. A two-yard reception by Nelson and a six-yard run by Rodgers in the second quarter gave the Packers a 28-13 halftime advantage.
While both offenses were explosive in the first half, they cooled down substantially in the third quarter. Green Bay scored 10 unanswered points to start the fourth, capped off by Rodgers’ fourth touchdown pass of the day, before the Vikings added 12 points to finish the scoring.
A week after relying almost entirely on the running game, the Packers’ dominance against Minnesota took place completely in the air. Green Bay passed 39 times as opposed to just 15 rushes, largely as a result of the Vikings’ defense limiting the Packers to less than three yards per attempt. But it hardly mattered on Saturday, as Rodgers posted his second best game of the season and continues to improve as the year progresses.
Geronimo Allison, who played in place of an injured Randall Cobb, recorded 66 yards on four catches, while Davante Adams added 44 and a touchdown. Richard Rodgers also had a scoring reception.
While the offense turned in another strong game, the defense—especially what has become a porous, inept secondary—remains worrisome. The Vikings’ normally ineffective offense put up 446 yards and burned the Green Bay defensive backs time and time again.
Bradford threw for 382 yards, by far his highest mark of the season, and passed for three touchdowns for the first time all year. Adam Thielen continued his breakout season for the Vikings with 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He took advantage of Quinten Rollins whenever they lined up opposite each other, including on a 75-yard score in the second quarter.
But while the secondary was easily exploited all game, the front seven was able to limit the damage and come up in a few crucial spots. Kenny Clark recovered a fumble after the Vikings’ center did not properly snap the ball, which the Packers turned into a touchdown. Clay Matthews recorded a strip sack with only a minute left in the first half to allow Green Bay to tack on seven more points before halftime. All in all, the defense recorded four sacks and had two turnovers.
The win makes things simple for Green Bay. Regardless of the Lions’ game on Monday against the Cowboys, whoever wins next week takes the NFC North crown. The Packers’ offense is definitely trending in the right direction, but the defense needs to get things fixed if Green Bay wants to make the postseason.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .