Takeaways from Sunday’s Playoff Backbreaker

Start looking forward to the draft ladies and gentlemen, because the playoffs seem all but an afterthought after dropping Sunday night’s contest in Minnesota. Trying to come back from both the current divisional and wild card deficits are going to be essentially impossible.

In the 2018 conclusion to the border battle between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings, missed field goals and offensive ineptitude plagued both teams in the first half. With both squads opening up with three-and-out drives, the expected offensive outputs were not evident in the beginning.

The firepower eventually came out, with the Packers taking the lead after TD to Davante Adams. Going into the half, Green Bay was fortunate to be tied with Minnesota after Dan Bailey missed two kicks in the second quarter.

Here are some important takeaways from the debilitating Sunday nighter.

 

Secondary depth severely tested with injuries

Coming into the game, Kevin King, Bashaud Breeland and Raven Greene were all ruled out, already limiting the secondary depth before kickoff. During the game, Kendall Brice was in and out dealing with a recurring ankle injury that has set him back throughout the season. This forced Ibrahim Campbell, a free agent signing during the year, into starting duties with Brice hobbling around.

With both Breeland and King missing the game, Tramon Williams was moved from safety to cornerback to try and combat the Vikings’ receiver ranks. With Jaire Alexander draped all over Adam Thielen for the vast majority of the night, Williams and Josh Jackson were tasked with handling Stefon Diggs and other slot options, which is not ideal for Mike Pettine and his aggressive scheme.

Kyle Rudolph was also giving the Packers fits, amassing seven catches for 63 yards in the first half alone. Rudolph, who has had a very quiet season due to the uptick in targets going to Diggs or Thielen, created fits for Green Bay, as he is faster than our linebacker ranks and forced Pettine to scheme defensive help across the middle for him.   

 

Offensive play calling (finally) reaches (somewhat) intuitive level

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw, all in the course of one play, a fake reverse to one receiver, another fake reverse and a fake handoff, resulting in an eight-yard gain on a screen play to Aaron Jones. Wanting to make sure Mike McCarthy was still on the sideline calling plays, things did not make sense.

Was this merely a way that McCarthy was trying to save his job, or did he actually have this play drawn up the whole time but just has not used it yet? Remains to be seen, but it was a welcome sight nonetheless.

Outside of that window dressing play, the play calling was pass-heavy but more efficient than in the past. Fewer screens and pick plays it seemed were called, and more down the field chunk plays were wanted.

Even with only scoring 14 points in the first half and Aaron Rodgers throwing for less than 100 yards in the first two quarters, it was a consistent game plan that mostly worked. Aaron Jones was utilized in a scat -back role, scoring a touchdown on a nicely-schemed pitch play with a pulling left tackle, resulting in Green Bay’s second touchdown of the game.

 

Wash, rinse, repeat: Jaire Alexander can ball

Having a shutdown corner in Pettine’s scheme helps his blitzing packages become that much more effective, something that Alexander is fully embodying. This week again, he has been tasked with following around the opponent’s best pass catcher, a la Thielen for this week.

Alexander did switch onto Diggs for a few snaps here and there, but his main assignment was limiting Thielen’s impact in the game, which mostly worked. Outside of an incredible, small-window connection (where has this been heard before), Thielen’s impact in the first half was consistent, but not quite Thielen-esque.

Time and time again, Alexander has been given full responsibility by himself with no over-the-top help from the safety, which is more dedicated to helping the other coverage men. Alexander continues to show that he is deserving of that role, evolving into what Green Bay was hoping he would become after selecting him in this past year’s first round.   

Leave any thoughts, comments or concerns you may have about this week’s game or the season below!

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Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23

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