MINNEAPOLIS – If there’s a silver lining from the Green Bay Packers’ 34-31 loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, it’s that the Aaron Rodgers-led passing attack got on a big-time roll.
After scoring 35 points vs. Detroit in Week 2 and 30 points vs. San Francisco in Week 3, the Packers had averaged just 21.1 points over the previous seven games. Rodgers was struggling by his Hall of Fame standards even before COVID and a toe injury, his passer rating down nearly 20 points compared to last year’s MVP performance. The red-zone offense went from great to miserable.
But Rodgers, playing through what he termed a “very, very painful” toe injury, was in vintage form during a superb second half. During the final 30 minutes, Rodgers was 10-of-11 passing for 197 yards and three touchdowns. The only incompletion was a throwaway.
Needing to deliver every time he touched the ball to keep pace with a surging Vikings attack, Rodgers capped four consecutive possessions with touchdown passes – a 25-yarder to Josiah Deguara late in the first half, a 10-yard touchdown to Davante Adams in the third quarter, an 18-yard touchdown pass to Adams in the fourth quarter and a 75-yard touchdown to Marquez Valdes-Scanting to tie the game late in the fourth.
The touchdown to Deguara was a big one. With Robert Tonyan on injured reserve, Deguara is their best hope for production at tight end. But, after missing most of his rookie season with a knee injury, he hasn’t always been on the same page offensively. He was on the touchdown, though, taking his route across the field to beat Harrison Smith on a scramble drill.
“As I moved to my left, I was thinking about running for a second and then he just flashed on me and made a nice catch,” Rodgers said. “He does a lot of dirty work for us, a lot of slides backside and cuts, some fly routes, and plays some fullback for us. I was really happy for him to get that first touchdown.”
The first touchdown to Adams was vintage stuff between the All-Pros. Adams ran a crossing route to the right against the Vikings’ top cornerback, Patrick Peterson, stopped, then reversed course. That got Adams behind safety Xavier Woods for the score.
“I just think based off the split, (Peterson) got a tip early so he kind of passed me off to the safety,” Adams said. “Once I got to that side, ‘12’ saw a window so he was just pointing to where, for me to flip around, basically. Flipped around and delivered a great ball.”
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The second touchdown to Adams put the Packers ahead briefly 24-23. It was a bizarre play. With the play clock winding down, Rodgers signaled for a timeout but not before Lucas Patrick sent his shotgun snap. The Packers didn’t block defensive end Everson Griffen and the Vikings didn’t cover Adams. Adams’ ankle-breaking move had cornerback Mackensie Alexander stuck in quicksand, and Rodgers delivered the ball before getting clobbered by Griffen.
“They brought an empty pressure, so they brought six (and) we had five blockers,” Rodgers said. “I was actually winding it down to call timeout and Lucas decided to snap it early. I knew we were going to squeeze to the left side, so it was going to be me and Griffen kind of mano-e-mano there. I gave a little stutter-step to Everson and I saw Tae had beaten his guy, had stutter-stepped his guy and beaten him, so I just tried to get it up in the air and get it out there. It turned into a pretty sweet play.”
Minnesota answered to lead 31-24 with 2:17 remaining. Not for long. On the first play after the kickoff, Rodgers went to deep to Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 75-yard touchdown against Woods. That was a variation of a Mike McCarthy-era play, Rodgers said, that they’ve been working on for much of the season.
“Once the ball’s in Quez’s hands, he’s taking that to the house,” Rodgers said.
Ultimately, it wasn’t enough. The NFL’s third-ranked defense in terms of points and yards never got close to getting a stop as the Vikings drove to the winning field goal as time expired. With a first-and-goal at the 7, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer had Kirk Cousins take a knee twice to drain the clock.
“I figured the best place to win the game was him on the bench,” Zimmer said.
Statistically, it was Rodgers’ best day of the season. He went 23-of-33 passing for 385 yards and four touchdowns. His passer rating, a lofty 148.4, would have been even better without the five intentional throwaways.
In games with a passer rating of at least 132, Rodgers’ career mark was 31-0. He was 36-1 in games with a 129-plus rating. The only blemish was a 37-34 loss at Minnesota in 2012 in which Rodgers threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns but the Vikings won on a 29-yard field goal.
“I do enjoy the battles,” Rodgers said. “Zim is a great coach, has a great scheme, always mixes things up, and it’s a chess match. It was fun to have some success today, but disappointing we’re coming up on the short end.”