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Report Card: Packers Can’t Stop Vikings

The Green Bay Packers lost to the Minnesota Vikings 34-31 on Sunday. Here's the breakdown of what happened.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – For the Minnesota Vikings to spring the upset over the Green Bay Packers, they needed to do these three things.

First, Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson needed to pick up from where they left off last week against the Chargers. Two, they had to take care of the football. The Vikings entered the game with a league-low six giveaways while Green Bay was 7-0 when collecting at least one takeaway. Third, one of the best first-quarter teams needed a fast start against one of the worst first-quarter teams.

Check, check and check. The Vikings upset the Packers 34-31 to add at least a bit of intrigue to the NFC North race.

Here’s our weekly report card.

Passing Offense

After a hit-or-miss first half, the Aaron Rodgers-led passing game was unstoppable over the final 34 minutes. Rodgers ended the first half with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Josiah Deguara, then capped his three second-half possessions with touchdowns of 10 and 18 yards to Davante Adams and 75 yards to Marquez Valdes-Scanting. Rodgers finished 23-of-33 passing for 385 yards and four touchdowns. Half of the incompletions were throwaways. He was sacked twice and fumbled once. Other than a botched snap last week, it was Rodgers’ first fumble of the season.

Adams had his best game in weeks, catching seven passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Valdes-Scantling caught only 4-of-10 passes but the Packers will happily take the six incompletions in exchange for 123 yards and a score. With Allen Lazard inactive, Equanimeous St. Brown added two catches for 43 yards (and a rush for 11). After a season-high four drops last week, Rodgers’ targets had zero on Sunday. By our count, the Packers had 220 yards after the catch vs. Minnesota after 215 vs. Seattle.

The pass protection was mostly fine, though right tackle Billy Turner was slapped with a couple 10-yard penalties on passing plays. Left tackle Elgton Jenkins, as is typically the case, was excellent. His season-ending knee injury is a huge loss, though Yosh Nijman played well in three starts and didn’t allow any pressures in his seven pass-protecting snaps on Sunday.

Grade: A-minus

Rushing Offense

AJ Dillon carried 11 times for 53 yards and Patrick Taylor added four carries for 11 yards. Highlighted by an 18-yard scramble by Rodgers and an 11-yard gain on an end-around by Equanimeous St. Brown, the Packers gained 95 yards on 19 tries – a robust 5.0 average.

Really, though, the running game was a non-factor with the Packers in catch-up mode. Dillon’s biggest run, an 11-yarder, was a give-up draw play on third-and-a-mile. Taylor lacks Dillon’s burst and power, though maybe that’s just a byproduct of not being in anything resembling a groove.

The tight ends really blocked well, with Marcedes Lewis at the point of attack, Dominique Dafney leading St. Brown’s run and Deguara in his move-around role. Maybe Nijman will replace Jenkins as a pass protector but losing Jenkins’ blocking in the run game will be a huge loss.

Grade: C-minus.

Passing Defense

The previous three games, the Packers held three of the NFL’s star quarterbacks, Arizona’s Kyler Murray, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Seattle’s Russell Wilson, to a 59.7 passer rating and one touchdown pass. Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins is a step below those three but carved up Green Bay’s supposedly powerful defense like a Thanksgiving turkey.

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Cousins completed 24-of-35 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns. As this story is being written, Justin Jefferson just got open again. He caught eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Including the interference penalty he drew in the second quarter, he was responsible for 206 yards.

No cornerback is immune from a bad game. That’s especially true for a rookie. Eric Stokes, who has been a savior in the secondary, had a bad game. He allowed Jefferson’s 56-yard reception to the 1 in the first quarter and Jefferson’s 23-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. It’s not all Stokes’ fault, though. On third-and-goal at the 10, Kevin King gave up an easy catch to Adam Thielen, missed the tackle and gave up a touchdown. There were receivers running through the secondary throughout the game, which really hadn’t been the case the first 10 weeks.

Led by Preston Smith and Kenny Clark, the pass rush was typically strong. Smith had two third-down sacks and one forced fumble. Kingsley Keke’s helmet-to-helmet shot on Cousins wiped away Darnell Savage’s interception and tarnished a promising performance by the athletic defensive tackle. Savage dropped an interception on the game-ending drive and might have had an interception on the interference penalty had he not be so desperate to save Stokes’ bacon. Stokes had a shot for a pick in the third quarter.

Grade: F.

Rushing Defense

Eliminating Cousins’ kneel-downs at the end of the game, the Vikings ran the ball 27 times for 94 yards. That’s just a hair less than 3.5 yards per rush. Defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster had his best game of the season and perhaps his best game since his rookie season of 2018. Tipa Galeai had a big third-and-1 stop.

There’s a reason why the best coaches stick with the running game. Dalvin Cook had 10 carries for 18 yards in the first half and 12 carries for 68 yards in the second half. On the first drive of the second half, he carried seven times for 40 yards to help set up a touchdown. Clark demolished Mason Cole in the passing game but wasn’t nearly as strong vs. the run.

Grade: C-plus.

Special Teams

Mason Crosby made a 54-yard field goal but nailed the left upright from 32. It’s against league rules, so having Crosby, snapper Steven Wirtel and holder Corey Bojorquez spend the upcoming bye working on field goals for 8 hours per day isn’t permissible. Crosby has missed eight field goals and has a success rate of 65.2 percent. Both figures are the worst in the league. That he made his first nine attempts of this season seems impossible to believe.

Crosby kicked off six times. Five went for touchbacks and another was a moonball to take advantage of a penalty and park the Vikings at their 21. The return game literally didn’t do anything. All six kickoffs and the three punts resulted in fair catches. Corey Bojorquez’s two punts provided a 47.0-yard net. His first punt came after fielding a horrendous snap. His second punt was dropped by Dede Westbrook but the ball magically bounced right into his hands.

Grade: C-minus.

Coaching

Coach Matt LaFleur entered Sunday with a regular-season record of 34-8. His team has bounced back to win after all eight of those losses. Continuing that trend against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday will be quite a trick considering all the injuries and the possibility – even likelihood – that the line will be without All-Pro David Bakhtiari and Pro Bowler Jenkins.

It took a bit too long but LaFleur made the right adjustments to set up the passing attack for success. A hallmark of Joe Barry’s defense had been the minimal number of mental errors and the ability to prevent big plays. The Vikings gained 20-plus yards on six passing plays. The defense had a chance to make a few game-turning plays. They didn’t make any and lost because of it.

Entering Sunday, the Packers were the least-penalized team in the NFL and the Vikings had yielded the most penalty yards. This isn’t necessarily coaching, but the Packers were flagged eight times for 92 yards and the Vikings three times for 25 yards.

Grade: C.