Bears at Packers this Thursday plus Favre ceremony
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By CHRIS HAVEL
Green Bay’s three-game losing streak halted against Minnesota as defense leads way with smothering effort
The Minnesota Vikings can’t claim they didn’t see this coming.
Teddy Bridgewater saw it. Adrian Peterson saw it.
The Packers’ defense was in the Vikings’ facemasks from start to finish in Green Bay’s fairly convincing 30-13 victory over Minnesota on Sunday in Minneapolis.
Green Bay (7-3) came in on a three-game losing streak. It exited with a renewed feeling of confidence stemming in part from regaining control of its own fate.
The Vikings (7-3) missed an opportunity to put a stranglehold on the NFC North in a game that featured the Packers’ stingy defense punctuated by Mason Crosby field goals and two Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes. It also featured a rejuvenated Eddie Lacy who rushed for a season-high 100 yards.
Others such as the two Joneses – James and Datone – contributed with big games when the Packers needed it most. James Jones had six catches for 109 yards including a picture-perfect 27-yard touchdown catch as he dragged two feet and maintained control along the end zone’s side line. How Aaron Rodgers spotted Jones and tucked the football into a minuscule space is beyond description.
Rodgers also hooked up with Randall Cobb on a 10-yard touchdown strike. It’s noteworthy that both touchdown passes came on third down plays.
“Maybe we’ll get you guys off our back for a couple days,” Rodgers told reporters. “We’ve been taking it on the chin, rightfully so, the last three weeks after a couple real poor performances. This was an important week for us. We really stuck together.”
Datone Jones helped lead the defense by claiming two of its six sacks of Bridgewater, who struggled to gain any rhythm once the Packers’ defense put the clamps on Peterson. Peterson finished with 45 yards on 13 carries including a critical second-half fumble that thwarted a promising Vikings drive.
“I think sometimes we play a little better when we start to get questioned,” Rodgers said. He finished just 16 of 34 for 212 yards but his two touchdown passes were right on the money.
Minnesota saw its five-game winning streak squashed in front of a hopeful hometown crowd that eventually shuffled out in disappointment.
At times, the Vikings were their own worst enemy.
The Packers took a 27-13 lead on Jones’ touchdown catch and ensuing two-point conversion on a drive fueled by Vikings penalties. A 50-yard pass interference penalty on Terence Newman on third-and-15 set up one touchdown. An illegal contact call on Anthony Barr on a third-down incompletion also gave the Packers a new set of downs on the drive.
Clay Matthews, speaking for the defense, said: “Sometimes you have to look in the mirror, especially with the losses we’d had.”
Datone Jones had perhaps his finest day in a Packers uniform. It comes after defensive coordinator Dom Capers elected to use Jones as a defensive end in the 4-3 alignment opposite Nick Perry or Mike Neal. At tackle, Capers relied on B.J. Raji, Letroy Guion and Mike Pennel in a three-man rotation. The alignment and the Packers’ rally to the football caused Peterson all kinds of fits.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy appeared more active on the sidelines. He seemed to be more vocal and involved.
“This is the way we prefer to play,” McCarthy said, referring to a much better run-pass balance on offense.
The Packers got a strong performance from J.C. Tretter, who stepped in early for the injured Corey Linsley (ankle). While tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari struggled all day, Rodgers at least had enough time to make a few big plays.
More important, the offensive line’s run blocking was good enough to get Lacy some room. The big back did the rest with his high effort and trademark spin move.
The Packers have precious little time to revel in the win. The Bears are coming in for a Thanksgiving night showdown featuring the jersey number retirement ceremony for the great Brett Favre. Also, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr will be in attendance to honor the fellow legend.
With a second win in five days, the Packers could lay a strong claim to the division title, a bye week in the playoffs and at least one home game.
Now, we’ll see what the Bears’ Jay Cutler, or rather, the Packers’ revamped defense, will have to say about it.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.