Highly touted as one of the top games to watch this week, the matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings ended in a rather anticlimactic fashion, with neither team being able to break the 29-29 tie through ten minutes of overtime play.
In a strange outing for the Packers offense, an injured Aaron Rodgers was forced to stay inside the pocket for most of the day, unable to work his typical magic outside the pocket. Rodgers finished the day with 30 completions on 42 attempts, 281 yards and one touchdown.
A bright spot for the Packers offense, however, is the strengthening connection between tight end Jimmy Graham and Rodgers. Graham finished the day as the Packers’ top receiver, catching six passes for 95 yards, averaging 15.8 yards per catch.
Facing a stout Vikings’ front seven, one of the best in the league, the Packers’ offensive scheme was geared towards keeping pressure off of Rodgers, and the best way to keep a defense on its heels is to run the ball. Complementary to the arm of Rodgers, running backs Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery combined for 21 carries for 90 yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry.
The Vikings faired better as an offensive unit, with free agent acquisition Kirk Cousins affirming the reason he received his fully guaranteed $83 million contract. Cousins finished the day with 425 yards passing, dropping back to pass 48 times and completing 35 of those passes, including four touchdowns.
Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs combined for 21 catches, 259 yards and three touchdowns, being Cousins’ favorite targets on the day. With their ground game unable to move the ball against a surprisingly tough Packers’ front seven, Thielen and Diggs were forced to move the ball up and down the field for the Vikings.
The Packers’ special teams unit scored the first points of the game, with wide receiver Geronimo Allison breaking through the Vikings’ offensive line and diving to block punter Matt Wiles’ punt. While Allison was unable to grab the ball himself, his effort tipped the ball into the hands of rookie cornerback Josh Jackson, who ran in 15 yards for the score.
While playing with a superior offense, the Vikings’ shortcomings on special teams resulted in the tie, with rookie kicker Daniel Carlson missing two crucial field goals in the overtime period, including one that would’ve been a game winner.
Defensively, both teams were capable of stopping drives with crucial third-and-long sacks, tackles for loss and forcing fumbles to thwart drives. Packers’ veteran safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had an interception with a little over two minutes left in the fourth quarter, but the effort was all for naught as Rodgers proceeded to get sacked on a third-and-long on the ensuing drive. On the following drive by the Vikings, an interception by rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander was offset by a questionable roughing the passer penalty against pass rusher Clay Matthews, and that potential game-ender resulted in a lengthy drive for the Vikings that tied the game at 29-29.