Green Bay Packers: 2013 Week 8 GNB at MIN

Nelson shows Jennings how it's done

October, 28, 2013
Jordy NelsonBrace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsJordy Nelson had 7 catches for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Vikings.
MINNEAPOLIS -- When it was over Sunday night, Greg Jennings waited for his former quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, to finish shaking hands with a few of the Minnesota Vikings.

Then, near the middle of Mall of America Field, Jennings pulled aside the Green Bay Packers quarterback. We may never know what Jennings told Rodgers, his teammate for seven years. Rodgers would not say, and Jennings bolted from the locker room before anyone got the chance to ask. But it was clear Jennings did most of the talking.

That's about all he did of any consequence during the Packers' 44-31 victory that kept them in first place in the NFC North at 5-2. Four days after he said he was “just messing around” when he criticized Rodgers and his former team over the summer, Jennings caught only one pass for 9 yards against his old mates.

And if he were paying attention when he was on the sideline watching Rodgers and the Packers' offense, he would have been reminded of what he left behind when he signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Vikings in March.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy decided during his meetings last week to use receiver Jordy Nelson in the slot -- the spot Jennings played so often on the way to catching 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns during his career with the Packers, and the spot that Randall Cobb occupied before he broke his leg on Oct. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens. McCarthy made the adjustment last week, after Nelson was limited to just five catches for 42 yards in Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns.

Against the Vikings, Nelson flourished. He caught seven passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Both of his scoring plays -- an 11-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and a 76-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter -- came from the slot position.

“He's just a smart player,” Rodgers said of Nelson. “He can play anywhere. He can play inside, outside. He understands all the route concepts. We tried to get him in positions where we could get him singled up. We like those matchups when we can get him one-on-one, whether that's inside or outside. He's such a valuable resource to our team.”

In some ways, he's their only resource, at least in the passing game. Not only were the Packers without Cobb, who is on injured reserve designated to return, they played without receiver James Jones (knee) and tight end Jermichael Finley (neck).

So it was up to Rodgers, Nelson and the running game. The Packers matched their season high with 182 rushing yards, including 94 from rookie Eddie Lacy and another 57 from James Starks. Both also ran for touchdowns.

But it was Nelson's play in the slot that will be remembered.

On third-and-2 from the Vikings' 11-yard line in the first quarter, Nelson lined up in the slot to the right against cornerback Josh Robinson. He ran a corner route and with Robinson in tight coverage, he plucked the ball out of the air in the back of the end zone.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images"I like Jordy everywhere," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Nelson (87). "Jordy just does it right all of the time."
On his 76-yard touchdown, the Vikings blitzed, forcing linebacker Chad Greenway to move over to Nelson, who again lined up in the slot to the right. Sensing the pressure, Rodgers threw a quick strike to Nelson, who barely turned his head in time to see the ball coming down the seam. Nelson made one cut to the left, leaving Greenway in his wake, and was gone.

“I probably could've bent it in there a little bit more just to make it a tad bit easier,” Nelson said. “But it worked.”

Nelson could not remember the last time he took so many snaps from the slot, and in the second half he returned mostly to his outside position. The truth is, it didn't matter where he lined up; he and Rodgers were dialed in. Nelson caught seven of the eight passes that were thrown his way.

“I like Jordy everywhere,” McCarthy said. “Jordy just does it right all of the time. He can play any position; he can run any route. His body language is something that young receivers should take note of. He's an excellent target for a quarterback to throw to. You can see obviously on the corner throw where Aaron puts the ball, there's a lot of trust there. Jordy's opportunity really came in the slot frankly due to the injuries, but he can play anywhere.”

The Packers controlled the clock, keeping the ball for 40 minutes, 54 seconds, including the first 8 minutes, 10 seconds of the third quarter. The Vikings, in that quarter, had the ball for only 2 minutes, 2 seconds and ran just three offensive plays.

Rodgers was masterful on third down, completing all 10 of his passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His passer rating on third down was the maximum, 158.3. In all, the Packers converted 13 of 18 third downs and 2 of 2 fourth downs.

In 29 attempts, Rodgers had only five incompletions. By unofficial count, at least two were deliberate throwaways and one was a drop (by rookie Myles White). Rodgers threw for 285 yards, never turned the ball over and finished with a passer rating of 130.6 and a total QBR of 98.6 (the highest of any start during his career).

Although he wouldn't say anything about Jennings after the game, it was almost as if Rodgers wanted this one even more because of him.

“I wasn't going to let this team beat us,” Rodgers said.

And neither he nor Nelson did.

Locker Room Buzz: Green Bay Packers

October, 28, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS – Observed in the locker room following the Green Bay Packers44-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings:

Still in awe: Packers running back Eddie Lacy outgained Vikings running back Adrian Peterson on the ground, 94 yards to 60, but the rookie was still in awe. “I respect A.P.; I look up to him,” said Lacy, who carried a career-high 29 times and scored one touchdown. “He’s a great running back, very talented, and I was just happy to be on the same field with him. A part of me is still a spectator, I guess you could say. So to watch him, that was cool, too. But we had a good game on the ground; me and [James] Starks were able to get a lot of yards tonight.”

Pitching a shutout: Rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari was changing just a few lockers over from guard T.J. Lang, who was asked about the job Bakhtiari did on Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who did not record a single tackle, sack or quarterback hit. That didn’t stop Lang from giving him a little rookie ribbing. “David’s been struggling quite a bit,” Lang said. “Nah, I’m just kidding. You didn’t hear [Allen’s] number at all today.”

One man to beat: Punt returner Micah Hyde had only one man to beat on his 93-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter – his teammate Sam Barrington. Barrington nearly took out Hyde in the middle of the field. “We talked about it at halftime,” Hyde said. “I was like, ‘Sam, you almost tackled me, man.’ He said, ‘I was about to crush somebody, and the next thing I know we’re running face to face.’ He did a good job of avoiding me, though. Right off my cut, he just jumped out of the way, so kudos to him, too.” Hyde, who was criticized for his lack of speed, said he didn’t feel vindicated by outrunning everyone on the Vikings. Rather, he was happy to make up for Cordarrelle Patterson’s 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the game. “That was tough,” Hyde said. “Obviously, we gave that up. I was a part of it; I could’ve made the tackle. We just had to go out there as a punt-return team and make some plays.”

Favre who? In the wake of reports last week that the St. Louis Rams called Brett Favre to see if he was interested in coming out of retirement, coach Mike McCarthy was asked if the Packers would call Favre if Aaron Rodgers got hurt. With a look of disbelief, McCarthy said: “It was a helluva football game. I’m going to talk about the game.”

Rapid Reaction: Green Bay Packers

October, 27, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS – A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers44-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings:

What it means: After all the awful things that have happened to the Packers over the years at the Metrodome, it almost seemed fitting that in their last regular-season game here they gave up a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson to start the game. But it was no house of horrors this time. Aaron Rodgers turned in another masterful performance. Without two of his top three receivers and his top tight end, the Packers quarterback completed all but five of his passes, going 24-for-29, and threw a pair of touchdown passes. The win kept the Packers (5-2) in first place in the NFC North, one-half game ahead of Detroit (5-3).

Stock watch: The Packers seemingly can run the ball no matter which running back they use. James Starks was active for the first time since his Week 3 knee injury. He spelled Eddie Lacy for a few series, and looked just as explosive as he did in Week 2, when Starks rushed for 132 yards against Washington. The Packers matched their season high with 182 yards rushing, and dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for 40 minutes and 54 seconds. Lacy, the NFL’s leading rusher over the previous three weeks, rushed for 94 yards on 29 carries, while Starks carried seven times for 57 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown.

What you can do, I can do, too: After Patterson returned the opening kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown, Packers rookie Micah Hyde returned a second-quarter punt 93 yards for a touchdown. Hyde nearly got taken out by one of his own men, linebacker Sam Barrington. But once he avoided Barrington, Hyde was gone.

Scrambling man: Rodgers hurt the Vikings with his feet. Other than two kneel-downs, he ran four times for 34 yards, including a 14-yard scramble on a third-and-2 play on the opening drive of the third quarter. Three plays later, Rodgers scrambled on another third-and-2 play, and although he took a hard hit, he picked up 3 yards to set up Lacy’s 1-yard touchdown. Those two plays by Rodgers kept alive a drive that chewed up the first 8:10 of the second half.

No trouble on third down: The Packers converted their first seven third downs and finished 13-of-18 for the game. At 72.2 percent, that was the highest third-down conversion rate in the NFL this season, bettering Denver's 69 percent against Dallas in Week 5, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They also converted both of their fourth-down attempts.

What’s next: The Packers make their first – and only – appearance of the season on "Monday Night Football" when the Chicago Bears come to Lambeau Field on Nov. 4. The Bears (4-3) will be coming off their bye week.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As expected, Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones will miss his second straight game.

Jones said earlier in the week that he might be able to play if it were the Super Bowl.

Jones was listed as doubtful for Sunday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings. He has not practiced since he sustained a sprained left knee on Oct. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens -- the same game in which receiver Randall Cobb sustained a fractured fibula that landed him on the injured reserve/designated to return.

Jarrett Boykin, who had eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, will make his second career start.

The Packers will have four receivers available -- Boykin, Jordy Nelson, Myles White and Chris Harper.

Linebacker Nick Perry, who returned to practice on Friday, and was listed as questionable also will not play. Perry’s return to practice was a surprise.

Tight end Andrew Quarless will start in place of Jermichael Finley (neck).

Here’s the full inactive list: