Vikings could try to stop run, sans Rodgers

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
5:15
PM ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings have played a Cover-2 defense ever since Aaron Rodgers became the Green Bay Packers' starting quarterback, directing an offense that's leaned as heavily on the pass as any in the NFL. So it's made sense that the Vikings' only two times stacking the box against the Packers came in Rodgers' first career start -- when Packers coach Mike McCarthy was being more conservative with the offense -- and his most recent matchup against the Vikings in October, when the Packers ran for 182 yards, held the ball for more than 40 minutes and pounded the Vikings with a bruising running game.

In both of those matchups, the Vikings put eight or more defenders in the box 11 times, according to ESPN Stats and Information. In the other nine matchups? They only did it a total of 47 times. In the four times they've beaten Rodgers, the Vikings showed the Packers an eight-man front on six, four, one and one snaps. They've usually opted to sit back in coverage and let their defensive line come after Rodgers.

But the 2011 NFL MVP won't be the quarterback for the Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field. Scott Tolzien will be, and in the three games the Packers have played since Rodgers has been out, they've seen teams defend them in a similar manner to what the Vikings often see with Adrian Peterson. The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants put eight or more defenders in the box 48.4 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats and Information (via our Rob Demovsky). The Packers had seen that defense 25.5 percent of the time against Rodgers.

Sunday could see the Vikings take a similar approach to stop running back Eddie Lacy; they've used eight or more defenders in the box on 72 snaps this year, which is the ninth-most in the league, according to ESPN Stats and Information. But defensive coordinator Alan Williams was quick to point out how willing the Packers have still been to throw deep with Tolzien, and with a depleted secondary, the Vikings could decide against loading up on Lacy, too.

"That's what type of team they are," Williams said of the deep shots. "I think every team in the NFL has the next-man-up mentality, and they're no different. He's a NFL quarterback, and he's quite capable of making those plays. If he's making them, I fully expect them to keep doing them. The receivers are making big plays for him."

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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