NFC North: 2011 Week 5 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Packers 25, Falcons 14

October, 9, 2011

A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' comeback 25-14 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

What it means: The Packers improved to an NFL-best 5-0 after their most impressive performance of the season. The Packers also extended their winning streak to 11 games, dating to last season and including the playoffs. Now the Packers will watch Monday night to see if the Detroit Lions can match their record by defeating the Chicago Bears at Ford Field.

Adversity football: That's a phrase coach Mike McCarthy uses often. Sunday night, the Packers faced their first two-touchdown deficit since midway through the 2009 season, trailing 14-0 with nearly four minutes remaining in the first quarter. They outscored the Falcons 25-0 the rest of the way. They also overcame the loss of left tackle Chad Clifton, who suffered what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury in the second quarter. The Packers finished the game with Marshall Newhouse moving from right tackle to left tackle and rookie Derek Sherrod at right tackle.

Newhouse praise: Newhouse looked pretty solid at left tackle, but don't take it from me. Here's what ESPN analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Mark Schlereth tweeted during the game: " Newhouse is gonna be a star in this league at tackle I can't tell you how hard it is to switch from RT to LT and not skip a beat!"

Defensive shutdown: The Falcons rolled up 140 yards on their first two possessions, both of which ended in touchdowns. The Packers defense held them to 111 yards the rest of the way, and safety Charlie Peprah ended the Falcons' only legitimate scoring threat with an interception at the Packers' 14-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. They only sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan once, but they unofficially hit him seven times and clearly knocked him off his rhythm in the second quarter and beyond.

RodgersWatch: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with 396 yards, bringing his two-week total to 804. He tied a Packers record by completing a pass to 12 different receivers. Only one skill-position player who was active for the game didn't catch a pass: Fourth-string tight end Ryan Taylor. We'll give him a pass.

JonesWatch: Receiver James Jones entered the game with nine catches for 88 yards. He complained briefly about his role in the offense but wisely waited his turn. His five-catch, 140-yard performance included a 70-yard touchdown. But I thought his best play came in the fourth quarter, when he made sure to stay in bounds near the sideline at the end of a 21-yard play.

FinleyWatch: Tight end Jermichael Finley had an odd night, dropping a touchdown pass in the second quarter and also a third-down opportunity in the third quarter. Finley failed to come up with a catchable two-point conversion pass as well. But his final catch, a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter, converted a third down and was critical in the Packers' efforts to run out the clock.

CrosbyWatch: Let's not forget that place-kicker Mason Crosby tied his franchise record with a 56-yard field goal on the Packers' second possession of the second half. The kick made the score 14-9. Had he missed it, the Falcons would have held their 14-6 lead while taking over near midfield.

What's next: The Packers will host the winless St. Louis Rams next Sunday at Lambeau Field. Six and oh, anybody?

Wrap-up: Vikings 34, Cardinals 10

October, 9, 2011
A few thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' first victory of the season, a 34-10 win against the Arizona Cardinals:

What it means: The Vikings avoided the second 0-5 start in franchise history with the first victory in Leslie Frazier's tenure as their permanent coach. (Frazier was 3-3 in an interim capacity last year.) They are now 1-4 heading into a two-game swing through the NFC North.

Salty atmosphere: Sunday might have been the brightest moment of the Vikings' season, but their inability to hold leads to this point made for a nervous and itchy crowd at the Metrodome. Not even a 28-0 first-quarter lead felt safe until midway through the fourth. Fans chanted for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder and booed the Vikings off the field at halftime when Frazier was content to take a 28-3 lead to the locker room rather than push the ball upfield.

First-quarter romp: The Vikings' big lead featured three Adrian Peterson touchdowns, but field position was the big story. Three of the four touchdown drives started inside the Cardinals' 26-yard line thanks to a pair of turnovers and a 22-yard punt return from Marcus Sherels. Their fourth scoring drive was aided by a 36-yard pass interference call on a pass that quarterback Donovan McNabb overthrew in the direction of receiver Michael Jenkins.

McNabbWatch: McNabb completed 10 of 21 passes for 166 yards and one rushing touchdown, once again playing below his career standards but well enough to ensure the starting job moving forward.

Edge rushing: The Cardinals couldn't block Vikings defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison, each of whom finished with two sacks. Robison also induced an illegal-use-of-hands penalty on right tackle Jeremy Bridges, nullifying a touchdown that would have pulled the Cardinals to 31-17 midway through the fourth quarter.

Personnel changes: Frazier pledged to stay the course after an 0-4 start, but he did make two notable changes. As we've already discussed, receiver Bernard Berrian was deactivated despite not appearing on the injury report this week. We'll let you know how Frazier explains that move. Also, cornerback Cedric Griffin didn't play until the second series for what might have been a disciplinary reason. Griffin, meanwhile, didn't seem worse for the wear after Cardinals tailback Beanie Wells steamrolled him and dislodged his helmet in the second quarter. It was one of the most violent collisions of the NFL season, to be sure.

What's next: The Vikings will play in front of a national television audience next Sunday night at the Chicago Bears.




Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22