NFC North: 2013 Week 8 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Minnesota Vikings

October, 27, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' 44-31 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night:

What it means: The Vikings were blown out for the second straight home game. In between those games, they lost on "Monday Night Football" to a winless team. They've looked awful on national TV two weeks in a row. Head coaches don't often survive these kinds of developments, particularly when their team is 1-6, and it's fair to start wondering how much longer Leslie Frazier will be around. His only chance to salvage his job might be if the Vikings come down the stretch with some respectability, but the last time the Vikings lost to the Packers this badly at home, Brad Childress got fired.

Stock watch: Falling -- Christian Ponder. The Vikings might not have any reason to go back to Ponder the rest of the season after he turned in a tepid performance with Josh Freeman (concussion) out. Ponder threw for just 145 yards. The Vikings barely had the ball, but when they did, Ponder looked like the same quarterback he was before he lost his job, bailing early on the pocket and taking off instead of trying to drive the ball downfield. He threw away a pass in the second quarter with Greg Jennings open and waving for the ball in the middle of the Packers' defense, and Jennings looked frustrated with Ponder after that. The Vikings might just spend the rest of the year seeing whether Freeman can learn the playbook and give them something better.

Jennings does little vs. old team: With Ponder throwing just 21 times, Jennings had few chances to show up his former team. He caught just one pass for nine yards on three targets, while the Packers put Jordy Nelson in Jennings' old slot receiver spot and watched him torch Xavier Rhodes for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jennings might have stoked Rodgers' fire with a series of jabs at the quarterback over the summer; Rodgers looked particularly fired up after a couple touchdowns, and certainly got the last laugh in his first game with Jennings on the other sideline.

Got the time? The Vikings' defense has been among the worst in the league at getting off the field on third down all season, but they might have hit a new low on Sunday night. The Packers converted four third downs on their first drive and their first seven of the game, finishing the night 13-for-18 on third down. That helped Green Bay hold the ball for more than 40 minutes, punishing a team that's already ranked 31st in the league in time of possession. The Packers held the ball for 12:58 in the third quarter alone, as the Vikings ran just three plays.

What's next: The Vikings (1-6) head to Dallas to take on the NFC East-leading Cowboys (4-4) next Sunday.

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.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

October, 27, 2013

DETROIT -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 31-30 win against the Dallas Cowboys.

What it means: It was a game Detroit had to have. Sixty-two seconds to go. Eighty yards. And this, well, this is no longer the Detroit Lions of old. The Lions drove 80 yards, capped off by a Matthew Stafford fake spike followed by a leap into the end zone with 12 seconds left to give the Lions a come-from-behind win.

Two underrated things on the final drive -- Stafford’s sideline pass to Kris Durham set up the last two plays. Also, going into the final play, left tackle Riley Reiff sprinted about 30 yards to make sure he was at the line of scrimmage. Play doesn’t happen if that doesn’t happen.

The Lions have had a few change-the-momentum-of-the-franchise moments this season. A win at Washington. Coming from behind against Cleveland. None, though, bigger than this. Detroit’s playoff chances are intact. So is its momentum. That might be as big of a win for Detroit than it has had in years.

Stock watch: Rising -- Returner Jeremy Ross. With Micheal Spurlock inactive, Ross took advantage of an opportunity, returning a kick 44 yards that set up a Detroit scoring drive. Receiver Calvin Johnson, who had his fifth 200-yard receiving day of his carer, tying an NFL record. Stafford. His call for the fake spike touchdown are plays that franchise quarterbacks make. They are plays that can lift a career. For Stafford, that might have happened Sunday.

Johnson's day: There really aren’t enough adjectives to adequately describe what Johnson accomplished Sunday. He caught 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown, including multiple catches in double coverage. The yards are a franchise record. The biggest one was a 54-yard catch over the middle despite double coverage, the second straight week he made a highlight catch.

What’s next: The Lions are off next week before a two-game road swing to Chicago and Pittsburgh.