Minnesota built a strong 20-0 lead in the third quarter of the weekend’s Green Bay game. The defense had already forced a couple turnovers – 1 interception, 1 forced fumble – and Justin Jefferson was putting together a dominant performance. To their credit, Green Bay responded, shrinking Minnesota’s lead to 13 points.
Indeed, Aaron Rodgers got the ball back at his own 25-yard line. The drive began with consecutive runs, the first of which was from A.J. Dillon for 4 yards. Immediately thereafter, Aaron Jones took the ball 29 yards down the field.
The Packers do a nice job of capitalizing of the Vikings’ defensive front. Jordan Hicks is lined up on the left side, so he isn’t much help for the Jones run. Meanwhile, Eric Kendricks is left to fill the gap, but GB has a tight end get on the LB’s inside shoulder, pushing him out of the play. Jones can thus get to the second level relatively unencumbered once he works through the line.
From there, Green Bay just kept building off the early success. The next five plays were as follows: 9-yard pass, 11-yard run, 11-yard run, 9-yard pass, touchdown.
Dillon, a very strong running back, scored Green Bay’s lonely touchdown:
It’d be safe to say that this was the best drive for Matt LaFleur’s offense. Ed Donatell’s defense was off balance, unable to contain the threat from both the run and pass.
The good news, folks, is that Minnesota didn’t panic. Nay, they responded with a rock-solid drive on offense. True, they didn’t score any points, but they did possess the ball for more than 4 minutes. That allowed the defense to catch its breath while the team regained some strong field position.
The next time they got the ball, Green Bay again found some success. Danielle Hunter got home for a sack, but Aaron Rodgers overcame 2nd & 19 by completing a 23-yard pass. Thankfully, the Packers couldn’t gain much more ground, largely due to the sack from D.J. Wonnum to force a punt.
Keep in mind that this drive bridged the third and fourth quarters. At various points, we’ve seen Minneosta struggle to maintain their lead as the game drags on. In this instance, it was the opposite: the defense stepped up in a critical moment.
Plus, the offense went on to make things even more challenging by putting together a drive that took more than 5 minutes and led to a field goal. In so doing, the Packers not only had to score two touchdowns and two two-point conversions to tie the game, they had to do so with considerably less time on the clock.
Minnesota, in short, did a wonderful job of handling the challenge Green Bay presented.
In the coming weeks, Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings will face more difficult circumstances. The key will rest in being able to be similarly composed when the other team gets an edge. No team can find meaningful success in the NFL without being able to navigate adversity. It’s a small sample size, but the Vikings did a nice job of corralling the Packers in a moment when the momentum may have been starting to shift.