Back on Top - Packers: 23 Vikings: 14
There were plenty of bumps in the road, but the Packers pulled out another win Sunday. It wasn't an ugly win, per se; the offense piled up in excess of 400 yards, the defense forced turnovers, and even Mason Crosby got off the schnide (at least a bit) with a few good kicks in the second half, his out of bounds kickoff notwithstanding. Perhaps the game just seemed scarier than it was because of the way Adrian Peterson was moving the ball.
But despite the win, there seems to be a lingering unease about this team. Perhaps it's the injuries to the offensive line. Perhaps it's the inability to regularly pressure the passer without Clay Matthews on the field. Whatever it is, it sometimes feels like the 2012 Packers are a team bound for another early exit from the playoffs.
But that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of positive stuff either. Alex Green and James Starks helped resurrect the run game against a pretty stout Minnesota defense. Jermichael Finley continued his streak of good games. And once again, Mason Crosby made three out of four kicks (keep that positivity train rolling!). Ultimately, whether it was pretty or not, the Packers are again on top of the NFC North and in good position for a playoff spot.
Morgan Burnett (6 tackles, 2 INT) - Although he certainly had his share of bad plays (namely a missed tackle on a certain very long touchdown run by a certain All-Pro running back employed by the Minnesota Vikings), Burnett more than made up for any miscues by bailing the Packers out with two timely picks, including one in the end zone.
Alex Green/James Starks (combined 27 carries, 124 yards, 1 TD; 3 catches 28 yards) - Green and Starks were used so interchangeably it's almost impossible to separate the two. Green showed pop on his 13 touches that we haven't quite seen so far this year, including a nifty run after the catch on his one reception. On his carries, Starks demonstrated why the Packers had enough faith to keep him around despite a tough training camp and early season injuries. He showed good speed on his 22 yard touchdown run, and Green was the first to greet him when he got to the sideline.
Christian Ponder - Ponder again showed why he's been such a valuable contributor for the Packers in his early career, connecting with Morgan Burnett on two key completions in the second half. The second year man from...wait, what? Christian Ponder doesn't play for the Packers? Are you sure? Huh...honest mistake. Moving on.
Jermichael Finley (6 catches, 60 yards) - After Jordy Nelson exited early with a hamstring injury, the Packers were suddenly quite thin again at receiver. Never fear, Finley is here. For the third week in a row, Finley had at least three receptions and over 50 yards receiving. His six receptions this week were the most since he had seven in Week 1. While he's certainly been a bit quieter this season than the Packers might like, the former Longhorn has done a good job getting back into the mix over the last month or so.
Good When He's (Not So) Bad - While you'd love to have 400 yards and 4 touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers every week, it's also nice that he still finds ways to be productive even when he's not putting up gaudy numbers. Rodgers was a very accurate 27 of 35 (77%) this week, and kept numerous plays alive with his legs despite poor production.
No Passing Fancy - Green Bay suffocated most of Christian Ponder's passing efforts this week, to the tune of just 119 yards passing on 25 attempts. The Packers didn't allow a completion to a wide receiver until the fourth quarter, although the impressive Kyle Rudolph did manage 51 yards on six receptions.
Sunday Drive - You're sure to read a lot this week about a moment that wasn't really just a moment: a massive 18 play, 73 yard drive that drained 11 minutes from the clock in the fourth quarter. While it would have been great to end the drive in the end zone, the Packers imposed their will on the Vikings in a way we haven't seen from Green Bay very often this season, converting four third downs and moving the ball in a variety of ways. Again, it would have been awesome if they'd come away with a touchdown instead of a field goal, but the game was essentially decided by this drive.
The nO-line - Bad puns aside, the offensive line has been just that: bad. And yes, it's not all their fault. An injury to Bryan Bulaga destabilized several positions, and when T.J. Lang went down, things got even worse. And while Don Barclay (or is that Carnal Body?) did moderately well in relief, you have to wonder why more resources weren't devoted to offensive line depth this year. Aaron Rodgers is the only person the Packers can't afford to do without, so protecting him has to be a bigger priority.
Peterson's Purple Power - Can we all just take a moment and reflect on the awesomeness of Adrian Peterson? And now that we've taken that moment, can we take a few more moments to wonder why the Packers couldn't seem to keep Peterson under wraps on Sunday? Sure, his numbers were inflated a bit by his 82 yard sprint, but had the Packers tackled like men who have been playing football for their entire lives instead of people who bought their pads at the Pro Shop, that run never would have happened.
Crosby Questions - On the one hand, Crosby has been undeniably bad. On the other, his kicks haven't directly resulted in any game this season being won or lost, so it's probably a little bit disingenuous to complain about him too much. On a third hand (you mutant freak), Packer fans are spending a lot of time worrying about a kicker when the offensive line can't block, the defense can't tackle, and the run game is as schizophrenic as a (insert analogy here). The point is, there may be bigger worries on this team than the mental state of the kicker.
Up Next - The Packers stay in the division once again next week, hosting the Lions at Lambeau Field in their final prime time appearance of the year.