Vikings report card: Average performance between mediocre teams in Sunday's tie
NOV 25, 2013 8:54a ET
Minnesota controlled the game early and then gave up 16 straight points to the Packers to go into overtime. Each team kicked a field goal in overtime before the clock ran out, ending in the NFL's first tie since Nov. 11 of last season and the Vikings' first since 1978 in a 26-26 final score.
Here's how Minnesota graded out in each phase on Sunday at Green Bay:
Pass offense: C
Christian Ponder received the start at quarterback for the Vikings after coach Leslie Frazier referenced his history against the Packers. Ponder's game Sunday will give him another start next week at home against the Chicago Bears. Ponder nearly threw an interception, but it was dropped by a Green Bay defender and he finished without any turnovers. He also made enough plays in the passing game, particularly in the first half as Minnesota built up an early lead.
Ponder finished 21 of 30 for 233 yards and a touchdown and his numbers could have even been better as Cordarrelle Patterson had two drops, including one in the end zone in overtime, and Jarius Wright and Greg Jennings also had two critical drops. Ponder had five passes go for 20 yards or more, including two big passes to Jerome Simpson. Rhett Ellison scored his first career touchdown on a 12-yard catch-and-run. Simpson had two catches for 54 yards. Patterson led the team with 11 targets and eight catches, which went for 54 yards. Jennings made little impact in his return to Lambeau Field.
The passing game was still uneven though. The drops came at bad times and Ponder was sacked six times as the offensive line struggled again, left tackle Matt Kalil in particular. Adrian Peterson fumbled after a short reception in the middle of the field. Ponder did most of his work in the first half, as well, as the running game controlled the second half. Ponder was 11 of 14 for 127 yards in the first half and 10 of 16 for 106 yards in the second half and overtime.
Run offense: A
Minnesota had 67 rushing yards in the first half with Peterson going for 72 yards on 14 carries (Ponder had a run for minus-5 yards). The Vikings then ran for 165 yards in the second half and overtime with Peterson continuing a strong game and Toby Gerhart supplying big plays. The running game for Minnesota finished with a season-high 232 rushing yards.
Peterson had season highs with 32 carries and 146 yards. Gerhart had his best game since running for 109 yards in Week 16 of 2011 against Washington, the game in which Peterson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Gerhart averaged 11.4 yards per carry, gaining 91 yards on eight rushes. Peterson and Gerhart carried the Minnesota offense in the second half and overtime and controlled the clock.
On the game-tying drive in overtime, Peterson and Gerhart combined for 50 yards rushing, 24 by Gerhart, as the Vikings kicked a field goal. Ponder completed one pass for 10 yards on the drive and there was a defensive holding penalty.
Pass defense: C
Success early against Green Bay starter Scott Tolzien was followed by being picked apart by replacement Matt Flynn, and then finally slowing Flynn late in the game. Minnesota has faced either Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers in the twice-yearly matchups with Green Bay ever since 1992. The Vikings took advantage of seeing Tolzien. Linebacker Audie Cole sacked Tolzien on the first offensive play and he was pulled after one series in the second half. Tolzien finished 7 of 17 for 98 passing yards and was sacked twice.
Then Flynn entered and the Packers started to find some rhythm. After one series, Flynn got going in the fourth quarter and was 21 of 36 for 218 yards passing and led four scoring drives to overcome the 16-point deficit. Minnesota was able to hold Flynn and Green Bay to field goals on two possessions, which allowed the game to go into overtime and then kept the Packers to just a field in overtime, giving the Vikings a chance.
Overtime was a different story of sorts for Flynn and the Packers. After Flynn was 15 of 22 for 123 yards in the third and fourth quarter, he was 6-of-14 passing for 95 yards in overtime and had just three completions in his final eight passes.
Run defense: F
Who knew the biggest trouble Minnesota would have this season is with Green Bay's running game? In the two games this season, the Packers ran for 378 yards as a team. Two of the three worst games of the season for the Vikings' run defense this season have been against Green Bay.
Again, missed tackles were a problem against the Packers' tough-running rookie. Eddie Lacy shed tacklers and was rarely brought down by the first defender. Minnesota needed a group of players to bring Lacy down on Sunday. Lacy finished with 25 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings allowed a season-high 196 rushing yards to Green Bay on Sunday. Backup James Starks also had a big 34-yard run and the Packers averaged 5.8 yards per carry.
Special teams: A
Special teams played a big part in the last meeting between the two teams when Patterson returned a kickoff for a touchdown and Green Bay's Micah Hyde had a punt return for a touchdown. The impact was far less on Sunday. Patterson did nearly break another kickoff return, taking one return 57 yards to set up a field goal. He finished with four returns for a 31.5-yard average. The Vikings' coverage teams didn’t allow any big returns this time around.
Blair Walsh continues to be as consistent a kicker as there is in the NFL. He connected on all four of his field-goal attempts on Sunday, including a 47-yarder in the cold and a clutch 35-yarder in overtime to extend the game.
Both punters kept Sunday's game a field-position battle. After not punting in the first meeting, Green Bay's Tim Masthay had eight punts for a 40.8-yard average and had two punts downed within the 5-yard line. Minnesota's Jeff Locke averaged 41.5 net yards on six punts.
Is there any other way to grade Sunday's game besides average? A tie with two uneven performances from both teams. Frazier described the game as "bittersweet" in his postgame press conference. The Vikings are left wondering, again, "What if?" Losing three games in the final minute and having another end in a tie, Minnesota is about 4 minutes from being 6-5 this season and in a tie for the NFC North. Green Bay's tying kick in regulation came with 46 seconds left, the fourth time this season the Vikings surrendered a lead in the final minute. In the end, Minnesota didn’t help its faint playoff hopes and fell from No. 2 in the draft order to No. 4.
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