November 18, 2017

Packers 24, Vikings 10

With the Minnesota Vikings defeating the Green Bay Packers in the final game of the regular season, that meant they would face off again in the first round of the playoffs.  So, on a cold night in Green Bay, the Packers and Vikings took the field and met for the third time this season.  Kicker Mason Crosby booted the ball five yards deep in the end zone and return man Marcus Sherels returned it to the Viking 32.

Starting quarterback Christian Ponder missed most of practice all week and tried to give it a go in warmups before the game.  He was unable to go and that meant Joe Webb would be the starter.  Like everyone expected, running back Adrian Peterson was a huge part of the game plan.  Two carries netted seven yards and on third and 3 from the 39, Webb took off up the right side for a 17 yard gain.  Just like that, the Vikings were in Packer territory.  Three more runs by Peterson moved the ball to the 18, but they would only get as far as the 15 and have to settle for a field goal attempt.  Kicker Blair Walsh made it from 33 yards out and the Vikings had an early 3-0 lead with nine and a half minutes to go in the first quarter.

That was all the scoring there was in the first quarter until with six minutes to go, the Packers started their next drive from their 18.  Running back DuJuan Harris got things started with two runs for eight yards.  On third and two, running back Ryan Grant got the call and gained two yards.  However, the Vikings were flagged for a neutral zone infraction and that gave the Packers a first down at the 31.  A short scramble by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a 16-yard pass to Harris moved the ball to the Packer 49.  From there, Rodgers found tight end Jermichael Finley for ten yards and Harris for 12 more.  On second and 11 from the 25, Rodgers found Grant on a screen pass that went for 16 yards.  That made it first and goal at the nine and Harris ran up the middle for an apparent touchdown.  He was ruled down at the one, but the Packers challenged the play.  After review, it was ruled that he broke the plane and the call was reversed.  Kicker Mason Crosby made the point after and the Packers led 7-3 as the first quarter came to an end.

After the teams traded punts, the Packers got the ball at their 27 with a little under eight and a half minutes to go in the second quarter.  Passes to tight end Tom Crabtree and wide receiver James Jones moved the Packers to the Viking 39.  On fourth and five from the 34, Rodgers threw a short pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings who took it all the way down to the two-yard line.  An incomplete pass to Finley and two unsuccessful runs by fullback John Kuhn put the Packers in a fourth and goal situation from the one.  Instead of trying again, Packer head coach Mike McCarthy opted to go for the easy field goal.  The 20-yard attempt was good and the Packers increased their lead to 10-3 with 3:25 to go in the first half.

The Vikings had a quick three and out and the Packers took over at their 38 with just under two minutes to go.  Deep passes to wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings gave the Packers a first and goal at the three-yard line.  This time, there would be no easy field goal attempt.  Kuhn ran off right guard for a Packer touchdown.  Crosby made the point after and the Packers now led 17-3 with 38 seconds to go in the first half.  The Vikings couldn’t do much with the ball with the little time that was remaining and the first half ended on an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Devin Aromashodu.

Starting at their 20, the Packers went right to work.  Two runs by Harris and a nine-yard pass to Jones gave them a first down at the 37.  Another pass to Jones and two more to Harris quickly put them at the Viking 20.  The drive stalled at the 14 and Crosby was once again called on for a field goal attempt.  But, there would be no field goal attempt this time.  The Vikings were flagged for 12 men on the field and that gave the Packers a first down at the nine.  From the nine, Rodgers found Kuhn across the middle.  Kuhn bounced off a couple of Vikings and landed in the end zone for another Packer touchdown.  Crosby made the point after and the Packers now had a commanding 24-3 lead.

Try as they might, the Vikings just didn’t have the ability to come back from such a deficit.  What followed the touchdown by Kuhn was a whole lot of nothing.  The Packers ran the ball and took time off the clock.  However, there would be one more touchdown.  With four minutes to go in the game, wide receiver Michael Jenkins got loose and was wide open on the right sideline.  Webb spotted him and hit him in stride for a 50-yard touchdown.  Walsh made the point after and the Vikings now trailed 24-10 with a little over three minutes to go.  The Packers ran six plays and punted the ball back to the Vikings with 19 seconds to go.  Needless to say, that’s not enough time to score twice.  Final score: Packers 24 Vikings 10.

For the Vikings, Joe Webb completed 11 of 30 for 180 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble.  He also had 68 yards rushing on seven carries.  Michael Jenkins and tight end Kyle Rudolph tied for the lead in receptions with three apiece.  Jenkins had the most receiving yards with 96 and one touchdown.  Adrian Peterson ended up with 99 yards on 22 carries and the Packers did a good job of not letting him get loose.  All totaled, the Vikings had 167 yards rushing on 29 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Chad Greenway led the Vikings with ten solo tackles.

For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of 33 for 274 yards and one touchdown.  He spread the ball around to ten different receivers and DuJuan Harris led the team in receptions with five.  Greg Jennings was the leader in receiving yards with 61.  Harris had the most rushing yards with 47 on 17 carries and one touchdown.  As a team, the Packers had just 76 yards on 31 carries.  Defensively, cornerback Sam Shields led the Packers with five solo tackles, two passes defensed and an interception.

With that win, the Packers head out to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco 49ers next Saturday.  They met in week one in Green Bay and the 49ers came away with a 30-22 win.  A lot has changed since then.  In that game, the “replacement refs” threw 18 flags for 143 yards.  Something tells me that won’t happen this time and it should be a close game.

 

All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: That’s back to back upsets for the Cardinals of division leaders. Good to see they still have some fight left in them…..Unfortunately, QB Kevin Kolb didn’t play long as he suffered a head injury early in the game and did not return. He has yet to practice in full this week and seems certain to be a game time decision this week…..Everyone thought WR Larry Fitzgerald would be the happiest guy in Arizona when the Cardinals signed Kolb, but he has had his best games this season with John Skelton under center.

Atlanta Falcons: Big comeback win by the Falcons over the Panthers last week. The Falcons are unlikely to catch the Saints in the NFC South, but are looking pretty solid to take one of the wildcard spots…..Although the Falcons keep stating it’s a minor injury, RB Michael Turner just hasn’t been the same since suffering a groin injury. He hasn’t missed any game action, but isn’t putting up his typical numbers either. If it is not the groin, maybe the long season is catching up with him.

Baltimore Ravens: It looks like LB Ray Lewis will be back in the lineup this week. The Ravens played it smart and kept Lewis out of the lineup until he and the team were sure he was ready to return…..WR Torrey Smith has been getting a bigger and bigger role in the Ravens offense each and every week. If he continues to develop, the Ravens may have an offense that can at least rival their defense, but more importantly it will take some of the opposing defense’s attention off of RB Ray Rice.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills came out and stated this week that they won’t take a QB in the first round of next year’s draft. Once again reinforcing their faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I have a feeling that’s a mistake. Fitzpatrick can look good at times, but still doesn’t have the look of a franchise quarterback…..The Bills will also have a big decision to make with WR Steve Johnson. Contract talks have broken off, so they may have to figure out if they want to use their franchise tag on him.

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton finally played like a rookie last week, throwing two interceptions to open up the second half and with his team up 16 points in what eventually became a loss. Oh well, growing pains are a part of the job…..It looks like the only thing that may be keeping K Olindo Mare on the roster would be his four-year, $12 million contract. The Panthers brought in Adi Kunalic and promised he will kick Sunday if he outperforms Mare this week in practice.

Chicago Bears: If not for the injury to RB Matt Forte, Marion Barber may have been released before the plane hit the ground after failing to stay inbounds to keep the clock running on the Bears final drive of the 4th quarter; thus giving the Broncos the chance they needed to tie the game and send it to overtime. He than fumbled on the first drive of overtime when it looked like he was breaking into the clear, allowing Denver to win the game.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are quickly blowing what was a good start to the season. They have had trouble beating winning teams all season and it is quickly catching up to them. At this point they may have to win out to make the playoffs…..This all being said, the Bengals do get a layup this week in St. Louis, than Arizona, and even the last game versus Baltimore could be in their favor if the Ravens don’t have anything to play for with their playoff picture solidified.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are catching plenty of heat for their handling of the concussion suffered by QB Colt McCoy versus Pittsburgh. Apparently no one on the Cleveland medical staff saw McCoy get hit by the oncoming truck that was LB James Harrison, and when they did check him out they were worried about his finger, not his head. Now apparently Browns players suffered multiple concussions during this game which may have spread the medical staff kind of thin, but still someone had to see that hit and say “Hey, you may want to check Colt out.”

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Sunday night, blowing a 12-point lead with five plus minutes left in the game…..Everyone seems to want to blame QB Tony Romo for missing WR Miles Austin with a pass that would have gone for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter, but Austin admitted that he lost the ball in the lights and that’s why he didn’t catch it. Criticizing K Dan Bailey for the block seems to be off base also since the kick wasn’t low. It was much more of a blocking problem or maybe it was just a great play by Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul.

Denver Broncos: QB Tim Tebow is starting to make a believer out of me. This guy finds a way to win every game, even if he did have a tremendous amount of help from the Chicago offense in this one. Now if the Broncos and Tebow are able to beat the Patriots on Sunday, I might be a true believer…..With Tebow being 7-1 as a starter, now the Broncos have little choice but to anoint Tebow as their starting QB next season.

Detroit Lions: Not sure what to make of the Lions who almost blew that game to Minnesota last week and if not for a missed face mask penalty on the final play of the game, may have blown it indeed…..The Lions right now are in a playoff spot but have an interesting schedule over the remainder of the season. They play an Oakland team that is fighting for their playoff lives, a San Diego team that may be doing the same next week, than a Green Bay squad that could be playing for a perfect season. It should be fun times in Motor City.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with either a win or a San Francisco loss. Than the big question would remain, do you play your starters and go for a perfect season, or rest them and make sure you are completely healthy for the playoffs? Now the injury to WR Greg Jennings last week, which will keep him out for the remainder of the regular season, could push the Packers towards playing it safe. But they know that an undefeated season would be immortality, plus they did win the Super Bowl last season which should make going for 19-0 even more of a must.

Houston Texans: You just can’t stop these Texans no matter who is at the wheel. QB Tyler Yates led an impressive comeback over the Bengals last week, a game that was in Cincinnati and much more important to the Bengals than the Texans, but still Yates led them to a game winning drive. Impressive indeed, still though, I’m having a tough time seeing the Texans winning more than one game in the playoffs…..Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be away from the team for the next 7-10 days as he will have a procedure to deal with a kidney ailment. Good luck Wade.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning has started throwing again. The question is, does he have the same zip on the ball that he did before the surgery? Next question still remains, what will the Colts do with Manning after the season and are they still planning on having Manning get in some game action before the end of the season?…..TE Dallas Clark did indeed return to action and didn’t suffer any setbacks with the leg, but did suffer a stinger that has kept him from practicing this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The NFL officially ratified Shahid Khan as the owner of the team, and Khan for his part stated once again that he is not planning on moving the team. Now moving the team would be hard anyway as they do have a lease through 2029, but there is an out clause if the Jags lose money for three straight seasons…..RB Maurice Jones-Drew is having an incredible season for a bad team. The numbers he is putting up for a team that has no other offensive weapons is unbelievable.

Kansas City Chiefs: So much for the Todd Haley era as he was fired this week. At least he won’t be around for the beating that the Chiefs are going to take from Green Bay this week. Look for the Chiefs to hire former Broncos head coach and current Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the top job once the season concludes. He is the man they wanted instead of Haley in the first place, but Denver offered him the job first…..QB Kyle Orton has recovered from his dislocated finger and will start for KC this week.

Miami Dolphins: Head coach Tony Sparano was put out of his misery this week as well. The team certainly played hard for him even though we all knew he was a walking dead man. He won’t have any problems getting another job, either at the head coach or coordinator level…..QB Matt Moore left the game last week with a concussion and hasn’t practiced yet, but should be available to play this week against Buffalo.

Minnesota Vikings: Tough loss for the Vikings last week but some good did come out of it. QB/WR Joe Webb played pretty well after taking over for Christian Ponder and may be able to handle that role in the future. The problem is Minnesota also likes what he can do as a receiver. You really can’t have your backup QB playing receiver, too good a chance of an injury. Maybe you can have your third string QB play receiver though…..Ponder is expected to start this week even though Webb was more effective than he was last week.

New England Patriots: That was some pretty funny stuff watching QB Tom Brady and the Pats offensive coordinator yelling at each other on the sideline after Brady threw an interception last week. Seems though if any of the Pats coaches were going to yell at any of the players, it should be on the defensive side of the ball…..If that was the funny part of the game, than the ridiculous part was watching the Redskin defense trying to tackle TE Rob Gronkowski. It looked like a high school team trying to tackle a top college player–just a joke.

New Orleans Saints: If you’re not a fan of any team in the NFC, you have to be rooting for a Green Bay-New Orleans rematch in the championship game, hopefully in good weather. Now that would be entertainment….TE Jimmy Graham is dealing with a bad back that almost kept him out of the game against Tennessee. He was able to play and has also been able to practice this week so this may not be as serious as it once looked…..RB Mark Ingram has yet to practice this week and may yet miss another game due to turf toe.

New York Giants: What a win for the Giants over the Cowboys on Sunday. They are now in control of their own destiny in the NFC East, but things could get testy. They have what should be a gimme versus Washington this week, although the Skins played the Pats tough. They than have to play the Jets and then Dallas once again. Here’s hoping that last game is a winner take all…..The most impressive thing to me about the Giants’ win wasn’t the 37 points they scored but that they didn’t give up a sack.

New York Jets: The Jets have come alive once again and look like a team that could be dangerous come playoff time. They have a strong running game with Shonne Green and LaDainian Tomlinson, and QB Mark Sanchez has been more careful with the football in the past couple of games. The loss of S Jim Leonard is a blow to the defense, but he missed the playoff run last season as well due to injury.

Oakland Raiders: Not that the Raiders had much of a chance of beating Green Bay anyway, but that is back to back weeks that they virtually didn’t get off the plane. The team certainly has dealt with its share of injuries. Their receiving corps has been decimated and losing their biggest playmaker in RB Darren MacFadden has been huge, but that’s still no excuse for their play of late.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick had a successful return to action last week, but WR Jeremy Maclin did not as he had to leave the game early when his hamstring tightened up on him. He might give it a go once again this week but there is no way of knowing if he will be able to finish the game…..WR DeSean Jackson actually showed up last week and had a big game. The question is, can he do it again, especially with the games becoming more and more meaningless?

Pittsburgh Steelers: It seems unlikely that QB Ben Roethlisberger will play Monday night after suffering a high ankle sprain, an injury that looked pretty ugly when it happened. The Steelers need to think about the future. Sure they would like to win the division, but they have a wildcard spot all but locked up and need to make sure Ben is as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs…..C Maurkice Pouncey also suffered a high ankle sprain. He wants to play, but once again the Steelers may play it safe and hold him out.

San Diego Chargers: Can the Chargers make another miracle comeback in the division? Probably not, but they are once again giving it a go. If only Tim Tebow would stop pulling out these miracles…..With the rash of coaching changes that have been going on, it’s fair to wonder if Norv Turner could be let go when the Chargers next lose a game and are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

San Francisco 49ers: That’s two losses in a row for the 49ers and now they have the Steelers coming to town. Now they have a firm grip on the NFC West but that first round bye might be slipping away…..I still can’t see how this team can win a playoff game. They need to score points. Their defense is good, but not great…..RB Frank Gore is certainly beat up and the 49ers admit that he’s not 100%. But what running back is at this point in the season? The real question is, how far from full health is he?

Seattle Seahawks: RB Marshawn Lynch has set himself up to make a ton of money next season, assuming the Seahawks don’t franchise him. He’s as tough a runner as there is to bring down. Inconsistent, sure, but once he’s in the secondary he’s a runaway train. The Hawks must retain his services next season.

St. Louis Rams: It’s hard to believe that OC Josh McDaniels will be in high demand next season with the way the Rams offense has been this season. Of even more importance is that QB Sam Bradford has certainly regressed this season. Still look for McDaniels to be the Chiefs first choice…..If McDaniels were to leave, would free agent WR Brandon Lloyd leave with him?….Speaking of Bradford, his ankle seems to have taken a turn for the worse and as of now he is unlikely to play Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs look to be out of control and it seems unlikely that coach Raheem Morris keeps his job…..QB Josh Freeman stated that he still doesn’t have the same zip on his fastball due to injury. That could explain the problem he has had with interceptions this season. Freeman has to be one of the more disappointing players this season…..Freeman should be licking his chops at facing the Dallas secondary Saturday–Lord knows everyone else has this season.

Tennessee Titans: Tough loss by the Titans versus the Saints. They had a chance to beat them at the end. They might have had an extra play had rookie QB Jake Locker thrown the ball on the final play. He had time. Even if he throws the ball away, he still would have had another play. Then he could have run around forever and tried to make a play. You can’t take a sack, even if you just heave it up for grabs. Give your team a chance.

Washington Redskins: On that great run by TE Rob Gronkowski last week, did anyone notice CB DeAngelo Hall observing the play while two of his teammates were being dragged by Gronk? Way to get involved…..Coach Mike Shanahan stated this week that QB Rex Grossman is auditioning for the starting job next season. While that may be true, the Skins are sure to use their first-round pick on a rookie quarterback.