The Packers pretty much locked this one up when the Vikings lost QB Kirk Cousins to the COVID-19 list
A quick recap of the Green Bay Packers’ 37-10 victory Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings:
In winning their 13th game for a third straight regular season, the Packers (13-3) locked up home-field advantage and a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Now coach Matt LaFleur must decide how much to rest certain players in the season finale at Detroit (which remains a noon CT start) to avoid injuries, which carries the risk of them getting rusty if they take off two weeks. That’s a good problem to have given the toll that serious injuries continue to take on their competition, such as the Cowboys losing receiver Michael Gallup to an apparent torn ACL on Sunday. In fact, the best thing about the Packers’ win Sunday was that they appeared to avoid losing anyone to injury. But both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams said they plan to play against the Lions, and LaFleur said he was open to the idea.
This potential stumbling block became a foregone conclusion Friday when Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Career clipboard holder Sean Mannion was not going to come into Lambeau Field and prevent the Packers from earning the top seed. Mannion didn’t embarrass himself, putting up decent numbers: 22-for-36 for 136 yards, one TD, no interceptions (although the Packers had their chances) and a passer rating of 84.1. But the Packers limited him to short throws and there never was a sense that the Vikings’ offense was going to present any kind of threat on this night.
Adams keeps rewriting the Packers’ record book. With 11 catches (for 189 yards and a TD), he exceeded by two his single-season franchise record and now has 117. With 1,498 receiving yards he needs only 22 more to break Jordy Nelson’s single-season record set in 2014.
5 things to watch revisited
A look at how Tom Silverstein's five keys to the game turned out:
1. Is this the last dance for Aaron Rodgers and Mike Zimmer?
Rodgers entered Sunday 7-6-1 against the Vikings since Zimmer took over as head coach in 2014, including 3-2-1 at home. This might have been the last meeting between the two with their respective teams and it has been a decent match of wits. Rodgers had thrown for 28 touchdowns with three interceptions in those 14 games and had a 104.2 rating. But the Vikings had won the past two. Zimmer’s team used to sack Rodgers a lot — 22 times in five games from 2016-18 — but they got no sacks and only three quarterback hits Sunday. Rodgers was surgical in his precision, completing 29 of 38 passes for 288 yards, two TDs, no picks and a 114.8 rating.
2. Packers' offensive line needs to keep Rodgers clean
Zimmer has never been afraid to blitz Rodgers, but he picks and chooses his spots and tries to show something different each time the teams meet. In the last meeting, he brought pressure the most on first down, rushing five or more six times. He brought five or more on five third downs. The Packers gave up one sack on 13 blitz calls and the only quarterback hit occurred because Rodgers held the ball too long. The biggest play came when Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 75-yard touchdown when Zimmer brought six rushers. On Sunday night, Zimmer tried to mix and match with his blitzes, but Rodgers got good protection from his blockers and used a quick release to avoid being sacked.
3. Pick your poison: Dalvin Cook or Justin Jefferson?
The Packers had lost two straight to the Vikings and the common thread was they allowed a dominant offensive performance. Last year, running back Dalvin Cook scored four touchdowns, three on the ground and one in the air while carrying 30 times for 163 yards and catching two passes for 63 yards. In the November meeting, receiver Justin Jefferson dominated the Packers' secondary, catching eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Somehow, the Packers had to figure out how to keep one in check without letting the other bust out. The answer turned out to be as simple as removing Cousins from the equation. Without their starting QB, neither Cook (nine carries for a paltry 13 yards) nor Jefferson (six receptions for 58 yards) could get into any kind of rhythm. Green Bay’s pass rush kept the heat on Mannion, with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith each netting a sack.
4. There will be a chill in the air at Lambeau Field
With temperatures expected in the low single digits Sunday night (it was 11 degrees at kickoff), both teams were going to have to work to stay warm. It’s not that big of a deal for the linemen, but for skill players who count on their fingers, hands and toes to get the job done, it was a good first test of winter adaptability. AJ Dillon more than met the challenge, arriving at Lambeau Field wearing just overalls over a bare chest. The Packers' second-year battering ram heated up during the game, rushing for 63 yards and two TDs on 14 carries and catching two passes for 20 yards to surpass 1,000 total yards on the season.
5. Packers can clinch home-field advantage if Cowboys lose
The Packers knew before kickoff they could clinch the NFC’s top seed after the Cowboys were upset at home by the Cardinals. They took care of business. The Vikings faced a must-win situation after the Eagles beat Washington on Sunday afternoon. The Vikings’ loss to the Packers eliminated them from the playoff race.