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Week 17 Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings 20, Green Bay Packers 13


What you need to know

Minnesota Vikings

The loss of Rhett Ellison could be a very big deal as the offensive line continues to struggle and Ellison was a big help in the run game as well as with some occasional pass blocking. The Vikings don’t have Teddy Bridgewater throwing the ball all that much, but Seattle will focus on jamming up Adrian Peterson and Ellison could be sorely missed. That could mean they’ll need to open the playbook a bit for Bridgewater against a tough defense and one of the better secondaries in the NFL. That’s a concern and it doesn’t seem good for the Vikings heading into Wild Card weekend.

Green Bay Packers

Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers are not getting along. The offense continues to be a hodgepodge of things that don’t appear to work and things that do work which are oddly abandoned. The Packers run game looked good early, for example, but the team got away from it. Then, when they were losing big, they actually went to it more frequently. It’s hard to predict an offense when it is doing unpredictable things like that.

Minnesota Vikings

QB Teddy Bridgewater, 48 offensive snaps, Pass: 10 - 19 - 99 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 2 - 0
Things didn’t get off on the right foot for Bridgewater Sunday night as he missed a wide open Jerrick McKinnon down the sideline and overthrew him by almost five yards. Three throws later, Bridgewater missed MyCole Pruitt in the end zone by just a little bit. You can’t miss those throws, especially as the Vikings enter the playoffs. We know he can make the throws, as right after the miss on Pruitt he threw a dime to Jarius Wright but the receiver was way too casual and went out of bounds before completing a catch he should have had. Bridgewater also makes some daffy decisions, such as his left-handed toss while being sacked. He was trying to get rid of the ball (that’s good) but threw with his off-hand and right into the hands of Micah Hyde (bad). While Hyde made a back-handed, one handed throw Bridgewater never should have thrown the ball. So it seems there continues to be good reason why they aren’t opening up the playbook, though where the Packers erred in putting their quarterback in the position of throwing 44 passes, the Vikings have the opposite issue. 19 passes is too few and at some point they will need Bridgewater to throw the ball and perhaps win a game. Limiting him makes sense given his current issues. Shutting him down does not.

RB Adrian Peterson, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 67 - 1, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (1 targets)
Aside from a lower-back pain which forced him from the game for most of the fourth quarter, Peterson had an OK game. The offensive line gives him little help, but that hasn’t slowed him down all that much even if it often hampers his overall yards per carry. He still manages to make a first down or a big play when the team needs it. Peterson showed his vision and agility on a 10-yard carry in the third quarter where he took the handoff, got skinny and slipped through the hole and quickly got to the second level. He then used a jump cut to avoid another defender, then turned upfield again before being brought down for a first. Peterson also showed tremendous determination on his 3-yard touchdown run. He was held up at the one yard line but kept pushing and bulled his way and kept his legs pumping to the goal line. Peterson will be a huge factor going up against Seattle next week and is going to need some help—either with a pass game to loosen the defense up or better blocking up front- against the front seven of Seattle.

RB Jerick McKinnon, 12 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 15 - 0, Rec: 3 - 33 - 0 (4 targets)
We’ve talked about the flexibility McKinnon brings more than once this season and this game seemed to be when the team finally realized it as well. He lined up in the backfield on third downs and when Adrian Peterson was hurt in the fourth quarter. He lined up in the slot. He was out wide as the “z” receiver. He ran crossing routes, carried the ball and took on seam routes. McKinnon also made very good catches, often getting an extra few yards after the catch. McKinnon got some separation too, especially on Teddy Bridgewater’s first pass of the game. On the play, McKinnon blew past rookie linebacker Jake Ryan and was wide open down the sideline. Unfortunately Bridgewater missed him by about five yards and cost the team what would have been a sure six points. McKinnon made a few nice catches and ran the ball hard on a pair of occasions. While he continues to remain behind Peterson running the ball, he is showing his ability to do a ton of things and the team should find ways to get him the ball against Seattle.

WR Adam Thielen, 7 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 67 - 0, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 (1 targets)
Thielen’s biggest contribution was on a fake punt where he took the ball and ran for a first down and a 41-yard gain. Later, Thielen took the ball and ran off the right end for a 26-yard gain. During both runs he showed some elusiveness and patience as he followed his blockers to maximize yardage before getting hauled down. Thielen was injured in the third quarter on a special teams play and didn’t see any action after he left the field.

WR Jarius Wright, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (3 targets)
Wright made a lazy drop early in the game on a route down the sideline where Teddy Bridgewater dropped the ball in perfect placement along the line, but Wright played it too casually and was unable to keep both feet in while securing the ball. Beyond that Wright was pretty quiet.

WR Mike Wallace, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 22 - 0 (3 targets)
Wallace’s claim to fame was being the target on Bridgewater’s ill-advised interception in the third quarter. He did have one other catch and continues to be a square peg in a round hole for this offense.

WR Stefon Diggs, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (2 targets)
Diggs has cooled off in the late portion of the season and that continued Sunday night as he only saw two targets, catching one down the middle of the field for close to a first down. With just 19 passes, he isn’t getting much opportunity to make plays.

TE Rhett Ellison, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - -2 - 0 (1 targets)
Ellison made one catch and was injured. He tore his patellar tendon in his right leg and will be out for the postseason. It’s a big loss to the run game as Ellison is a solid blocker.

TE Kyle Rudolph, 42 offensive snaps (1 targets)
Rudolph was oddly absent from the gameplan, his only target not really a target at all, but a throw-away. There was very little passing by the Vikings and so despite the fact that Rudolph was on the field for 88 percent of the offensive plays, much of which saw him blocking.

TE MyCole Pruitt, 5 offensive snaps (1 targets)
Pruitt was the target in the end zone on a Teddy Bridgewater overthrow. Pruitt gained a little separation on the defender and had a lot of room in the end zone, but the pass sailed a little on Bridgewater and the Vikings had to settle for a field goal.


Green Bay Packers

QB Aaron Rodgers, 79 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 44 - 291 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 12 - 0
his was yet another in a long line of inconsistent Rodgers games, where one minute he’s fumbling the football or throwing a poorly thought out pass and the next he is making a ridiculous throw for a touchdown or scrambling for a big play. The worst play of his game was the fumble. On the play, defensive end Everson Griffin got around left tackle Josh Sitton to pressure Rodgers and force him inside. Rodgers was not quick enough though, and Griffen batted Rodgers’ arm before it moved forward. The ball flew from Rodgers’ hand and the only person not wearing white and purple who knew it was a fumble was the quarterback, who immediately got downfield to try and cut off the impending return. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn picked the ball up and headed for the end zone and while Rodgers nearly got him before he crossed the goal line, he couldn’t make the tackle. Rodgers’ interception was also a brutal turnover, especially coming in the end zone as it did. The play came on fourth and goal with just over two minutes left in the game. On the play, Rodgers had plenty of time but the receivers were all well-covered. He spotted James Jones with a tiny bit of separation in the end zone, but Xavier Rhodes was lurking nearby. There was no room to throw, save for the sideline, but Rodgers instead threw the ball inside, directly at Rhodes, who easily picked the ball off. Why he didn’t go to the sideline where only James Jones could make a play is hard to figure out. Rodgers one touchdown was to tight end Richard Rodgers on an intermediate out route. Vikings safety Harrison Smith was a little slow coming up to cover R.Rodgers, and the tight end easily made the catch. Both Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes met R. Rodgers at the goal line and the tight end made one of the ugliest touchdown leaps across the goal line in the history of football. He got the score though. Rodgers got hot in the second half, but looked bad early on. The offensive line continues to be an issue —Sitton is a guard, not a tackle and struggled all day out of position —and the receivers struggle to gain separation. That isn’t to excuse Rodgers though, as he has not looked good for most of the season. The whole offense is out of sorts right now, and Rodgers is at the heart of it. If he cannot turn it around, the team will not win in Washington. On the other hand, the Packers cannot make Rodgers throw the ball 44 times and expect to win.

RB Eddie Lacy, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 34 - 0, Rec: 2 - 7 - 0 (2 targets)
Lacy started off the game in fine fashion with seven carries for 28 yards, but the Packers got away from the run early and Lacy never got into a rhythm. The offensive line was also a mess, which made it hard to do much anyway. Lacy continues to look off this season, not running with as much power or showing the fluidity we’ve seen in past seasons. The Packers will want to try and lean on the run game going forward with Aaron Rodgers’ struggles, but so far they haven’t seemed willing to commit. Lacy and James Starks split snaps on offense almost evenly but even if you add the percentage they were on the field together, it only comes out to 67 percent of offensive snaps. That’s less than Davante Adams. The Packers abandoned the run early even though it was paying off and they were trailing by just a field goal and the Vikings were able to just focus on rushing Rodgers and not worrying about the run game.

RB James Starks, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 24 - 0, Rec: 3 - 18 - 0 (3 targets)
Starks and Eddie Lacy split snaps on offense almost evenly but even if you add the percentage they were on the field together, it only comes out to 67 percent of offensive snaps. That’s less than Davante Adams. The Packers abandoned the run early even though it was paying off and trailing by just a field goal. Starks looked OK in his carries, but suffered from the same difficulties Lacy did with regard to the offensive line and that lack of dedication to the run.

RB John Kuhn, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (2 targets)
Kuhn was in a lot trying to keep Aaron Rodgers upright as a blocker. The offensive line is a mess and he had little luck against a solid pass rush.

WR Randall Cobb, 64 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0, Rec: 6 - 37 - 0 (8 targets)
Cobb caught almost all of his targets but pretty much every catch was incredibly short in nature. Between an inability of breaking coverage and a brutal effort by the offensive line, the Packers had to have some short passes if they were going to complete any. Overall, Cobb has probably suffered from Jordy Nelson’s absence more than anyone aside from Aaron Rodgers and that continued to be the case. The Vikings also did an outstanding job of hitting him quickly after the catch, containing his very dangerous run after the catch ability.

WR James Jones, 79 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 102 - 0 (13 targets)
James Jones should never take off his hoodie, especially against the Vikings. That said, his overall numbers belie a pretty meh night as he caught only 25 percent of his 13 targets and most of them came in the fourth quarter as the Packers desperately tried to come back and win the game. He was the target when Aaron Rodgers threw his game-sealing pick in the end zone with two minutes left in the game. Jones had some room along the sideline, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes on his inside. For some reason, Rodgers threw it inside, and Jones couldn’t make the play to keep the ball out of Rhodes’ hands. Jones seemed to be the only receiver who could gain any separation on the Vikings defense, and made a very nice catch along the sideline in the third quarter. On the play, he streaked down the sideline just in front of corner Terrance Newman. Rodgers dropped a dime just in front of Jones, who hauled it in before going out of bounds.

WR Davante Adams, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 54 - 0 (6 targets)
Adams actually played relatively well and on his very first catch in the second quarter, he made a catch on a short route, then slipped a tackle before running for an extra 20 yards. Adams was never quite able to slip away from a tackler again though he almost managed it on a 17-yard catch down the middle of the field where he nearly stayed on his feet after a hit. Overall though, while he did well, he wasn’t used all that much and had some issues breaking open on too many routes which probably explains his poor target total.

TE Richard Rodgers, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 59 - 1 (8 targets)
Aaron Rodgers looked for Richard Rodgers a lot on Sunday, but an awful lot of the tight end’s catches were short yardage. R.Rodgers isn’t a guy with the speed to gain separation and break past even linebackers, though he can use his size for big plays and catches. He was the target on Aaron Rodgers’ lone touchdown which came in the fourth quarter on a short out route. Other than that, R.Rodgers continues to be Aaron Rodgers’ favorite and most effective red zone target and should remain so going forward.

TE Andrew Quarless, 31 offensive snaps (1 targets)
Quarless saw the field a fair amount (31 of 79 snaps) as a blocker and was targeted once on a short pass. He will see the field as a blocker for the most part and will not be a part of the offensive gameplan in the playoffs.