Packers 23 Vikings 10: Game Balls & Lame Calls

The Green Bay Packers are NFC North champions for the first time in three years and can still earn the top seed in the NFC based on how week 17 plays out.

The Packers got their first-ever win over the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Monday night, overcoming three early turnovers and turning in one of their best defensive performances of the season.

Green Bay can now secure no worse than the 2-seed in the NFC with a win over the Detroit Lions in the season finale. 

This game had some rough moments but many, many more to celebrate.

Game Balls

Za'Darius Smith

There's little question who has been the best overall player for the Packers this season - it's this guy.  3.5 sacks, taking his season total to 13.5.

A quick reminder that Smith was not voted to the Pro Bowl but there's a good chance his name is called when the All-Pro rosters are announced soon.

Z got a chance to work on a few different sack celebrations in this game.  If you watch a replay and don't know where he is, just look in the backfield.

The Packers have some meaningful football ahead of them and this guy is probably going to have a say in how it all plays out.

Aaron Jones

23 carries for 154 yards and a long touchdown run to put a stamp on the Packers' victory.  Head coach Matt LaFleur finally planned his offense with the easiest strategy in mind: get the ball in the hands of your best players.

In a game where the Packers needed all of their stars to show up big, Jones ran wild behind some stellar blocking up front and by the wide receivers.  

The Packers took advantage of Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks going out with an early injury and were more able to stretch out their runs and hit the edge.  

Kevin King

King picked up his fifth interception on the season and had the Packers' only turnover of the night on a deep ball.  He may not have the swiftest of feet but King leads the team in picks and had one in both games against the Vikings this season.

Mike Pettine

Minnesota had seven total first downs in this game.  Seven.  The defense stiffened up after three early turnovers and gave up zero second half points.  Against an offense that has been playing at their peak level lately and on the road, that type of performance gives confidence that the Packers can hang with the best the NFC will offer come playoff time.

Lame Calls

Ball Security

Three turnovers, all by the offense's best players, in the first half?  Yuck.  Aaron Rodgers thew his first legitimate interception of the season, Aaron Jones lost a fumble as did Davante Adams on a catch and run.  Add in a fumble that Jimmy Graham was fortunate not to lose.

The defense bailed everyone out and somehow, against a good team on the road, the Packers were able to overcome it and get a win.  

Ball security has to be a huge point of emphasis in gearing up for the postseason.

 

Others to mention:

  • Nicely called game on offense by the head coach
  • Rodgers didn't do him any favors early on but settled in a bit later on
  • The offensive line, despite giving up a few sacks, was fantastic all game long
  • Adams with 13 catches and over 100 yards.  The fumble and inability to haul in a touchdown late in the first half kept him out of the Game Balls 
  • Allen Lazard with some big catches on 3rd down.  Had the bummer drop early on what would have been another key grab.  Great block on the Jones 12-yard touchdown run
  • JK Scott helped keep the Vikings in minus field position in a few tough spots
  • Kenny Clark with a sack and was active, once again
  • Mason Crosby with three field goals on the night - steady rock despite missing a PAT
  • Speaking of special teams, how nice is it to have Tyler Ervin?
  • Ugh. . . hard to type the words: Go Seahawks! 

 

 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

11 points

Comments (56)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
GBPDAN1's picture

December 24, 2019 at 07:20 am

If our O-line and D front play like they did tonight moving forward, the Packers will be hard to beat especially at Lambeau. Tonight's game was won in the trenches. Go Pack

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edp1959's picture

December 24, 2019 at 07:23 am

Even with the TOs and struggles at times, I saw some very promising signs from the offense.

Game Balls: Z.Smith, unfreaking believable game last night. Same for the entire front seven and remainder of defense.
Lame Calls: Turn overs and dropped passes.

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Lare's picture

December 24, 2019 at 07:26 am

This was a huge, huge win for the Packers. Yes, there were some miscues but kudos go to the players, coaches and front office.

Maybe this will shut up obnoxious Vikings fans for a few minutes (probably not).

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imnion's picture

December 24, 2019 at 07:30 am

The defense was amazing last night. Only one stinker of a play. The 3rd and 16 to Diggs that King passed off a little too early. Been a long time since I've seen them be this dominant.

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Rossonero's picture

December 24, 2019 at 07:42 am

Well written article. Ball security is the only thing that worries me. I also hope we don't look past Detroit at all.

Zadarius Smith looked like Reggie White last night. Yeah, I'll say it. He was tossing guys aside like rag dolls!

Nice to see Kevin King with his 5th pick. I've been sick watching TJ Watt eclipse 12 sacks since I wanted the Packers to take him.

What a difference a year makes!

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:40 am

He even did a Reggie White "Hump Move" for a big sack.

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HankScorpio's picture

December 24, 2019 at 07:59 am

On the ball security Lame Call, you missed Ervin's muffed punt. He recovered it so it didn't hurt much, even in field position, since he had little room to run. Just an ugly game from a ball security perspective. Nice to get that kind of clunker out of their system in a game where the beat a playoff team on the road--their second road win over a playoff team.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:38 am

In his defense he ran back at a very aquard angle to get to a punt that kicked very well.

In that way it was a little more excusable that the others that where just poor ball security.

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Packers0808's picture

December 24, 2019 at 10:21 am

I thought Ervin did a nice job and showed some versatility and that little tap pass in first quarter when he gained like 7 yards! Was funny I told some people before game I would like to see the Pack get the ball in his hands to see what he could and some fellas on thumbed me down at the suggestion!

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HankScorpio's picture

December 24, 2019 at 12:19 pm

Ervin is proving to be a very nice late season pick up, overall. He's obviously made a huge difference in return game.

I would not mind them finding more ways to get the ball in his hands.

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pacman's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:04 am

Did you see how the Vikings went for the ball? The one they knocked out of Grahams arms wasn't just a grab. It was a full punch right at the ball with only second thoughts of tackling him. A great play considering he was going out of bounds anyways and is slow. JG should have had both arms around the ball as the defenders got near.

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Cubbygold's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:30 am

Not to mention Graham didn't even bother to put the ball into his left arm. Just kept it in his right hand, fully exposed, like an idiot.

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Spock's picture

December 24, 2019 at 11:15 am

Cubbygold, I mentioned the arm switch thing in another thread. No excuse for a veteran player not following that basic run technique when close to the side line.

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kfowler35's picture

December 24, 2019 at 02:36 pm

I think the ball switch to the outside arm was what caused A Jones fumble. Looks like he was switching arms when it was poked out.

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LeotisHarris's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:13 am

I did notice that, pacman. Haven't watched the Vikings much this year so I'm not sure if that's SOP for their defenders or if it's something they picked up on film with us. Very successful in either case, and a wakeup call for our guys to secure the ball.

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 24, 2019 at 10:45 am

Technique taught by zimmer every day in practice. It has to be part of every defenses regime.

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RedRight49's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:06 am

With a must have, first time win needed at US Bank Stadium, the Packer's A team got off the team bus and hit the field and the Vikings!

Gold Gilded Game Ball - Z-Sack, Mr. Za' Darius Smith who came out of the tunnel as a one man offensive line wrecking ball!

With his energy, drive and determination, Z-Sack no doubt inspired his D teammates who all put forth max efforts.

Game Balls too to D Co-Ordinator Mike Pettine, as his play calls and alignments slowed down the Vikings rush ( although no Cook made it easier) and kept their great TE and their WRs in check throughout the game.

Aaron Jones was great, a fumble notwithstanding, adding 2 TD's and I believe taking the TD lead in the NFL.

Kenny Clark ate up a bunch of Viking blockers allowing the D rushing lanes toward Cousins to be filled with Packers hurrying, or sacking, the QB!

Big Bulaga running as a blocking escort downfield as Jones raced in for his long TD run.

Lame Calls - the three top offensive playmakers - a fumble, a drop, an interception, had Packer fans on the edge of their seats.

Fortunately all of those players and the Packers were able to overcome this adversity during the game negating their potential negative impact and play an overall great game.

Game balls all around, a great TEAM win and carry it onward to Detroit!

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Sol's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:09 am

Even though they had three turnovers almost four I never felt like the game was out of control great job getting a win in a very,very tough place to play. You can truly say our guys silence the horn last night

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Handsback's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:08 am

I was so hoping that the Packers would beat the Bears and Vikings, but that hope was diminutive in nature. They beat the Bears, but still questioned their capabilities.
Last night was the first time since early season (maybe the other game against the Vikings) that I saw the defense take over a game. I know, the Vikings didn't have Cook, so they didn't need to worry about the run. But their performance was outstanding.
Having teams come to them is huge in the playoffs, so this team has really done something special. It seems that winning ugly covers the good things a team can do while we only see the bad.
The offense still needs work, as does the defense...they aren't perfect,but showing what they did last night will definitely put a scare into teams coming to Lambeau.
PS..For years the Packers have played teams short-handed because of injuries in the playoffs. This year they are healthy and if they play teams that don't have their full compliment of players so be it. They can suck-it-up and play w/o excuses just like the Packers have had to do over the last decade.
That's all.

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erikgj's picture

December 24, 2019 at 07:21 pm

I noticed the relative lack of injuries this late in the season I hope it is just that we have players working through the pain. Hope this starts a new trend of better health.

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Guam's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:09 am

Game ball to Tae Adams who had 14 catches and over 100 receiving yards. Yes, he fumbled once, but that doesn't erase his best performance of the year. The Packers will need him to play at a very high level if they are to have serious playoff aspirations.

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HankScorpio's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:18 am

"Rodgers didn't do him any favors early on but settled in a bit later on"

His numbers only marginally improved but his play took a cosmic leap forward. The easiest way to define the improvement was communicated by a tweet from NFL NextGen stats account. His time to release went from around 2.6 to 2.0 in first half to second half. It was effective football. The kind of effective football that wins playoff games. That is far from 'winning ugly' in my eyes. It's a tried and true, time tested formula that is beautiful in its simplicity and effectiveness. Hell, it was so effective, it overcame red zone & 3rd down inefficiency, a 3-1 turnover disadvantage and a hostile stadium.

I hope a night of reflection shines a light in his head on the wisdom of quick release. His season long time to release stats has him ranked around a bunch of inexperienced QBs, among the slowest to get rid of the ball in the league. If he closes the year like he played in the second half, he might not get the exclusive glory but there will be glory to be claimed. And the QB always gets an outsized share of team glory.

Of course, all of that depends on a defense that can do its part and a running game that can take advantage. The Packers have not had that much in the Rodgers era. They do now. I hope Rodgers is smart enough to figure it out. The team that played the 2nd half of that game can beat anyone, anywhere.

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Swisch's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:22 am

Nicely put, Hank.
Indeed, it was beautiful on offense even in the midst of errors -- and what's more is the real hope for much improvement.
Even at the beginning, there were lots of imaginative play calls. How about the early jet sweep to Ervin, and other fake jet sweeps thereafter, including a fake jet sweep on the long touchdown scamper by Jones (with a nice block downfield by MVS).
As you indicated so well, Aaron Rodgers can continue to become a maestro of motions and misdirections and mixing it up on offense. He can hone his precision and grow in gracefulness to the glory of all.
Then, every once in a while, with the defense frustrated by efficient execution, he can add the big strike downfield, or the stunning display of improvised exhilaration.

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HankScorpio's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:42 am

Exactly right, Swisch. Lull the defense on the short stuff. When they sell out to stop that, pop it deep. Once upon a time, that was a guiding principle of the WCO. We don't hear that term anymore. But the principle still works.

And I completely agree that the Packers offensive scheme/play calling was absolutely outstanding last night from start to finish. With better execution on the field, that game is an utter wipe out.

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Pierre's picture

December 24, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Good points on Rodgers. He does have a defense and a running game that are good enough to win a SB this season. So it’s all there for him to lead this team to that goal. His downfield passing 10+ yards has been really off the mark which doesn’t help.

The positive is keeping the quick release passes coming and leading receivers in stride. The most important thing is that Rodgers manages the game to get first downs and control the time of possession. This allows the defense to rest and stay fresh which is why even with the turnovers Rodgers keep enough long drives going to stay close and come back to win. Time of possession is so important in the playoffs and if Rodgers converts short third down passes consistently the Packers can compete with any team.

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Cubbygold's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:33 am

+1 for Pettine, he deserves a significant contract extension, they're only going to get better with a full year of experience under their belts and some improvement from the rookies

Great job from MLF getting Lazard fully involved as the #2. I hope it stays that way and Adams/Lazard combine for 20 targets a game here on out. 30 touches for Jones/Williams, 20 touches for Adams/Lazard, mix in a few creative plays and this offense will have success.

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PeteK's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:14 am

No crow on the menu for me, though I was preparing for it during first half.

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HankScorpio's picture

December 24, 2019 at 10:02 am

I've been mildly critical of Pettine. All the chunk plays allowed were truly alarming. They still are, really. But that performance yesterday was truly outstanding. They responded well to adversity after the early turnover and only got better from there.

The one blemish was a great throw and outstanding catch to beat outstanding coverage by Alexander. Even that TD drive went only 26 yard, with 21 coming on that one play. Other than that, they had Cousins wetting himself all night.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:33 am

If your into schadenfreude I suggest reading the latest stock report over at the DailyNorseman.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:40 am

The Daily Norseman has a guy named Chris Gates who called himself Supergonzo at another site. He’s as big of an idiot as I’ve ever known.

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Gort's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:25 am

WOW, even a bigger idiot than me?
I've got some catching up to do!

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PeteK's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:53 am

Hahaha, enjoy your humor, Thanks, Richard( I've been using that line with great success and laughter all holiday season long)

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dobber's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:02 am

" I would have thought that at halftime, when you witnessed Za’Darius Smith abusing your offensive line like a baby seal hunter, you might have thought ‘hey let’s do something about that’, but no, let’s roll the dice and see what happens. Cousin on his back spitting out rubber pellets happens. Genius."

--DailyNorseman

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LeotisHarris's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:17 am

Beautiful! I'm on my way over to that cesspool for the full article. #SKOLLOL

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HankScorpio's picture

December 24, 2019 at 12:39 pm

I loved the riff on Charlie Brown's perpetual efforts at kicking the football at the beginning of that article.

I scrolled down to the comments. One guy actually suggested the Vikings played vanilla to not give the Packers anything on tape for a possible playoff matchup. It must be nice to be able to stick your head that far into the sand.

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Norm's picture

December 24, 2019 at 08:36 am

Matt LaFleur is undefeated at US Bank Stadium and undefeated against NFC North opponents. Let that sink in.

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pacman's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:35 am

Let's hope we don't get over confident on the Lions! You know, some stupid lucky unexperienced qb's and a bunch of guys with nothing to lose.

My biggest question is whether AR will risk losing the game by using it for deep target practice. I'm only ok with him doing that if they are up more than 21. But I would prefer to think that just maybe, he learned his lesson last night and will play to take what is available.

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Swisch's picture

December 24, 2019 at 11:29 am

GAME:
* Blocking and tackling.
* Aaron Rodgers staying patient in adversity early on and staying the course in moving the chains and time of possession.
* The whole team!
LAME:
* At age 57, I'd really like to throw the football around; but my dear wife and our dashing Dobie, Max, while both good-hearted, are unlikely to participate.
FRAME:
* Enjoying the moment; no guarantees for tomorrow. However, much more hope the Packers can be a force in the playoffs.

*** Merry Christmas!!! ***

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Houndog's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:09 am

Well, feed me the crow I deserve, I would have bet the 23-10 score would be reversed.
Likely the best defensive performance we've seen this year coupled with 'that look' in Rodgers' eyes that has been missing too often this year. I felt early like this could be 'the game' where the Packers make some form of statement.
On offense I thought last night's play calling was a noticeable improvement over the past few weeks. A bit more consistency and eliminate the TO's and this offense might be on to something.
The Smith Bros, with Z leading the way, what an absolute stud performance! The DBs actually making stops before the fist down markers, and covering, are you kidding me? The entire defensive front with Lancaster, Fackrell, and even Gary making quality contributions, it was fun to watch.
Delvin Cook was watching the game, and seeing the Vikings choke is nothing new to a Packer fan so I'm still cautious, but now its cautiously optimistic.
A performance like last night and the momentum it brings can do a lot.

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Since'61's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:06 am

Game Balls: ZaDarius Smith, Kenny Clark, Kevin King, Aaron Jones, Davante Adams, OL, MLF and Mike Pettine.

Lame Calls: Turnovers and dropped passes.

Honorable mention: Allen Lazard maybe emerging as our #2 WR. Aaron Rodgers, poor throw on the pick but otherwise played very smart, should have had 4-5 more completions. Another key factor, the Packers only had 2 penalties.

Maybe, just maybe we are peaking at the right time. We need to hold onto the #2 seed. I don't want to face the Queens for a third time in the wild-card round even though the game would be at Lambeau. Very difficult to beat the same team 3 times in one season.
Beat the Lions and hopefully get the #1 seed. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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Gort's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:18 am

This game was the polar opposite of what I consider winning ugly. In the ugly wins, the Packers often appeared listless and just going through the motions of playing football. They got very lucky in a couple games. Last night, they played with energy for the whole game. Yes, they had 3 fumbles, but in all cases, the other guys made visible efforts to punch the ball out. The key was how the defense responded immediately after and how the offense stayed with the game plan. No panic, kept calm, stayed the course, and ran the damn ball. Looks like Matt LaFleur is coming along nicely with planning and calling the game. Still some things to clean up and by the turnover stats this could be considered an ugly win, but it was a thing of beauty.
Well done - Bravo Zulu!

Edit - forgot about the ST muffed catch. Technically a 4th fumble. Good thing they only lost 2.

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Swisch's picture

December 24, 2019 at 11:25 am

Good stuff, Gort!

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Gort's picture

December 24, 2019 at 01:00 pm

THX for that feedback.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:21 am

Of the NFL teams I dislike the most, the Vikings clearly top the list and perhaps surprisingly over the years the Seahawks have managed to earn their way to the number two spot with all the Cr*p we have had to stomach. It will be out of the norm for me to pull for Seattle, but I will be in their rooting section this time.

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GVPacker's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:29 am

Game Ball = To all of us Packer Fans who had to endure watching and listening to Booger McFarland and that other guy named Joe call the game! We were tortured but rewarded big time with an impressive win against the Queens and their Super Doofus Fans in their house!

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MemphoMike's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:29 am

Game ball to our HC, MLF.

To win a primetime MNF game, Conference title on the line, on the road, against a hated rival, inside hostile and insanely loud BOA (where we had yet to win), late in the year is commendable, to say the very least. But for a first year coach to get it done....it's unbelievable. He's brought this entire team together, both sides of the ball. Watching their locker room post game, listening/watching them being interviewed....this is a tight knit team, they love playing for each other and playing for MLF.....I've never seen anything like it from a first year coach.

Now it's time to go kick the hell out of the Lions and take care of our business! Post season, here we come!

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Spock's picture

December 24, 2019 at 11:28 am

Well said. MLF has done a magnificent job of bringing this team together and to BELIEVE in each other. I wasn't wild about all the mass celebrations by the defense early in the year but now I'm enjoying watching how much these dudes honestly enjoy their brothers-in-arms' accomplishments. I'm hoping this is the beginning of a playoff "peak" for the team.

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PeteK's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:36 am

Three turnovers in first half would lead one to believe that it was a replay of the Chargers and Niners game. However, the defense( especially the line) just put it all together and dominated( tackling was ferocious) in a manner that will be remembered for the ages. I have been a defender of Rogers all season long , but that became difficult after the first half( under throw for INT & behind Adams for a sure TD). Yet in true form ,he redeemed himself in the second half with quick decisive lasers. Again this team defies all statistical predictions, it should be this team's motto.

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Gort's picture

December 24, 2019 at 09:50 am

Be careful when being critical of #12. That will earn you some down votes.

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jannes bjornson's picture

December 24, 2019 at 10:59 am

That's why defenses win Championships.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

December 24, 2019 at 10:45 am

Don't think I've ever seen a more dominant game by a Packer lineman. Z. Smith made it look almost unfair. No one could stop him, didn't matter where he lined up. Small note, after his early fumble it was Aaron Jones who chased down the ball carrier at the 10-yard line which saved the TD. There are legitimate stars on this team now, guys who are or will be pro-bowlers; Z. Smith, P. Smith, Clark, Alexander, Amos on D... Rodgers, Bak, Bulaga, A. Jones, D. Adams, on O... and I'd say that both Jenkins and Savage are getting there. That's a ton of talent. Maybe it's not that surprising we won the North. Winter is coming... to Lambeau.

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Gort's picture

December 24, 2019 at 01:12 pm

Your comment about Aaron Jones stopping the TD after his fumble and the hustle to recover Jimmy Graham's fumble (Allison I think) are exactly what makes this game not ugly.

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Michael Nault's picture

December 24, 2019 at 11:04 am

I finally saw Rodgers playing the, "take what the defense gives you" ball. There is something to be said for Brady doing that all these years, and hopefully Rodgers continues this type of ball.

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oldfarmer's picture

December 24, 2019 at 11:20 am

we need to face reality, Rodgers just is not an elite quarterback anymore.

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Minniman's picture

December 24, 2019 at 02:38 pm

Game Balls: While Z was the banner-man, I saw continuous pressure all game from the second tier d-linemen and OLB's to either compress the pocket or seal the edge or generally make Cousins feel intimidated. Well played gents - Z was able to stand on the shoulders of giants!

Second positional accolade goes to the TE and WR blockers who rarely missed an assignment in blocking or chipping.

Pumping the brakes here slightly - The vikes had no run-game and their second dual threat WR was there purely to try and draw attention (I'll need to re-watch, but I can only remember him targeted once - on the turnover on downs throw). They also lost in-game Eric Kendricks who is an excellent run defender. The Packers did well schematically to expose a 1 dimensional viking offense and nullify an otherwise good defensive front 7.......even with gifting the Vikes 3 short field possessions

Final Packers game-ball goes to Mike Zimmer - No TE protection to help ignite the run game that you were dogmatically and tragically wedded to. Really? 4th and 4 out on the Packers 40 and you go for it. Really? - you clearly have no faith in your kicker and too much faith in your offense that night if you had only converted on 1 of 3 turnovers. The Packers thank you sir.

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Doug Niemczynski's picture

December 24, 2019 at 03:04 pm

The Vikings were continuously PUNCHING at the ball. Is there no one on the team whether coach or player to tell them to use 2 hands in securing the ball? Tom Brady would have been ALL in their face.

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