It is almost mind-boggling what the Packers have been able to do in the absence of some of their most important contributors. Despite missing Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Brad Jones and Nick Perry (oh, Bryan Bulaga and Jermichael Finley too), the visiting Packers handled Minnesota on prime time in all three facets of the game. Remind you of a certain squad that thrived on adversity just a few years back?
Rodgers kicked off this season on an uncharacteristically mediocre note but has since rebounded nicely, completing a career-high 82 percent of his passes against the Vikings. But Rodgers’s big game really wasn’t about the numbers; the nine-year veteran made a number of big plays with his legs and added several pinpoint passes to send his quarterback rating through the roof. Without his primary targets available, Rodgers has even made pedestrian wideout Jarrett Boykin look like a starter.
The Packers O-line under James Campen has traditionally been a better pass blocking unit than one that routinely opens big lanes for the run. Sunday night’s game was different in that ball carriers Eddie Lacy and James Starks received some holes for a change. I won’t take away from both backs’ outstanding individual efforts, though; the two combined for 151 yards, which included a handful of runs into the secondary. The days of watching Ryan Grant stopped at the line of scrimmage are thankfully over.
They didn’t face one of the league’s premier quarterbacks but the pass rush and secondary alike strung together impressive performances against the Vikings. A healthy Matthews, Perry and Casey Hayward – as well as the development of Datone Jones, Jerel Worthy and Micah Hyde – could make for difficult seasons ahead for Matthew Stafford, Christian Ponder and Jay Cutler. All that seems to be missing is a competent safety opposite Morgan Burnett.
Lack of Wide Receiver Separation
Receivers not named Jordy Nelson did less-than-stellar jobs of creating separation on pedestrian Minnesota cornerbacks, leaving Rodgers exposed to a physical Minnesota D-line. It’s expected that Boykin and Myles White will face a learning curve as they inherit expanded roles this season. However, it’s only a matter of time before defenses zero in on Nelson, disrupting the Green Bay passing attack and increasing the risk of injury to Rodgers.