Defensive sets and film observations: Week 8 vs. Packers
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Welcome to another installment of 'Defensive sets and film observations,' this one brought to you for the Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers
Every Wednesday after a game, we'll take a look at what the Vikings defense looked like, bring you five key takeaways from film study and hand out a proverbial game ball and name the goat(s). Click here for the offensive analysis and breakdown from Vikings-Packers.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did what many expected him to do.
Rodgers converted 13-of-18 third-down attempts, 2-for-2 on fourth down, as the Packers averaged 9.7-yards per pass against a porous Minnesota Vikings defense that had poor contributions at nearly every level. He added 31 rushing yards en route to scoring a season-high 44 points (37 on offense) in the last Vikings-Packers game at the Metrodome.
What many didn't expect was the Vikings to allow the Packers' season-high 182 rushing yards, behind rookie workhorse Eddie Lacy's 29 carries. The Vikings held Lacy to under 100 yards, but consistently gave up crucial third-down conversions as the Packers had scoring drives of 14-, 15- and 17-plays.
The Vikings' run defense held its own to start, stopping Lacy and James Starks for two yards or less on 18 of 36 carries [50%]. But being on the field for a season-high 40:54-of-60:00 appeared to wear down the front seven as the game progressed.
The Packers put up the most yardage (464) on the Vikings since the Detroit Lions' 469-yard outing in the season opener. After allowing a season-high 44 points (37 defensively), the Vikings now allow 32.1 points per game (30th) and 401.6 yards per game (30th). The defense went without a turnover for the third straight game and has not turned the ball over since safety Harrison Smith was placed on injured reserve.
Base: 5/33 [15%]
Nickel: 28/33 [85%]
Base: 12/38 [32%]
Nickel: 23/38 [60%]
6-2: 3/38 [8%]
Base: 17/71 [24%]
Nickel 51/71 [72%]
6-2: 3/71 [4%]
1) Against Rodgers, defensive coordinator Alan Williams used his nickel personnel on 51-of-71 plays [72%], which is a season high. The Packers executed a nickel-and-dime offensive game plan that still resulted in 9.7-yards-per-pass behind receiver Jordy Nelson's 76-yard touchdown catch-and-run after a quick slant in the second quarter. Packers coach Mike McCarthy called a slew of screen passes, draw plays and short routes that got the ball out of Rodgers' hands and kept the Vikings' defense guessing as the Packers continuously had manageable third downs to convert.
Rodgers converted on 13-of-18 third down plays [72%]. Further disrespecting the Vikings defense, the Packers opted to go for two fourth-down attempts around the Vikings' 40-yard line in the first half - and converted - instead of attempting 50-yards-plus field goal attempts. Allen said these are one of the game tapes you "take home and burn" because it's so bad. Their third-down deficiencies were bred off first and second down issues. At least 12 of the Packers' 20 drive-ending situations were of six yards and shorter on third and fourth downs.
2) Rodgers felt pressure on 12 of his 35 dropbacks [34%], but was sacked just twice as it was uncommon for him to hold onto the ball longer than three seconds. Defensive ends Brian Robison and Jared Allen applied the most pressure through the Packers' inexperienced tackles, but still failed to register a sack. Both sacks on Rodgers were a result of him avoiding pressure off the edge and stepping up into a linebacker or defensive tackle.
Robison led all linemen with five quarterback pressures, but still has just one sack on the season. Allen went without even an assisted tackle for the second time this season, just the fourth time since he joined Minnesota in 2008. The Vikings continue to rotate defensive end Everson Griffen along the interior in pass-rush situations and to spell both Robison and Allen. Griffen led all rushers with two quarterback hits, but also failed to bring him down.
At 33-years old, defensive tackle Kevin Williams remains a mainstay along the interior line as he played 41 snaps on Sunday night. The veteran was flagged for encroachment that gave the Packers a conversion on 3rd-and-1, but otherwise proved still useful in stopping the run.
However, Williams had little-to-no help along the interior. Rodgers had a clear path to step up into the pocket throughout the game as defensive tackles Sharrif Floyd, Letroy Guion and Fred Evans failed to apply any pressure or bat the ball down.
3) Every week, we'll breakdown a sequence in the game that helped decide the outcome. The Vikings allowed 15-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown to start the second half and would not bounce back from the 31-17 deficit set from there.
The Packers handed the ball off to rookie running back Eddie Lacy on all six of their first downs of the drive. Despite the predictability, Lacy finished with six carries for 45 yards and a touchdown on those runs. Coming out of halftime, Lacy's first carry went for nine yards as the Vikings' defensive line parted and cornerback Xavier Rhodes had to make the tackle.
Four plays later, the Packers moved back to 2nd-and-16 after Bakhtiari's facemask penalty. Rodgers goes short left and a receiver screen right to receiver Myles White as he picked up 13 yards on the completions. On 4th-and-3, Rodgers caught Rhodes out of position again with a timely throw-and-catch to Jordy Nelson for eight yards on the hitch route.
Overall, Rodgers completed passes to convert on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-3 on the drive, and he scrambled twice more to move the chains on 3rd-and-3 and 3rd-and-2 opportunities. Lacy capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run after Rodgers' three-yard scramble was blown dead before he crossed the goal line.
4) The Vikings had to put up with a two-dimensional Packers squad on Sunday night, when it's tough enough to defend Rodgers' precision alone. They stayed committed to the running game to the tune of 42 carries as the Vikings held them in check at first. Half of Lacy and running back James Starks' carries went for two yards or less, but the residual effects were too much to overcome as Vikings linebackers had to respect the run game. According to ProFootballFocus.com, defenders missed a whopping 13 tackles on the night.
5) None of the missed tackles were as back-breaking as linebacker Chad Greenway and safety Andrew Sendejo's combined whiff on Nelson as he galloped on for a 76-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Williams dials up one of only three blitzes he called on the night as he sent cornerback Marcus Sherels and linebacker Erin Henderson. Rodgers recognizes and fires into the hole left by the blitzing defenders. Greenway is in position, but the ball is placed just behind him as Nelson reaches out and makes the catch in stride. Sendejo completely misses on his attempt, leaving Nelson untouched into the endzone.
Safety Mistral Raymond had to step in for safety Jamarca Sanford (groin) who left in the second quarter with an injury. He played 50 snaps and missed (3) as many tackles as he made (3). Sherels continues to rotate with Robinson in the slot, but Robinson still starts as the left cornerback in the base defense and played nearly every snap on Sunday night. Since safety Harrison Smith went to injured reserve with a foot injury, the Vikings defense has not registered a turnover.
Game ball: [redacted]
Goat(s): It's unfair to point out any one defender in this list, as nobody looked good against one of the best quarterbacks in the league. However, the Vikings' secondary play continues to be the most embarrassing part of this team's efforts. Overall, Vikings' cornerbacks allowed 14-of-16 passes to be complete for 132 yards and a touchdown. Sendejo and Raymond combined to miss at least five tackles as the Vikings' defense allowed 37 points on eight drives and didn't force a punt.