Vikings' third-down defense was so abysmal, Packers didn't punt
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MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings have allowed at least three third-down conversions on opponents' opening drives in each of the last three games.
And it only started there for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers converted on 13-of-18 third-down attempts, not including two-for-two on fourth down as they scored on all seven drives that didn't end each half.
"I thought we had some momentum last week, did much better on third down. I thought we could build on that," Coach Leslie Frazier said. "But it's been an issue. There's not much we can do personnel wise, these are the guys we have. So it's figuring out schematically, what can we do with the guys we have to be better."
For the first time in his four-year career, Packers punter Tim Masthay didn't have to punt.
Rodgers' 76-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jordy Nelson broke the 10-10 tie late in the second quarter and the Packers never looked back, despite missing three of their top receiving threats on Sunday night.
Cornerback Marcus Sherels, who continues to rotate with cornerback Josh Robinson in the slot, was sent on a blitz as linebacker Chad Greenway was left to cover Nelson's inside slant. Rodgers' pin-point precision let Nelson catch in stride and out-run Greenway and any safety help he had.
"They're going to make pays," Greenway said. "Technique wise, how you play it, how we draw it up, that's how we're supposed to do it. I don't know what else to do. On a receiver, you just try to put yourself in the best position possible, which I thought I was in. That's why they're good. Give them credit, they made the play."
The big plays are one thing, but the Packers' lengthy drives kept the Vikings defense on the field for a season-high 40:54-of-60:00. The Packers opened the second half with a 15-play, 80-yard drive, capped off with running back Eddie Lacy's one-yard touchdown run for the two-score lead.
The Vikings only made three stops all night as the Packers' missed on only five third-down attempts, but would convert their only two tries on fourth down. The Vikings 'stops' simply meant a Mason Crosby field goal.
"Riddle me this, riddle me that. It seems like every week we're coming up with a new saying of what's going on," Defensive end Brian Robison said. "Go back and look at the film and it's the same stuff. Guys are putting in effort. We can say that every week, this team is fighting, but we're just not getting it done."
Rodgers was sacked just twice on Sunday night, despite Robison and defensive end Jared Allen working the Packers' offensive tackles. The Packers' game plan defused the Vikings' edge rush as quick throws and screens got the ball out of Rodgers hands.
Also, for the first time in recent memory, the Packers committed to a running game that worked.
Lacy carried the bulk of the load as the Packers rushed 42 times that tied a season-high 182 yards on the Vikings.
"Just as winning is a habit, losing is a habit. We have to break this habit," Allen said. "Guys work. It ain't from a lack of practice. Guys work. We have to find a winning formula and we need to find it fast."