The Vikings beat the Packers in a scrappy 17-14 victory at the grand opening of US Bank Stadium. Aaron Rodgers struggled, Sam Bradford looked comfortable, Stefon Diggs had the game of his life, and the Vikings defense dominated. Your thoughts on how it all played out? Does it say anything about the Packers and Vikings in 2016?
Erik Ritland (founder and director of The Sports Ramble, host of the Sports Ramble podcast): The roles looked like they were reversed, didn’t they? Usually it’s the Packers who step up in big spots like this (new stadium, etc.) and the Vikings who underachieve. This time it was the Packers who continually shot themselves in the foot and practically dared the Vikings to still somehow give them the victory.
...and they almost did! Up until the last stupid Packers mistake (the pass interference on the Vikings last 4th quarter drive) the game had classic Vikings written all over it: they played better the entire game yet it looked like they’d still somehow blow it. Nobody in that stadium wanted to give Rodgers the ball with any amount of time left, even though he was obviously struggling.
I definitely can’t take anything away from the Vikings, though. Sam Bradford looks legit and can see the field far better than Teddy Bridgewater (much less Shaun Hill). The breaks need to be pumped a little bit, though, especially regarding the magnificent play of Stefon Diggs, as the Packers secondary was decimated. They’re going to have to achieve against better talent before anyone can say that they’ve “arrived.”
Through the entire game I kept thinking to myself “man (I call myself “man,” you see), this Packer team doesn’t look like it can make the playoffs much less the Super Bowl.” I thought the same thing when the Denver Broncos barely beat the Vikings last year, though, and we all know what ended up happening.
What it comes down to is that the Vikings addressed issues in the off-season to strengthen their team and the Packers didn’t. The Packers offensive line is garbage, their receiving core is barely average, and their defense is only okay (and that’s when they’re completely healthy). Aaron Rodgers has also quietly been struggling recently. His quarterback rating for 2015 was 92.8 and he threw the least amount of yards he ever has when healthy. Sure, this has an amount to do with a sub-par offensive line and receiving core, but he’s done better with worse (or at least comparable).
Coming full circle, the Vikings defense dominated and their offense looked better than it has in a long time. But they still were barely able to beat a woeful looking, injury laden, mistake addled Packers team at home.
Mike Coenen (Sports Ramble podcast co-host and contributor): The game played out as it was supposed to, at least for Viking fans: Minnesota gets the big win in the new stadium and Bradford plays one of the better games of his career. There are so many ebbs and flows to the season, and this will prove to be simply one brief moment of a long and arduous 2016 campaign for both teams. The Packers will rebound and Aaron Rodgers will have another All-Pro season, while Sam Bradford will settle back into mediocrity and the Vikings will go on to lose at least 5-6 games. It's a long way to December and the end of the regular season, providing plenty of opportunities for fans and pundits alike to overreact and over analyze everything imaginable about these two teams and the battle for the North division title. There will be a different narrative every week, but in the end one of these two teams will win the North with an 11-5 record.
Ricardo Lopez (Sports Ramble staff writer): Overall I think it was a solid game. The Vikings are focused on defense so a lot of games are going to be scrappy and close. Our offensive line is still looking really bad (and that's a huge concern of mine) but Bradford looked great and incredibly comfortable. I am not surprised that Diggs had a big game considering the shaky secondary of the Packers. Speaking of a shaky secondary, why in the name of Harambe is Sandejo still on the field? The guy is a bum and the only hole in our defense. I'm diligently waiting for Kearse to be ready.
It's becoming a trend for the Packers start a little slow (R-E-L-A-X) but their offense simply couldn't get rolling. I don't like the excuse of Jordy needing more time after being injured all last year; Kelvin Benjamin was out the same amount of time and has less experience with Cam and is currently tearing it up. In the spirit of not bashing the Packers (I had to throw a couple digs in there) I think as long as Rodgers is QB this team will make the playoffs. I will be the first to admit when there was two minutes left and Rodgers was at the 50 yard line I was beyond nervous. But Trae Waynes made up for his previous mistakes with the dagger.
I don't think the game changes much about my outlook for the rest of the year. The Vikings had a lot of emotion going in with the opening of the new stadium and that was evident. Carolina was the team I saw as our first big test because they are more complete and it's on the road. The Packers, as alluded to earlier, will be just fine and will make the playoffs (albeit as a wildcard team). There are still 14 games to go and their schedule is a cake walk the rest of the year so I just can't imagine them struggling much longer.
My personal highlight of the night was Mackenzie Alexander coming in and shutting down Jordy in the Red Zone. That was huge.
Michael Emms (Sports Ramble staff writer): Sunday night's clash between the Vikings and the Packers demonstrated the importance of cornerback depth in the NFL. With Sam Shields and Xavier Rhodes sidelined both teams were without their top corners. Aaron Rodgers chose to pick on inexperienced CB Trae Waynes, who shows the speed and quickness to keep up with any receiver but struggled to play the ball and avoid illegal contact in jump ball situations. The Vikings certainly hope that Waynes' game-clinching interception is a sign of growth and maturation.
Meanwhile, the Packers secondary had no answers for Stefon Diggs. The complexion of the game could have been much different if Sam Shields was there to cover Diggs and if Xavier Rhodes could have avoided the penalties caused by Waynes' spotty performance.
Chip Matthews (Sports Ramble staff writer): This game is a microcosm of what the season will entail for these two teams. The Vikings defense will frustrate a lot of offenses they play; for the Packers it shows that they need to establish someone other than Nelson as a threat and work on getting receivers open.
Adrian Peterson suffered a torn meniscus in the third quarter and could miss some playing time. After how he's looked through almost two games how important is he to the Vikings?
Erik: I’ve said for the last couple years that the Vikings would be a better team without Adrian Peterson and I still think so. His ridiculous contract is not worth what a running threat brings to a team in our pseudo-Arena football, passing happy league. He’s also getting old, and I see his early season struggles as more of a trend than a mirage. He’s gotten a bit more brittle with age, too, as was evidenced Sunday night.
Mike: Adrian Peterson is important to the Vikings' future success. The offensive line will improve, and he will get up to speed and be a factor down the stretch.
Ricardo: Peterson has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way by his slow start and refusal to play in preseason when it's clear as day he's a step behind everyone else. He will figure it out and I'm not worried. If we have continued success passing the ball he will have an easier time. Also, he's a freak of nature, so there's that.
Michael: It's tempting to look at Peterson's meager output so far in 2016 and cast him as irrelevant to the Vikings success. The problem is that Peterson is miscast in Norv Turner's offense. Turner genuinely prefers multi-dimensional running backs like Darren Sproles and LaDainian Tomlinson. It's no accident that the Vikings used a third round draft pick in 2014 to get the versatile Jerick McKinnon.
However, even as Peterson is struggling to find room to break one of his signature runs he still remains genuinely irreplaceable. He demanded so much attention from the Tennessee Titans that Shaun Hill looked like a serviceable quarterback. With linebackers and safeties crowding the line Hill found mostly uncovered receivers past the endless barrage of run blitzes. Thus, the presence of Peterson is vital to giving the Vikings unproven receiving core a distinct advantage. Jerick McKinnon does not garner the same level of respect. If Peterson is sidelined for an extended period of time with his torn meniscus, Sam Bradford might find more defenders in coverage and Stefon Diggs will get double teamed more often.
Chip: He doesn't seem to be all that important with the two backs behind him showing more the past couple of games. Also the air attack looks much improved.
Did any other games catch your eye?
Erik: The Tennessee Titans beat the Detroit Lions in a thriller, although it’s no surprise that the Lions left a game on the table. The Los Angeles Rams upset the Seattle Seahawks in a not-so-thriller, and I’m not so sure how the Seahawks will be able to put a decent season together after their abysmal performance.
Mike: What caught my eye is how well some of these young and inexperienced quarterbacks are playing (Carson Wentz Dak Prescott, Jimmy Garapolo) while many veterans seem to be struggling.
Michael: How about the Jets somehow putting up 37 points on the Bills? Ryan Fitzpatrick is quietly becoming a solid NFL starting QB. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are one of the best and least-heralded receiving tandems in the NFL.
Chip: The Rams winning 9-3 over Seattle. That a team can beat the Seahawks without scoring a touchdown should have their fans nervous.