Pardon the tardiness of the post, blame it on the midnight run back across the border after the Packers dismantled the Minnesota Vikings 44-31 in their Mall of America Field swan song. Green Bay's 4th straight victory keeps them atop the NFC North Standings at 5-2. I've covered all 31 games underneath the Metrodome big top and I can't recall one that had such a sustained, high level of execution offensively. The numbers were eye poppping. 26 first downs, 464 yards, 13 of 18 on third downs and two of those failures were converted on fourth down which allowed Green Bay to control the clock for a dominating 40:54. Up until the final kneel downs by Aaron Rodgers, the offense scored on all six of it's possessions, one was a quick three play touchdown drive, the others totaled six plays, 9, 10, 14, 15 and 17. Without playmakers Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley, Head Coach Mike McCarthy put in a new wrinkle by deploying Jordy Nelson in the slot for much of the night and this slot machine cashed out big time. Nelson caught 7 balls for 123 yards and both his 11 and 76 yard scoring drives came from the slot. Having another week to work the no huddle with Rodgers, Jarrett Boykin (5/89) and Myles White (5/35) continued to deliver. The ground game is no longer a fluke as the Packers piled up 182 yards, Eddie Lacy rammed his way to 94 on 29 tough carries and James Starks, on the field for the first time since suffering a knee injury, averaged over 8 yards a carry. Both scored, Lacy from the and Starks cracked the Viking defense for a 25 yard tally. Don't be fooled by the 13 point spread, after spotting the home team a 7-0 lead on Cordarrelle Patterson's shocking and NFL record tying 109 yard kickoff return to start the game, the Packers outscored the Vikes 41-10 before giving up a pair of late scores. While Green Bay's cover team continues to have hiccups, they've found at least a punt returner in Micah Hyde who took a punt back 93 yards late in the second. Defensively, the great Adrian Peterson was rendered moot with 60 yards on only 13 carries because the score got out of hand and Christian Ponder looked incapable of putting together any kind of rally. Former Packer Greg Jennings was targeted only three times and had but one catch, for nine yards. It was a fond and fun adieu to the dome.
That's a pre-game shot but it could have been taken in the 4th quarter if not for the Packers fans lapping it up at the finish. When it was over, Mike McCarthy summed up the Metrodome farewell.
About the only negatives, aside from the 228 yards of kickoff returns from Patterson, were six penalties for 120 yards, a pair of long pass interference calls on Tramon Williams, a face mask call against David Bakhtiari and a silly after the whistle personal foul penalty against Datone Jones. But in the cramped visitor's locker room, the guys were all smiles.
Aside from Starks getting back into the mix, Casey Hayward made his season debut in the dime defense and Jarrett Bush returned on special teams. The inactives were James Nixon, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Brad Jones, Ryan Taylor, Jermichael Finley and James Jones. Maybe the best news of all were no new injuries to report. Word is Matthews will have the pins removed from his broken thumb this week and he may only be out for another week or two.
Construction begins next month on the new digs in downtown Minneapolis, When the season is over, they'll let the air out of the roof one last time and start tearing the Metrodome down. The Vikings, now 1-6, may be in for a rebuilding job themselves. Up next, the teetering Bears come to Lambeau a week from tonight.