Shortly after the Packers turned in their inactives list before the Sunday night game, defensive end Cullen Jenkins strained his calf in pre-game warmups. By then it was too late to activate Mike Montgomery and Dom Capers and the Pack were forced to play the Vikings with just four healthy D linemen, two of whom: C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn had seen very little live action.
Then, early in the first quarter, Ryan Pickett aggravated his ankle injury and he was done for the night, further thinning the line. It caused Capers to go to his five linebacker package. It caused him to use offensive lineman T.J. Lang on short yardage plays. It basically caused him to scrap his gameplan.
What it also did was cause the Vikings to lick their chops, assuming they could run all day on the battered Packers defense. But a funny thing happened: the young linemen held their own. Brad Jones delivered his finest performance as a Packer. Desmond Bishop continued to impress and turned in the signature play of the night when he took a pick to the house.
Yes Peterson’s game looks great on the stat sheet, but he didn’t break any huge plays and the Packers D was also able to harangue, frustrate and batter the Vikings’ ancient QB in the process.
I had a feeling that if the Packers beat the Vikes, it would be the defense that made the difference–and the three second half interceptions were the reason the Pack came out on top.
Offensively, it was a strange night. Rodgers and the Pack moved the ball at will in the first quarter to the tune of 200 yards, but found the sledding much tougher the rest of the night. Drives were killed by interceptions, strange play calling and some lousy timing between Rodgers and his receivers.
Driver was clearly affected by the quad injury, as we saw his streak of catching a pass in 133 straight games come to an end. His presence as a decoy opened things up for James Jones, who gained more than 100 yards.
It’s too early in the week to know whether Jenkins, Pickett and Driver will be close to 100%. One thing we do know, with a week to rest, Darrelle Revis and the Jets will be healthy and hungry to get back to work.
Sunday night’s performance should give us a measure of confidence that the Pack’s D will be ready for the challenge against a talented, though less explosive, offense.