Vikings 38, Packers 26 (ESPN Box Score)
The Vikings scored their first win at Lambeau Field since 2005, and also their first season sweep of the Packers since 2005.
It's hard to question that this game meant more to Packer fans than to Viking fans. Obviously Viking fans always want to see the Vikes beat the Packers, but be honest: at a personal level, how much does Favre's Reveng On The Packers do for you? If Favre were the Bears' QB returning to Lambeau, I'd be rooting for a 2-0 Bears' victory. It's obvious that this game meant a great deal to Packer fans (and to Favre fans who took their loyalties with the individual player).
But for Viking fans, it's still a sweet, sweet victory. Victories at Lambeau are rare for the Vikes, and season sweeps of the Packers are even rarer. The way the victory came--dominating the game to a 24-3 lead in the 3rd quarter, committing silly mistakes and playing bad defense to let the Packers back in the game, but coming back offensively to never let the Packers take the lead back and finally sealing the game with a fifth touchdown--leaves a feeling of both exuberance and relief. The victory really hampers the Packers' chances of winning the division (but they still have the talent to finish the year well; I really don't want to have to face them as a Wild Card opponent in the playoffs), and it pushes the Vikes to 3-0 in the division and 5-0 in the conference.
Percy Harvin trips the light fantastic
5-84-1 receiving, 5-175 returning kicks: it's hard to define how many points Harvin helps put on the board for the Vikings. His 51 yard touchdown reception was his best offensive play of the season, but he's been constantly dangerous as a kick returner, frequently giving the Vikings excellent starting field position (in addition to his two touchdown returns).
The Vikings have been remarkably successful in the draft during the Childress era: their four first round picks have netted them Chad Greenway, Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen (via trade), and Percy Harvin. Greenway is a very good starting linebacker, Peterson and Allen are superstar performers, and Harvin is a dynamic, playmaking force.
Whatever else happens, the Vikes will have a good wide receiving trio of Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, and Bernard Berrian for years to come. They are a good group because while physically each has different skills and can excel at different types of things, all three are also capable of big plays. Favre has brought out the most from them, but I believe they'll bring the most out of whatever quarterback succeeds Favre.
Brett Favre sings the body electric
He's been playing so well this season that a four touchdown, zero interception game, while superb, was not out of the ordinary.
The Vikings had six sacks, and the Viking defensive linemen deflected four passes. Allen was once again the star, getting three sacks plus another tackle for loss. Many of us were ecstatic when the Vikings aquired Allen in April 2008, but if we had known just how dominant he'd be, especially against the Packers, we'd probably have started floating off the ground.
Edwards had two sacks and two pass deflections, and he was credited with four quarterback hits. He's had a couple outstanding games this year. He's overshadowed on the line by Allen, Kevin Williams, and Pat Williams, but he's held his own joining them on (let's say it) the best defensive line in the league.
And let's not forget AP's 141 yards from scrimmage plus a touchdown run on fourth and goal. The yards haven't been easy for Peterson this year: teams are stuffing him around the line a lot. But he runs hard and when he breaks out it's a joy to watch.
I'd like to praise a few decisions by the Viking coaching staff. Twice in the red zone the Vikings went for it on 4th and short: once they were successful, and once they were not. But the combined attempts made for a success: they got seven points instead of the maximum six that two field goal attempts would have netted, plus the failed attempt still left the Packers in bad field position.
When Mason Crosby missed a field goal late to give the Vikings the ball with a five point lead, I thought the Vikings played it perfectly. The first play was a screen pass to Adrian Peterson, a safe play that's not likely to stop the clock but gets the ball to your best offensive player: Peterson took the ball for a devastating 44 yards, setting the Vikes up for at least a field goal to go up eight. After two unsuccessful runs (that drained the Packers' timeouts), it looked like the Vikes might again play too safe as they did against Baltimore. But they called a pass play that was both aggressive and safe, a quick pass over the middle that Bernard Berrian was able to get to the end zone for the clinching touchdown.
Overall the Vikes were aggressive offensively, coming out and trying to put the game away. We question Brad Childress's decisions a lot (since I have a parentheses, why not: I think they called runs on first down too much today), but I think he can be praised for this game.
Does Aaron Rodgers look dead inside?
I don't want to try too hard to read the facial expressions of athletes. But when I see Rodgers against the Vikings, the expression on his face makes him look empty inside. Whether facing Favre has gotten to him, or (more likely) facing the Viking pass rushers has him on edge, he looks like a hollow man that doesn't want to be there and doesn't know how to rise to the moment.
That doesn't mean I wasn't terrified that he was in the process of leading a comeback, and he showed real moxie (it's a fun word: just embrace it) in the second half evading pass rushers and hitting receivers downfield. But he just looked empty.
The Vikings' Weakness
I think the Viking pass defense is solid overall, because the pass rush is so threatening: they rush throws, tip passes, and sack the passer, putting the offense in bad spots. Their dominance against the run helps, because when teams attempt offensive balance, they end up in must-throw situations. However, the Vikings have trouble holding a lead because of the weakness of the secondary. When teams go into all-throw mode, it's hard to sustain a pass rush every down, and teams are willing to take more risks against the rush and throwing downfield. As a result, we've seen teams move the ball on the Vikings successfully when they are down.
It's a dangerous weakness, especially if the Vikes are facing a team like the Saints in the playoffs. It might be a less glaring weakness when Antoine Winfield returns.
But the Vikes are good
Two sort of flukish plays made this score closer than it might have been: John Sullivan's early snap not only got recovered by the Packers, but it bounced around and flew backward to give the Packers better field position with it. And when the Packers had to setttle for a field goal after a nice drive to leave the score at 24-6, the Packers squib kicked and Brian Robison conjured the spirit of Mel Gray and tried to run and then fumbled--instead of giving the Vikes good field position to score a dagger touchdown, the Packers had good field position and used it to cut the score to 24-13.
I'm not just saying this game could have been a blowout but for those flukish plays. I'm saying in the past, those flukish plays probably would have begun a Viking collapse resulting in a loss. But they didn't, because the Vikes have the talent to overcome those things.
The Packers also had a lot of penalties that helped the Vikings, but the Packers are among the league leaders in penalties and penalty yards: that's a feature of their team, not an abberation that only aided the Vikings today.
2009's first half
So far, it would be hard for 2009 to have gone any better. The Vikes are 7-1, including 4-1 on the road. Their only loss was to an AFC team, and they've already swept one of their rivals competing for the division title.
So much emotional energy went into this game against the Packers (and not just because of Favre), it might have been easy to overlook the reality that after the win, the Vikings are now 7-1, and they still have five remaining home games.
The Vikings come out of the bye with three straight home games: against the Lions, against the Seahawks, and against the Bears. It's hard to envision the Vikings not being 9-1 when they host Chicago (if they play really lousy, they could lose to Seattle, but they should win at home). They get a bye right in the middle of the season, and hopefully an injured Antoine Winfield and a hampered Bernard Berrian get the chance to recover and play well in the second half of the season.
The Vikes can throw and run. They can stop the run and they can rush the passer. Their special teams have been generally good to outstanding. Things are looking good.
Enjoy the bye week, folks. Skol.