The Green Bay Packers had a massive time of possession advantage in Monday night’s 23-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, and that difference allowed the team to deploy its personnel in the most ideal fashion imaginable. With a 23-play advantage in offensive snaps, Green Bay’s defense was able to remain fresh while the offense wore down Minnesota’s excellent defense.
Three turnovers by the offense in the first half led to a choppy-feeling and frustrating start to the game, however. But the defense held firm after the first, forcing Minnesota to a field goal early, then gave up one touchdown and a turnover on downs after the final two giveaways. Outside of those few drives, the Vikings never had any offensive success, with just three drives of six or more plays, two of which ended in punts and one finishing with an interception.
But another big story may be the Packers finding the perfect balance on offense, in terms of the playing time of their key weapons. The team featured Aaron Jones heavily in this game, giving him the football more than 20 times to Jamaal Williams’ eight touches. They also fully elevated Allen Lazard into the number two role behind Davante Adams, and rolled Jake Kumerow out for nearly the same number of snaps as Geronimo Allison.
While the offense was hardly perfect, they did more than enough to pull away in the second half and — had they not turned the ball over frequently early on — would have probably posted a rare 30-point game.
Here’s how the playing time broke down.
OFFENSE (77 plays)
Due in part to their own turnovers and in part to their defense’s stellar play, the Packers’ offense controlled the clock all game long, finishing with 37:32 in time of possession. They held the football for at least nine minutes in each of the game’s four quarters, and by the early fourth they had worn down the Vikings’ defense for Aaron Jones’ knockout punch.
Aaron Rodgers 77
It was a first half to forget for Rodgers, as the Packers’ QB completed 18 of 30 passes for 156 yards and an interception before the break. However, he only needed to attempt ten passes in the second half, as the running game took off. Aaron finished the day 26-for-40 for 216 yards, taking three sacks and posting his lowest passer rating in a single game this year at 68.3.
Rodgers won’t complain, however, given the result of this game. If not for the Packers’ turnovers in the first half and some early res zone struggles, this contest could have been a true blowout.
Aaron Jones 52, Jamaal Williams 21, Danny Vitale 8, Tyler Ervin 7
This play time breakdown is what Packers fans have been clamoring for over the past weeks and months, and perhaps this type of game is why Matt LaFleur has been rotating his backs so heavily throughout the season. Jones got better as the game wore on, eventually finishing with 23 carries for a career-high 154 rushing yards. Jones broke off two scores in the second half, a 12-yard slash and a 56-yard run up the sideline to put the game largely out of hand. He added two receptions for six yards as well.
Williams contributed a bit, with six carries for 33 yards and a pair of receptions for 19 yards. But the Packers finally truly leaned on their bell cow runner, and Jones made that faith pay off. Now Jones sits just 16 yards shy of 1,000 for the year and he leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns with 16.
Davante Adams 62, Allen Lazard 58, Geronimo Allison 33, Jake Kumerow 28, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 11
Likewise, this playing time breakdown at receiver finally gave fans what they were wanting as well, as Lazard fully passed Allison in snaps. The target share bore that out as well, with Lazard seeing nine passes his way, catching five for 45 yards.
Adams, meanwhile, saw the ball fed his way early and often, with 16 targets in total. He caught 13 passes for 116 yards regularly beating Xavier Rhodes and company with his great routes.
Jimmy Graham 41, Marcedes Lewis 41, Robert Tonyan 23
Once again, the tight ends were an afterthought in the passing game. Graham hauled in one pass for 16 yards, though he did fumble on that play — thankfully Geronimo Allison fell on the football. They did excellent work blocking for Jones, however, helping to pave the way for his big day.
David Bakhtiari 77, Elgton Jenkins 77, Corey Linsley 77, Billy Turner 77, Bryan Bulaga 77
The Packers’ line did allow some pressure on Rodgers, as he was sacked three times in the game. One was his fault, as he could have thrown the football away near the sideline but held on to it instead, but the other two were largely on the line and some missed assignments and free rushers.
DEFENSE (54 plays)
The Packers’ defense turned in its finest performance of the year on Monday night, posting a season-low in yards allowed. Minnesota gained just 82 net yards passing and 57 rushing yards on the evening, and all ten of their points came off Packers turnovers that gave them excellent field position. Here’s how that broke down.
Kenny Clark 50, Dean Lowry 31, Tyler Lancaster 22, Montravius Adams 1
Clark had another great game, as he has made his full December turn this year. He has sacks in three straight games with one of Kirk Cousins on Monday night, and has tied his career-high of six by posting 4.5 in those three contests. He totaled four tackles, adding a pass breakup as well. Meanwhile, Lowry had five tackles plus a pass breakup while Lancaster added a big pressure of Cousins to one solo tackle.
Preston Smith 53, Za’Darius Smith 47, Kyler Fackrell 22, Rashan Gary 15
If Za’Darius Smith does not get voted first-team All-Pro, it will be an absolute crime. He was a constant menace to the Vikings’ offensive line, pressuring Cousins from all over and particularly when lined up against left tackle Riley Reiff. He finished the game with a career-high 3.5 sacks, totaling five hits on Cousins. He also made plays consistently in the run game, finishing with five tackles for loss.
With that game, he passed Preston Smith for the team lead in sacks. However, Preston did post a half-sack that he split with Z, increasing his career-high total to 12. Fackrell had a few excellent rushes as well, including a critical pressure on Cousins that drew a holding penalty on Reiff and resulted in a long touchdown being wiped away.
Blake Martinez 54, Ibraheim Campbell 15, B.J. Goodson 12
As usual, Martinez led the team in total tackles, posting eight to set a new career-high with 148, ranking him second in the NFL behind Seattle’s Bobby Wagner. Goodson had three tackles in run support while Campbell was held off the stat sheet.
Adrian Amos 54, Darnell Savage 54
The Packers’ safeties were only minimally active on the stat sheet, a great sign that the Vikings had little success passing deep or over the middle. In fact, they had just two plays over 20 yards in the game, a 28-yarder to Stefon Diggs where Amos made the stop and a 21-yard Diggs touchdown in one-on-one coverage on the outside.
Jaire Alexander 54, Kevin King 54, Tramon Williams 30, Chandon Sullivan 26
All told, Alexander and King kept Diggs and Adam Thielen well in check. Thielen was actually shut out on four targets, while Diggs caught just three passes for 57 yards. King recorded his fifth interception of the season on a deep ball into Packers territory. That was a statement play early in the third quarter, as the Vikings were driving to midfield and looked to be picking up a little more momentum following their own three takeaways in the first half.
King finished with four tackles, while Alexander and Williams each had two. Williams and Sullivan each added a pass breakup as well.
SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS
Oren Burks 21, Ty Summers 21 , Josh Jackson 18, Danny Vitale 17, Ibraheim Campbell 16, Chandon Sullivan 15, Kyler Fackrell 14, Jake Kumerow 13, Robert Tonyan 13