The Green Bay Packers had a few significant lineup questions coming into their Christmas Eve matchup with the Minnesota Vikings. First was what the team would do at wide receiver with slot receiver Randall Cobb deactivated. Secondly, the availability of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry was in question, with Matthews still working his way back to full strength from a shoulder injury and Perry in his first game back from a few weeks off due to a hand issue.
The Packers answered those questions with great success; Geronimo Allison got the bulk of the snaps in Cobb’s stead, and in doing so Allison more than doubled his career receiving production. On defense, both pass rushers played extensively - and effectively. In fact, the biggest question mark ended up being in the secondary, as an elbow injury to LaDarius Gunter left that unit short handed for the entire second half.
Here’s how the Packers’ playing time broke down on offense and defense.
OFFENSE (59 plays)
LG Lane Taylor 59, C Corey Linsley 59, RG T.J. Lang 59, LT David Bakhtiari 56, RT Bryan Bulaga 49, OT Jason Spriggs 14, T Don Barclay 3
The Packers had to bring Spriggs in late, as Bryan Bulaga suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter of the game. Bakhtiari’s three plays off were on the final series, when Mike McCarthy brought in a few backups while up three touchdowns.
Bakhtiari held up well against Everson Griffen, who had just one tackle and one hit on Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings’ four sacks came from inside linebacker Eric Kendricks (2.5) and left end Danielle Hunter (1.5).
QB Aaron Rodgers 56, RB Ty Montgomery 37, FB Aaron Ripkowski 14, RB Christine Michael 14, QB Brett Hundley 3, FB Joe Kerridge 1
The Packers lined up Montgomery in the backfield for close to 2⁄3 of the team’s snaps, and gave Christine Michael about 25% of the plays. Rodgers came out late with the Packers still up by three touchdowns, but the offense went three and out with Hundley under center.
All told, the running game was highly ineffective; Montgomery and Michael combined for barely two yards per carry on just 13 rushing attempts. They did record five receptions, but only gained 18 yards on those passing plays.
WR Jordy Nelson 56, WR Davante Adams 55, WR Geronimo Allison 43, TE Jared Cook 35, TE Richard Rodgers 29, WR Jeff Janis 7
With Randall Cobb out, one of the questions of the day was how the Packers would make up for his snaps. They did so in large part by moving Jordy Nelson into the slot and lining up Geronimo Allison on the outside, opposite Davante Adams. Each of the Packers’ top three wideouts in this game saw at least 7 targets and caught at least four passes. Nelson of course had the best day, with nine receptions for 154 yards and two scores.
At tight end, Cook continues to get slightly more playing time than Rodgers, but he gets a significantly higher target load - five compared to Rodgers’ two.
DEFENSE (78 plays)
CB Quinten Rollins 78, S Morgan Burnett 78, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 78, S/CB Micah Hyde 71, CB Damarious Randall 62, S Kentrell Brice 43, CB LaDarius Gunter 19, CB Makinton Dorleant 4, S Marwin Evans 2
With the Packers out to a big lead by the end of the first half, the team went to a lot of dime coverage as the Vikings had to throw to get back into the game. That resulted in an average of 5.5 defensive backs on the field per play. Gunter’s injury required the coaching staff to shuffle the defensive backs a bit, however, meaning that Rollins and Randall occupied the boundary corner positions and Hyde came in at the slot. Burnett also played some snaps as the dime corner in the slot, as well as contributing a few snaps at inside linebacker.
ILB Joe Thomas 66, OLB Clay Matthews 55, OLB Datone Jones 51, OLB Julius Peppers 42, ILB Jake Ryan 36, OLB Nick Perry 34, ILB Blake Martinez 10, OLB Kyler Fackrell 9
Both Matthews and Perry returned to form with a vengeance on Saturday. Matthews played his biggest snap load in months and racked up a sack, forced fumble, two more hits on Sam Bradford, and a pair of pass breakups. Meanwhile, Perry recorded a pair of sacks as well.
The Packers did use Jones and Peppers more on the line this week with Matthews taking more snaps and Perry returning to the lineup. Still, they were able to keep Peppers’ snap count close to 50% of the total plays.
On the inside, Morgan Burnett ended up shifting down into the linebacker spot again at times, and the Packers made extensive use of their dime package as well, with Thomas as the lone inside linebacker.
Mike Daniels 49, Letroy Guion 26, Kenny Clark 20, Dean Lowry 19, Christian Ringo 6
Daniels had a nice day, recording a sack and recovering the fumble that Matthews forces. Clark was active in rushing the passer as well, landing a pair of hits on the quarterback and recovering a fumble of his own - on an aborted snap.