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Packers Week 17 Snap Counts: Defense gets off the field, keeping Gary & company fresh

With the defense forcing the Vikings into frequent three-and-outs, the Packers were able to keep their top edge rushers on the field more than usual on Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings v Green Bay Packers Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 37-10 on Sunday night, claiming the NFC’s top seed for the postseason and delivering a statement on national television that they are heating up at just the right time. After allowing nearly nine yards per carry to the Cleveland Browns on Christmas Day, the Packers held Dalvin Cook to just 13 yards on nine carries, his worst output of the season by far.

In fact, the 27 net rushing yards allowed was the Packers’ finest performance in run defense since 2014, when they allowed just 16 yards to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

That effort in the run game, combined with a pass defense that gave Vikings quarterback Sean Mannion little to work with, helped the Packers get off the field early on several drives. Minnesota went three-and-out on four straight series in the first half and six times overall in the game, as they gained just 11 first downs in the entire contest. That allowed Green Bay to keep its top defensive personnel, particularly Preston Smith and Rashan Gary, on the field for a higher proportion of plays than usual, and they responded with an excellent performance.

Meanwhile, AJ Dillon did his thing in the cold, wearing down the Vikings defense in the second half and bullying his way into the end zone for two scores. Sunday had a game situation and weather conditions that fit Dillon perfectly, and he out-snapped and out-carried Aaron Jones in the game as a result.

Here’s a look at the Packers’ playing time from Sunday.

OFFENSE (75 total plays)

Quarterbacks

Aaron Rodgers 63, Jordan Love 12

After leading the Packers to a 37-10 lead in the fourth quarter, Rodgers gave way to Love for the Packers’ final substantive drive of the game (plus a kneel-down). Of course, it was Rodgers’ production early that helped the team build that lead, as he threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns on 29-of-38 passing.

That and the Packers earning the NFC’s top seed should all but seal up a second straight MVP award for Rodgers. If he does not play next week in Detroit, he would finish the season with 3,977 passing yards, 35 touchdowns, just 4 interceptions, and a league-leading passer rating of 111.1.

Love got the opportunity to throw the ball a bit on his drive, completing two of his four pass attempts for 19 yards. He also added nine yards on the ground, which included a 10-yard scramble to pick up a first down.

Running Backs

AJ Dillon 39, Aaron Jones 31, Patrick Taylor 12

With the Packers looking to run off clock in the second half, Dillon got a bigger workload than Jones, and he also did much of the dirty work in the red zone. All told, Dillon finished with 14 carries for 63 yards and two scores, adding 20 yards on two receptions. Jones had the more explosive day running the football, with 76 yards on 8 carries including a pair of runs for 25-plus yards. Jones was also a frequent check-down option for Rodgers, catching five of six passes thrown his way for 30 yards.

Taylor also got his first notable game action on offense since the Packers’ last game against the Vikings, carrying the football six times for 18 yards.

Wide Receivers

Davante Adams 62, Allen Lazard 56, Marquez Valdes-Scantling 49, Equanimeous St. Brown 18, Juwann Winfree 14

The Packers opened up the game in 12 personnel with Adams and Lazard as their two wide receivers, and those two were the primary targets all night in the downfield attack. Adams started the game hot with two big catches on the opening drive, and by halftime he already had 8 grabs for 118 yards and a score. He would finish with a 11-132-1 stat line, breaking his own team record for single-season receptions and coming up just short of reaching Jordy Nelson’s single-season receiving yardage record.

Lazard had a tremendous game as the #3 option, catching all six of his targets. Those passes went for a total of 72 yards and included a 20-yard jump-ball touchdown to get the Packers in the end zone for the first time on the day.

The rest of the receivers had a quiet night. MVS caught just one of three targets for 3 yards, EQ had one grab for 14, and Winfree caught one ball from Love for 12.

Tight Ends

Tyler Davis 32, Josiah Deguara 30, Dominique Dafney 19, Marcedes Lewis 13

Perhaps it was the fact that he just came back off the reserve/COVID list or the game script, but the Packers gave Lewis a very light workload on Sunday night even despite having him on the field to start the game. Instead, Davis shockingly led the group in snaps, and he lined up all over the field — in-line at the normal Lewis spot as well as off the line as a move tight end. He and Deguara each caught two passes on the day, while Dafney failed to haul in his only target and Lewis did not have a pass thrown his way.

Look for Lewis to get a light workload against the Lions, if he even plays — the Packers have been very cautious in managing his workload this season, and it would not be a surprise to see a veteran player like him sit out as a gameday inactive in a meaningless game.

Offensive Linemen

Yosh Nijman 75, Royce Newman 75, Jon Runyan 74, Lucas Patrick 74, Dennis Kelly 74, Ben Braden 1, Jake Hanson 1, Cole Van Lanen 1

Once again, the Packers’ offensive line stayed together for a full game, with Kelly playing well at right tackle. They threw another clean sheet on the board in pass protection, keeping Rodgers from taking any sacks for a second straight game. Where they also were more impressive on Sunday was in the run game, paving the way for a 174-yard rushing attack that averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Runyan in particular did some exceptional work paving the way for Dillon’s inside runs.

DEFENSE (54 total plays)

Defensive Linemen

Kenny Clark 39, Dean Lowry 35, T.J. Slaton 21, Abdullah Anderson 16, Tyler Lancaster 13

This is the fewest snaps that Clark has played all season when healthy, and it is part of a trend that becomes evident shortly. The Vikings struggled to stay on the field, going just 2-for-12 on third downs, which allowed the Packers to keep their top players on the field more frequently early on before substituting them out late for the Vikings’ final 8 snaps.

With the Packers playing a lot of base early, Lowry, Slaton, and Lancaster all got early action, but Lancaster gave way to Slaton and Anderson as the game went on and the Packers broadened their lead. Lancaster would lead the unit in tackles with just two, but the group did an excellent job owning the point of attack and ensuring that Dalvin Cook could not affect the game in a positive way for Minnesota.

Outside Linebackers

Preston Smith 43, Rashan Gary 40, Jonathan Garvin 12, Tipa Galeai 11

Both Smith and Gary are now within a sack of double-digits this season after each player sacked Vikings QB Sean Mannion once on Sunday night. They both also played almost every rep before the backups came on at the end of the game, with Smith taking just three snaps off and Gary coming off for just six.

Once again, Gary was a menace all game long. Both he and Smith set better edges against the run in this game, each recording a tackle for loss in addition to their sacks, while Gary was able to harass Mannion throughout the evening, landing a total of four hits on the quarterback. That gives him a total of 28 for the season and his sack brought him up to 9.5 on the year, both team-highs.

Inside Linebackers

De’Vondre Campbell 46, Krys Barnes 37, Oren Burks 8

Campbell’s only missed snaps in this game came in the 8 plays at the end of the game when the Packers substituted en masse. He would lead the way as usual with eight tackles, including one for a loss.

Barnes played heavily again in this game, both in base defense and in the 4-2-5 nickel alignment. He finished with five tackles and a pair of pass breakups, one of which could have been a wide-open pick-six had he been able to haul in the football.

Burks’ only action came late in the game as a substitute, and he recorded one assisted tackle on defense and another on special teams.

Safeties

Darnell Savage 54, Adrian Amos 46, Henry Black 8

With the Packers getting Kevin King back for this game, the team relegated Black to solely backup safety duty rather than inserting him into the lineup as the dime back. That meant that his only snaps came at the end of the game in Amos’ place on the back end.

A sure sign that the Packers did not allow many big plays in this game is the fact that Savage did not show up on the box score at all — he did not record a single tackle when active for the first time in his three-year career. Amos had four tackles and should have been credited with a big pass breakup, if not for the ball that he dislodged from tight end Tyler Conklin flying into the hands of Vikings center Garrett Bradbury.

Cornerbacks

Eric Stokes 54, Rasul Douglas 46, Chandon Sullivan 35, Kevin King 11, Shemar Jean-Charles 9, Isaac Yiadom 8

As mentioned above, King was the Packers’ choice in dime alignments, as the team used him and Sullivan in the slot while keeping Stokes and Douglas on the boundary. Stokes led the group with four tackles, while Douglas had the unit’s only pass breakup on the day. Douglas was responsible for one big gain in the passing game, jumping on an underneath route and leaving Sullivan hanging out to dry, but the group as a whole allowed just one play of more than 20 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS LEADERS

Davis 24, Burks 20, Isaiah McDuffie 20, Black 19, Yiadom 19, Jean-Charles 18, Winfree 17, Galeai 16, Mason Crosby 15, Slaton 10