The Packers were finally forced to play meaningful fourth-quarter snaps on Sunday, and if the opposition had better quarterback play, it could have resulted in a road loss. The Packers, much like the weather, seemed a little foggy and lethargic at times but found a way to grind out a 24-21 win over the Minnesota Vikings. More importantly, the Packers took sole possession of the NFC North with the Detroit Lions falling 34-9 to the New England Patriots.
Let's take a look at the where to give credit and assume blame following Sunday's performance. As always, the Pro Football Focus grades in parentheses.
Aaron Rodgers (+0.4 overall, -0.8 pass, +1.1 run) finished 19 of 29 for 209 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 109.7. He also added 34 yards on six carries. It wasn't an MVP-caliber performance from QB12, but he made enough plays with both his arm and his legs to keep the offense on the field and playing with a lead.
He should get most of the blame on the lone sack of the day when he held onto the ball too long on third-and-long. The Vikings defense has made some serious strides since the Week 5 beatdown on Thursday Night Football, and they played a lot of cover 2 with both safeties back in response. That forced the Packers to grind it out on the ground instead of airing it out like they have been lately.
Running Backs: A
Eddie Lacy (+6.0 overall) ran for 125 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries and added two receptions for 13 yards, including a critical 10-yard touchdown. He is easily the MVP of Sunday's game, and should get used to having 20-25 carries a game from here on out. Teams are going to continue to try and force the Packers to be a running team, and Lacy will be a big reason why that might work in Green Bay's favor. Lacy ran behind his pads, displayed good vision, and picked up extra yards after initial contact.
James Starks only saw four snaps (-1.6 overall) and had a four-yard loss on one carry and fumbled the ball. Not exactly a vote of confidence in limited action for Starks.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: C
Jordy Nelson (-0.4 overall, +0.6 pass, -0.9 penalty) caught eight of 12 targets for 68 yards, while Randall Cobb (+0.2 overall) added four of five targets for 58 yards and Davante Adams (-1.5 overall, -0.6 pass, -0.9 penalty) caught one pass for 10 yards.
The Vikings weren't going to let Nelson and Cobb beat them, and that should have led to a big day for Adams. Instead, the rookie wideout had a lackluster performance. He appeared to miscommunicate with Rodgers on an attempted back-shoulder throw, and Adams was also called for an illegal block that negated a 24-yard gain by Lacy. The offense will need better outings from Adams if they are going to make teams pay for double-teaming Nelson and Cobb.
Andrew Quarless (+0.6 overall, +0.9 pass) caught two passes for 50 yards, including a long of 34, while Richard Rodgers (+1.7 overall, +0.5 screen block, +0.8 run block) added a one-yard touchdown reception. Quarless and Rodgers were able to make a few key plays in the passing game when the team needed it. Rodgers also added some quality blocking in both pass protection and in the run game.
Offensive Line: B+
David Bakhtiari (-4.2 overall, -3.1 run block) didn't have a great outing on Sunday, but it also wasn't as terrible as his PFF grades might suggest. He allowed two hurries and was also called for a holding penalty that negated a big run. He drew a tough assignment in Everson Griffen, but was able to draw a few stalemates against the athletic defensive end. This could end up being an interesting personal rivalry for the next decade, as both players continue to improve.
Josh Sitton (+0.4 overall, +1.4 pass block, -1.2 run block) looked much more fluid and agile than he has in probably a month, and it resulted in one of his better performances to date. He didn't have Sharrif Floyd to worry about, which made his job easier, but he continually created movement on initial contact and finished off blocks well. He was the catalyst on Lacy's late touchdown reception, as he buried his man five-yards downfield to create an open lane.
Corey Linsley (+0.8 overall, +0.3 pass block, +0.5 screen block) allowed one hurry in pass protection, but was otherwise solid against Linval Joseph. He didn't dominate the line of scrimmage like he did in the Week 5 match-up, but he got the job done and continues to be consistently reliable. T.J. Lang (+1.8 overall) and Bryan Bulaga (+0.3 overall, +1.1 pass block) each allowed one hurry, but neither pressure resulted in Rodgers getting hit. The last four minutes of Sunday's game should be turned into a tutorial video on "How to close out a game with power running". The Vikings knew the Packers were going to run the ball, and they couldn't stop it. The offensive line finished strong, which allowed Lacy to do the same.
Defensive Line: C
Despite not allowing a rushing touchdown or a run longer than 11 yards, the Packers run defense reverted to early-season form by allowing 4.5 yards a carry. Mike Daniels (+1.2 overall) had an explosive performance as a pass rusher with four hurries and one sack, but also led the team with two missed tackles. Josh Boyd (+1.6 overall, +0.8 rush) might be the most consistent defensive lineman on the team in the past month.
Letroy Guion (0.0 overall, +1.0 run, -1.1 rush) was likely a key in the Vikings game plan, as he saw numerous double teams throughout the game. It resulted in Guion being a non-factor in pass rush situations, but he did make some plays in the run.
Datone Jones (-0.6 overall, -0.1 run, -0.5 rush) and Mike Pennel (+0.7 overall, -0.6 run, +1.3 rush) were non-factors in limited action. Jones' ankle must be a bigger deal than the team is letting on, because he looks like a shell of himself. I'm not one to throw the "injury prone" tag on someone after almost two seasons, but Jones is heading towards Justin Harrell territory in a hurry. Let's hope his ankle heals and he is able to contribute more than 13 snaps per game down the stretch.
A.J. Hawk (-2.6 overall, -2.6 run) recorded seven tackles, but was so bad in pass coverage that he was replaced by Brad Jones in the dime package. Hawk has slimmed down recently to improve his range in coverage, but it seems to have put him at a disadvantage when taking on blocks in the run game. He was continually displaced on Sunday, and isn't getting off blocks well lately.
Julius Peppers (+0.2 overall, +0.7 run, -0.7 rush) wasn't much of a factor in pass rush, but was able to move Phil Loadholt against the run and clog things up. Clay Matthews (+0.8 overall, +1.3 rush, -0.9 coverage) recorded four hurries, but wasn't as big of a factor on Sunday as he had been in the previous two weeks.
Mike Neal (-3.7 overall, -1.8 penalty) started in place of an injured Nick Perry, and was a liability in just about every category. He missed a tackle when he had Bridgewater dead to rights, took poor angles throughout the game, and was called for a critical offside penalty on third-and-four that kept a Vikings drive alive.
Jayrone Elliott (19 snaps) and Brad Jones (15 snaps) played in rotation. Elliot recorded one pressure, while Jones was a non-factor.
Morgan Burnett (+0.9 overall, +0.7 coverage) recorded 10 tackles to lead the team, while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (+0.9 overall, +0.7 coverage) added nine. Burnett played the majority of the game as an extra defender in the box against the run, and he didn't disappoint. He didn't record a missed tackle, he took excellent angles in pursuit, and he would have recorded an interception in coverage if not for a defensive holding penalty on Micah Hyde. Clinton-Dix continues to be inconsistent on his coverage assignments, but he seems to be shaking his bad habit of lower his head before initial contact. His physicality is probably his biggest asset so far, and he had some powerful tackles on Sunday.
Tramon Williams (+0.3 overall) was tested a lot more than Sam Shields (-0.6 overall, -0.8 coverage) on Sunday. Williams gave up a 22-yard touchdown reception to former-Packer Charles Johnson after Williams' attempt to jam the young wideout at the line of scrimmage was unsuccessful. Shields was probably the most fortunate defender that Bridgewater was inaccurate throughout the game, as he could have been beat for a few long-gainers if the pass were better placed.
Casey Hayward (+0.5 overall) only played 23 snaps at nickel back, while Micah Hyde (+0.4 overall, +0.8 rush, -0.6 coverage) started and played 60 snaps. Hyde seemed to surprise Jerick McKinnon when he blitzed and lowered his shoulder to get by the young running back for a sack. He was solid in coverage, but his tackling was suspect. Joe Banyard dragged him down the field on third-and-six to pick up a first down. That can't happen when you have someone wrapped up short of a first down.
Mason Crosby connected on his lone attempt of the day from 48 yards and added three extra points. He also added 68 yards and 3.7 seconds of hangtime on his kickoffs.
Tim Masthay averaged 42 yards on four punts, downing two inside the 20-yard line.
It wasn't a real thrilling game by any stretch of the imagination, but the game plan was pretty simple: establish the run on offense and stuff the run on defense. While the execution wasn't also sharp, the game plan appeared to be on point. It's never easy to beat a division rival on the road, so coming out of Minnesota with a win shouldn't be diminished.
Up Next: The Packers host the red-hot New England Patriots (9-2) at 3:25 p.m. (CST) on CBS.