As per usual, The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers entered Week 8 of the 2020 season prepared to duke it out for sometimes overly coveted bragging rights, brought on by an immense hatred for each other. Distaste of that magnitude can occasionally cloud everything else that is going on. For instance, the Vikings came into the game off their bye, losers of 5 of their first 6 games. With that in mind, the game seemingly only had the aforementioned at stake, and NFC playoff positioning was considered a non-factor, especially considering that the Packers were heavy favorites to improve to 6-1 on the season.
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The reason that this matchup is worth noting is because it embodies the 2020 NFL. Aside from the fact that most of the stadium was left uninhabited by the usually raucous showing that this rivalry draws, the Vikings, amazingly entered the day an afterthought and ended it a real candidate for the playoffs. Of course that has only been made realistic due to the expanded playoff format implemented prior to the 2020 season.
On the flip side of things, the Packers came in atop the NFC North. Despite that, questions floated around their team as well. Was their 38-10 loss to Tampa Bay two weeks prior an aberration, or had the Buccaneers uncovered a weakness in their otherwise seemingly invincible offensive attack?
The tale of the first half? Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. Heading to the locker room, tied 14-14, it was no surprise to anyone that Aaron Rodgers had conducted business as usual. Rodgers and Davante Adams had connected for two touchdowns and both of those scoring drives ate up a significant chunk of the first half. Kirk Cousins’ first half performance was comparable, which WAS surprising. Although he didn’t throw a touchdown in the first half, he had maneuvered two lengthy drives of his own, both of which ended in rushing touchdowns by Dalvin Cook. He came into the game near the bottom of the league in a number of passing categories, most notably interceptions (10). In fact, the entire Vikings’ season, offensively, up to that point could be summarized by that statistic. Plenty of promising drives washed away by a costly mistake or two. But, on November 1st, those mistakes never came.
In the 2nd half, the Vikings’ offense produced much of the same results that it had in the previous 30 minutes of game time. Cook would break the plane twice more, once more on the ground and then through the air for his career best 4th touchdown of the game.
What was shocking about the second half was that the Vikings’ secondary held up.
Despite the Vikings’ secondary having worked cohesively for, arguably, the first time all season, the team put themselves in position to allow Rodgers a chance to lead yet another game-winning drive in his surefire hall of fame career. And numerous football fans privy to the Vikings’ 2020 season, myself included, were all but sure that this game was going to be a repeat of their game against the Seattle Seahawks earlier on this season. Thankfully for Mike Zimmer, it wasn’t.
A FEW ADDITIONAL IDEAS TO CONSIDER
Adams is the focal point of the Packers’ passing attack. The problem doesn’t lie in the fact that he is Rodgers’ #1 receiver, it’s the possibility that he is the only receiver he trusts.
The Vikings, at 2-5, are one of the most disappointing teams this year. However, imagine that they held out against the Titans and the Seahawks (they lost to both teams, who were undefeated at the time, by a single point). At 4-3, they wouldn’t be looking quite as disheveled.
Could the Vikings’ recent trade of Yannick Ngakoue have re-invigorated their defensive unit? Without Ngakoue and Danielle Hunter (injured; out for the year), the Vikings were headed into the game, so it appeared, with a depleted d-line and an unsavory secondary.
If the Buccaneers were able to sniff out a defensive scheme that worked against Rodgers, did the Vikings emulate it?