GREEN BAY – There's so much intriguing game film on both sides of the ball from the victory in Minnesota that a bonus WYMM is required.
A glance at the defense and a little element of surprise from the Packers will be reviewed here. The Packers made what might be considered some unconventional calls against the Vikings' rookie and journeymen QBs to keep them off-balance.
Play No. 1: Third-and-4 from the Minnesota 44, first quarter, 2:34 left
Result: Incomplete pass
As much as fans often despise it, the three-man rush has its place in situational football. Normally, it's deployed on third-and-long to flood the passing lanes with eight defenders in coverage, force the quarterback to take a checkdown throw, and then everyone rallies to the ball to make the tackle short of the first-down marker. Here, the Packers have a wrinkle to the three-man rush against rookie QB Jaren Hall in the first quarter, not only calling it in a third-and-medium situation, but also assigning a spy to Hall – and that spy is none other than the 314-pound DL Kenny Clark (97)! Hall can't find anywhere to go with the ball, and when he breaks the pocket, Clark takes off after him to force the throwaway along the sideline.
Play No. 2: Second-and-6 from the Minnesota 46, second quarter, 2:28 left
Result: 10-yard sack by LB Quay Walker
Unlike the Vikings, who frequently line up their inside LBs over the A gaps in a constant blitz/bluff game (as depicted in this week’s original WYMM on the Packers’ offense), the Packers at times will send an inside LB blitz from off the ball as more of a surprise tactic. In this case, it's sending both Walker and LB Eric Wilson (45) for a six-man pressure on a rather garden-variety second-and-6 situation – a somewhat special call for an otherwise ordinary play. Walker actually gives away a tad early that he's blitzing when WR Justin Jefferson (18) goes in motion, but he compensates for that by making RB Ty Chandler (32) completely whiff on his block attempt, leaving Hall no chance to do anything.
Play No. 3: First-and-20 from the Green Bay 42, third quarter, 12:12 left
Result: 8-yard sack by CB Keisean Nixon
In the second half, Nick Mullens has replaced Hall at QB, but the Packers aren't done with the surprises. After back-to-back 5-yard penalties on the Vikings have put them in first-and-20, the Packers attack with a slot blitz from Nixon. Yeah that's right, a slot blitz on first-and-20, about as unexpected as it gets – though it's still just a four-man rush because LB Kingsley Enagbare (55) drops from his edge spot into coverage, with Nixon becoming the fourth rusher. Interestingly, and effectively as it turns out, Nixon trips over WR Jordan Addison (3) as he takes off after the quarterback, but Addison is the one who stumbles, possibly taking away a quick outlet for Mullens as Nixon gets home free.
Play No. 4: Fourth-and-4 from the Green Bay 9, third quarter, 8:54 left
Result: Incomplete pass
Down 23-3 on the opening possession of the second half, this is Minnesota's best chance to get back in the game. A touchdown makes it a two-score contest, so they're going for it on fourth down. So far we've seen the Packers, somewhat unconventionally, go with a three-man rush on third-and-medium, a six-man pressure on second-and-6, and a slot blitz on first-and-20. So what's in store for this fourth down? The change-up becomes to play it straight, with a regular four-man rush, a spy on Mullens, and man coverage with safety help that becomes a double-team by Nixon and S Anthony Johnson Jr. (36) on Jefferson. Spying the QB, Walker deserves credit for closing on Mullens at the right time as he steps forward in the pocket, and for positioning his body to deliver a shoulder shot to Mullens' midsection, avoiding head/helmet contact of any kind that might draw a flag.