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Game Review: Too Much To Overcome In Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS - It’s hard enough to beat a division rival in a noisy road venue when an emotionally charged opposing quarterback turns in an impressive performance. But it’s even harder when the self-inflicted miscues pile up and happen at such inopportune times. - More Packers-Vikings Game Center


Vikings DE Jared Allen gets one of his 4 1/2 sacks of Aaron Rodgers on Monday night at the Metrodome.

MINNEAPOLIS - It's hard enough to beat a division rival in a noisy road venue when an emotionally charged opposing quarterback turns in an impressive performance.

But it's even harder when the self-inflicted miscues pile up and happen at such inopportune times.

In addition to Brett Favre's big night, the Packers had too much to overcome in the way of blown opportunities and shoddy pass protection and fell to the Minnesota Vikings 30-23 on Monday night at the Metrodome.

"We made way too many mistakes this evening," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "You have a hard time beating any football team let alone that football team."

The loss drops the Packers at their bye week to 2-2, two games behind unbeaten and first-place Minnesota in the NFC North.

The Vikings looked every bit like the division favorite with Favre performing like he did in the much-anticipated first showdown with his former team. While the Packers were bottling up running back Adrian Peterson (25 carries, 55 yards), Favre was tearing apart the secondary to the tune of 24 completions in 31 attempts for 271 yards and three touchdowns for a 135.3 rating, his highest this season.

Favre was particularly hard to handle on third down. Over one second-quarter stretch, Favre was 4-for-4 on third down for 70 yards, leading to two touchdowns that gave the Vikings a 21-14 halftime lead.

"I thought he was very composed back there and made some plays," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "He exploited us on some mental errors we made. He was able to see them and kept his composure back there."

The Packers kept it close with two big plays early - a 62-yard TD pass to Jermichael Finley and a 42-yard strip-and-return of a Peterson fumble by rookie Clay Matthews - but when Favre came out firing again on the opening drive of the third quarter, Minnesota took control for good.

Favre, who wasn't sacked and absorbed only one hit according to the post-game stats, took advantage of what seemed like forever in the pocket to hit Jeff Dugan for 25 yards. He followed it up on the next snap with a 31-yard heave to Bernard Berrian for a touchdown, making it 28-14 early in the third and leaving the Packers little margin for error the rest of the way.

"He's been doing that for a hundred years -- he's not going to miss those plays," cornerback Charles Woodson said after Favre had directed four TD drives of 67, 77, 84 and 80 yards.

"It don't take a rocket scientist to point out that if a quarterback, especially a quarterback who has seen absolutely everything, (if he has time) he's going to find it. If you're not moving him around in that pocket, if you're not putting pressure on him, a long day is where you're headed."

Unfortunately, the missed opportunities that hurt the Packers in the first half - they had two possessions that reached field-goal range, only to see them end with a sack-fumble and an interception - only foreshadowed the most critical chance that got away.

Trailing 28-14, the Packers drove 81 yards to the Minnesota 1-yard line, where they had second-and-goal. But a failed fullback dive, a short pass to Finley that only reached the line of scrimmage, and a fourth-down throw that tight end Donald Lee dropped in the end zone sent the Packers away with nothing when they had a golden opportunity to get back into the game.

"It was more what we didn't do," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We had the ball down inside the 10 and weren't able to score. Had it twice (other times) on their side ... I think we moved the ball pretty well, we just didn't cap off those three drives and lost by seven."

{sportsad300}The other repeated theme was the constant pressure on Rodgers, who was sacked an unthinkable eight times while his counterpart Favre wasn't sacked once. Minnesota's All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen, going against Chad Clifton's replacement at left tackle in Daryn Colledge (Clifton was out with an ankle injury), and then Colledge's replacement in rookie T.J. Lang when Colledge left with a knee injury in the fourth quarter, racked up 4½ of those sacks.

"It's obviously an issue," McCarthy said of the unrelenting heat on Rodgers, who has been sacked 20 times in the season's first four games. "It's gone on for four weeks. You can't play this way. We're playing way too up and down and it's hurting us because of the big plays we're able to generate. We're too much a big-little offense right now."

One of those sacks by Allen produced a safety midway through the fourth quarter, two points that proved critical as the Packers rallied late from a 30-14 hole.

Rodgers, who threw for a career-high 384 yards and posted a 110.6 rating (26-of-37, 2 TD, 1 INT), hit Jordy Nelson for a 33-yard touchdown with 4:40 left. But the safety forced the Packers to go for two to get back within one score, and the attempt failed, making it 30-20.

One last-ditch effort produced a 31-yard field goal with 55 seconds left and gave the Packers a shot at another onside kick, but Sidney Rice recovered for Minnesota to wrap it up.

"We have to be able to put points on the board, stop turning the ball over, and finish drives when we're on the one-yard line," Colledge said. "The fact of the matter is we shot ourselves in the foot too much."

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