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Jaire Alexander's big second quarter shifts the tide for Packers

Marquez Valdes-Scantling bounces back with two key catches

Packers CB Jaire Alexander
Packers CB Jaire Alexander

It wasn't a corner blitz. At least, not the way Packers' defensive coordinator Mike Pettine intended when he made the call from the sideline.

But Jaire Alexander saw what he saw in the second quarter of the Packers' 43-34 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and the third-year cornerback reacted accordingly.

With the Vikings pinned back to their own 3-yard line, receiver Adam Thielen came in motion pre-snap. In Alexander's mind, the Vikings had shown their hand and were going to run.

Instead, Kirk Cousins was going play-action. But by the time the Vikings' quarterback faked the handoff to Dalvin Cook, Alexander already was all over Cousins for the sack and safety.

"Once I anticipated run, I shot my shot. I slid to the DMs, basically," said Alexander, whose safety was the Packers' first since Dec. 28, 2014. "And when I saw it wasn't a run, it was too late to turn back, so I just kept going."

The play not only cut the Vikings' lead to 7-5 at the time but also swung momentum in the Packers' favor in a big way. Minnesota wouldn't lead again after Mason Crosby's 43-yard field goal on the ensuing position put Green Bay ahead 8-7.

The second quarter was big for the entire Packers' defense. On the Vikings' next possession after the safety, Pro Bowl outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith sacked Cousins on third down to force a three-and-out.

Down by eight and with less than 7 minutes of possession in the first half, Minnesota tried to get its two-minute offense going with 39 seconds left until halftime only to have Alexander pick off Cousins on the second play of the series to give Green Bay the ball back at Minnesota's 45-yard line.

Shortly thereafter, quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a shot deep and found Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a 45-yard touchdown pass to put the Packers ahead 22-7.

"Turnovers are always big plays," Alexander said. "It gives our offense an opportunity to score and put points on the board. So it was real, uh, real fun. It's pretty much expected at this point."

Minnesota remained out of striking distance of the lead in the second half but managed to finish with 34 points and 382 total yards of offense, which Alexander acknowledged the defense will need to address.

There's no question the defense's performance in the second quarter went a long way in the Packers' victory, even if Pettine had a few words for Alexander after his impromptu blitz.

"I'm not really going to say what he said verbatim, but he called me 'sneaky' and he gave me a fist bump," Alexander said. "So, you know, it was all smiles."

MVS bounces back in a big way: The life of an NFL receiver is never easy and Valdes-Scantling showed how fast that pendulum can swing Sunday.

In the third quarter, following his 45-yard touchdown, Valdes-Scantling dropped a pass on a crossing route that would've converted on third-and-6 and then couldn't bring in a deep ball that likely would've been a touchdown.

The third-year receiver kept at it, though. On that same series, Valdes-Scantling bounced back to catch a 39-yard pass from Rodgers down the seam on a free play. It set the table for Davante Adams' 1-yard touchdown two plays later.

Afterward, Adams told Valdes-Scantling he couldn't have been more proud of how he responded.

"I said, 'Man, I forgot you even dropped it. What are you talking about?' That's the mentality we have to have," Adams said. "For him to come back and respond the way that he did … I'm more proud of him for that than if he would've caught the initial ball and scored, honestly.

"Because me being another receiver, I know exactly how difficult it is to bounce back from something like that. A lot of things are in your head and it's tough to flush it."

Valdes-Scantling finished with four catches for 96 yards and a touchdown, while fellow receiver Allen Lazard added four catches for 63 yards and a TD in addition to a 19-yard carry.

Banged-up line holds its ground: The Packers had to do a lot of moving and shaking over the course of 60 minutes on their offensive line.

Already without veteran Billy Turner (knee), Green Bay slid starting left guard Elgton Jenkins to right tackle and started fourth-year veteran Lucas Patrick at Jenkins' usual post.

But when Patrick left in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and didn't return, the Packers were forced to slide Jenkins back to left guard and insert Rick Wagner at right tackle.

If that wasn't enough, Green Bay then lost veteran guard Lane Taylor to a knee injury in the fourth quarter, requiring rookie sixth-round pick Jon Runyan to finish the game at right guard.

But despite all the upheaval, the Packers' offense kept on humming and Aaron Rodgers wasn't sacked a single time.

"I'm proud of both Rick and Jon stepping in, really important to stay ready as a backup," Rodgers said. "We talked last night about how you're one play away. A lot of guys in the room are one play away and you gotta be ready to go when your number's called. So I'm proud of those guys stepping up."

The Packers didn't have an update on Taylor after the game, aside from Rodgers and Head Coach Matt LaFleur expressing their well wishes to the eighth-year veteran, who missed all but two games last year due to a torn biceps muscle.

Team decision: As President/CEO Mark Murphy outlined in a statement during the game, the Packers remained in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem and "Lift Every Voice and Sing" so as "to not distract from our message that we stand united for social justice and racial equality."

Added Adams after the game: "We had multiple conversations as a team and we wanted to make sure we controlled the narrative of what happened. All the extra details of what took place inside the locker room we'll keep that for our football team. We just wanted to make sure we stayed together, kept the focus on what it was. … We decided to stay inside as a team."

Odds and ends: Along with the injuries to Taylor and Patrick, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kenny Clark also left in the second quarter with a groin injury and didn't return. … Rookie linebacker Krys Barnes, promoted from the practice squad Saturday, started next to Christian Kirksey and finished with six tackles, including two key stops for a loss in the second quarter. Barnes is the first undrafted rookie linebacker to start for Green Bay in Week 1 since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

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