If you can't run the football, you're in trouble in the National Football League. Once again the Packers found that out the hard way with another agonizing loss to their cross-state rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. With no running game to speak of, Brett Favre once again had to rely on a depleted receiving corps to move the offense. That played right into Minnesota's hands, and the Vikings made the most of their opportunities.
Getting swept by the Vikings really hurts. It's frustrating for the players, the coaches and the fans to see Green Bay struggling with a 2-8 record. But, really there's not much mystery involved here. When the all of the injuries started to pile up, it was evident that this was going to be a very difficult year. To the Packers' credit, they've hung together. They've been in every game this year. Unfortunately, that doesn't get the job done.
Once again this game was a tale of two halves -- the same story as the first game between the Packers and Vikings. The Packers did a great job of making the Vikings one-dimensional in the first half. Minnesota couldn't run the ball, and Green Bay got good pressure on Brad Johnson. They sacked him five times and hurried quite a few of his throws. Aaron Kampman, in particular, was a continual thorn in his side, and it appeared that the Packers had things going their way. On offense the Packers put up 14 points as Favre and Donald Driver hooked up on a pair of exciting touchdown passes. Green Bay went into the locker room with the lead and the momentum.
Then the second half came. Just like in the first meeting between these two teams, the Vikings made some effective adjustments at intermission. Since they hadn't been very successful in pass protecting for Johnson, they committed to their running game instead and found a way to make things happen. Mewelde Moore continually gashed the Packers and ended up with 122 yards on 22 carries (5.5-yard average per carry). As a team Minnesota rushed for 160 yards, and it would have been even worse if one of Moore's 25-yard dashes wasn't nullified by a penalty. While they weren't successful right up the middle in the first half, the Vikings were stretching it more outside in the second half and were bouncing a lot of plays outside the tackles and inside the tight end. Minnesota's offensive linemen did a nice job of sustaining their blocks, and Moore was patient and read his blocks very well.
It was a very effective game plan because it kept the Packers' offense off the field and it allowed the Vikings to control the ball. Green Bay only had the ball for seven minutes in the entire second half. That put a lot of extra pressure on the Packers defense, keeping them on the field and wearing them down. The Packers didn't help their cause with some poor second half tackling.
It might be easy to point fingers at Favre because he had a couple of picks and even threw into triple coverage down the middle of the field to Driver. When you have no running game, the quarterback is going to do whatever he can to make things happen. That includes forcing some passes to make plays. When you become one-dimensional and try to win games through the air sooner or later, you're going to make a mistake. It's too difficult to be unpredictable offensively when you can't run the football. The Vikings totally shut down the run and they didn't have to respect the play-action pass.
It was a shame to see the second half unfold the way it did because the Packers wasted a fine defensive effort in the first half, and they also squandered another solid performance by Donald Driver (5 catches, 84 yards and two touchdowns). Driver made two big-time catches for scores and the second one, in particular, was very impressive because the Vikings had just tied up the score with an interception for a touchdown. The Packers didn't let that bother them and came right back down the field for Driver's touchdown with less than a minute remaining. Driver showed excellent speed and the ability to get open. He has really stepped up into that No. 1 receiver spot and has taken over and excelled in that role since Javon Walker's injury.
This was a very tough loss, and the guys will probably have a difficult time motivating themselves for the last six games of the season. Coming off their impressive win against the Atlanta Falcons and feeling good about themselves, I know the Packers expected to beat the Vikings. They had some payback on their minds after their last-second loss at Minnesota. To lose at home on Monday Night really hurts. It's going to be interesting to see how the team will bounce back. They've shown great character and camaraderie thus far in a very difficult season. Hopefully, they'll be able to keep that going and find ways to come up with some wins down the stretch.
Don "Majik" Majkowski was inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame earlier this year. His career for the Packers spanned six seasons (1987-92), including being named to the Pro Bowl in 1989 when he led the NFL in passing yards. In addition to his duties with Packers.com, Majik provides football analysis for WSSP-AM, SportsRadio 1250 in Milwaukee, WDUZ SportsRadio 107.5 & 1400 The Fan in Green Bay, WTSO - ESPN 1070 in Madison, WDEZ in Wausau, and WIZD in Stevens Point. Visit Majik's Web site, www.majiknetwork.net, for more information.