Missed Opportunities Loom Large

MINNEAPOLIS - Through the first three games, no team in the NFL did a better job of taking care of the football than the Packers with just one giveaway, but two first-half turnovers proved costly on Monday night, as did another drive that ended at the Minnesota 1-yard line. - More Packers-Vikings Game Center


Vikings CB Antoine Winfield intercepts QB Aaron Rodgers' pass in the second quarter.

MINNEAPOLIS - Through the first three games, no team in the NFL did a better job of taking care of the football than the Packers with just one giveaway, but two first-half turnovers proved costly on Monday night, as did another drive that ended at the Minnesota 1-yard line as the Packers fell 30-23.

Starting out the game with possession at their own 26-yard line, quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers on a nice drive, beginning with screen passes to running back Ryan Grant and tight end Donald Lee that picked up 13 and 16 yards respectively. Rodgers also converted two third-and-7s, first finding wide receiver Greg Jennings on the right sideline for a 13-yard gain, and then tight end Jermichael Finley on a slant for an 18-yard pickup down to the Minnesota 24.

But that was as far as they would get. On first down, Rodgers was sacked by defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison at the 33 and fumbled, and linebacker Chad Greenway recovered. The Vikings drove 67 yards on 12 plays, capping the possession off with a 1-yard touchdown pass from Brett Favre to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe to put the Vikings up 7-0.

After the Packers tied the game on Finley's 62-yard touchdown catch, Green Bay's defense forced a three-and-out by the Vikings to give the offense the ball back with good field position at the Green Bay 41.

Rodgers went to work right away, finding Finley for a 9-yard pickup, and Grant followed that up with two 7-yard runs. Facing a third-and-10 at Minnesota's 43, Rodgers found wide receiver Donald Driver on the left sideline for seven yards to force a fourth down at the 36.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy elected to go for the first down rather than risk giving the Vikings good field position with a missed field goal. Rodgers' pass over the middle to Driver went off his hands and was deflected by linebacker E.J. Henderson, but Jennings swooped in to make a diving grab to pick up four yards and the first down.

Two plays later, Jennings was the intended target of Rodgers' pass, but it was one he tried to force into him on the right sideline on an out route. Cornerback Antoine Winfield cut in front of Jennings, posting the first interception of Rodgers since Week 16 in 2008 at Chicago, a string of 159 attempts without a pick.

"You can't have it," McCarthy said. "The two turnovers we had particularly with the sack-fumble took points off the board and the second, the interception, should never have happened. Just the timing and the fit between the quarterback and the receiver is something we cannot let happen there. They took points off the board. "

Compounding the Rodgers' interception was the fact that the Vikings proceeded to once again score after the turnover, this time on a 10-play, 77-yard drive capped off by a Favre touchdown pass to Sidney Rice.

After the Vikings used a little more than four minutes to score on the opening drive of the second half to extend their lead to 28-14, Rodgers once again led the Packers on an impressive drive deep into Minnesota territory.

Starting out at the Green Bay 18, Rodgers found wide receiver Jordy Nelson for a 10-yard pickup to convert a third-and-7. Facing another third down three plays later, Rodgers connected with Driver on a short pass over the middle that Driver took for 24 yards. He found Driver again two plays later, this time for a 14-yard pickup, before hooking up with Grant on another screen pass for 20 yards all the way down to Minnesota's 5.

{sportsad300}On first down, Grant picked up four yards down to the 1, but on second down, fullback John Kuhn came up just short of the goal line on a dive play. Facing third and less than a yard, Rodgers found Finley in the right flat, but he was tackled by linebacker Ben Leber short of the goal line to force a fourth down.

After a timeout to set up the play, Rodgers worked out of the shotgun in an empty backfield. He found tight end Donald Lee wide open in the left side of the end zone, but Lee dropped the pass, extinguishing the Packers' best chance to get back into the game.

"To have three possessions where you are in their territory and come away with zero points...two of them were directly related to mistakes by myself, it's disappointing," Rodgers said.

McCarthy said that he didn't consider kicking the field goal on fourth down that would have made it 28-17 late in the third quarter.

"I'm playing to win," McCarthy said. "I thought it was a good play. Frankly the third-down call bothers me more than anything. They're in a goal-line defense, we're in a goal-line offense and it's a tempo play and the ball was held up by the referee or whatever happened, and frankly I didn't have time to change the play because of the 40-second clock. Liked the fourth-down call, wish I had the third-down call back."

Wishing they could have a play back is something the Packers would say about each of the three scoring opportunities that fell short on Monday night.

"We take pride in not turning the ball over, and we did," Grant said. "We've got to finish. We've got to execute better. To get the ball in their territory I think three times and then come up short, two with turnovers and just getting stuffed, that's not acceptable."

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