MINNEAPOLIS – Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer tried to turn the clock back to 2012, when opponents ignored the Packers running game and focused their efforts on stopping Aaron Rodgers and the team's explosive passing attack. That was then, this is now.
Eddie Lacy is the difference. He gives the Packers a running game that can't be ignored. Instead, opponents are forced to pick their poison. The Vikings picked Lacy. Death came slowly, but surely, 24-21.
"They played a lot of two shell (safeties) and tried to take away Jordy (Nelson) and Randall (Cobb). Eddie ran it well. Finished off the game the right way," Rodgers said in his postgame interview.
As games go, this one won't do a lot for Rodgers' MVP campaign. He threw a couple of touchdown passes to reach 30 for the season, but this wasn't one of those six-touchdown, 400-yard spectacles that Sportscenter would trumpet over and over in its next 24-hour cycle.
Other quarterbacks had bigger days on Sunday. Rodgers' day was spent being the kind of quarterback that wins in the postseason, which is to say the kind of quarterback armed with a running game that controls the action.
"We didn't have a lot of drives. We had a couple of big drives," Rodgers said.
It's what the Vikings made Rodgers be on this gray day at TCF Bank Stadium.
Rodgers was important at crunch time, when he marched the Packers 87 yards to a game-clinching touchdown. He converted two third downs, one with his arm and one with his legs, and he tossed a nifty shovel pass to Eddie Lacy and Lacy rumbled 10 yards for a touchdown that turned out the lights on the Vikings and put a major dent in the Lions' title hopes, too.
"Eddie never goes down with first contact. He's agile for a guy of his size. He takes care of the football and does everything you want," Rodgers said.
The Vikings had the perfect game plan. They shortened the game; limited the Packers to a mere 62 plays. They took the game out of Rodgers' hands and put it into Lacy's, and still lost. That's what's important to note about this game: The Packers can clobber you with the pass, or beat you more respectably with the run.
How do you wish to die?
"It's different to play against a Mike Zimmer team. He had a great plan for us. Ball control was important for them; limiting the number of possessions in the game. They tackled pretty well and covered pretty well. You have to give them credit," Rodgers said.
Next week's game will likely be different. Rodgers' counterpart will be none other than Tom Brady. It's a game that'll be billed as a shootout between the two best quarterbacks in the game, and it's a game that likely won't disappoint.
The MVP might be on the line.
"Everything is right in front of us. We're 4-1 in the division, which is where you want to be. We have three of five at home. You have to take advantage of those," Rodgers said.
"Teams are going to take away what we do best," he added. "What we do best is get the ball to Jordy and Randall, so they tried to take them out of the game. Randall hit a couple of big third-down conversions. This is a big win. Needing two first downs to close out the game; that was big for us. Those are big character drives for us."
Head Coach Mike McCarthy had such trust in his running game to close out the win that he "put us in jumbo and felt confident we could get it done," Rodgers said of the final 3:23. The Packers didn't need to throw a pass.
"You have to give them credit. They held us to a low amount of passing yards."
And the Packers still won. That's the difference between what the Packers are now and what they weren't a few years ago. COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE