GREEN BAY – Holding the league's leading receiver in Minnesota's Justin Jefferson to just one catch for 15 yards was mostly due to the work of Packers CB Jaire Alexander.
But as the game film shows, changing up the coverage calls and bracketing Jefferson with different help defenders definitely played a role in him never settling in as the game wore on.
Also, the defense's goal-line stand is worth another look, as is Keisean Nixon's 105-yard kickoff return to the house.
So without further ado …
Play No. 1: Third-and-4 from the Minnesota 39, first quarter, 13:38 left
Result: Incomplete pass
Here's the initial third down of the game, and the Packers make it clear right away they'll be tuned in to Jefferson. Alexander is on him in the slot, but S Rudy Ford (20) turns this into straight-up double coverage, directing his help (and his eyes) nowhere but to Jefferson. Meanwhile, CB Rasul Douglas (29) makes a nice play breaking up the underneath throw to WR Adam Thielen (19) to force an early punt.
Play No. 2: Third-and-10 from the Green Bay 45, first quarter, 6:19 left
Result: 8-yard completion to TE T.J. Hockenson
On another third down later in the opening quarter, the Packers' approach is similar, only this time it's S Adrian Amos (31) who's bracketing Jefferson. The double coverage forces QB Kirk Cousins to take the underneath throw to Hockenson, who comes up 2 yards shy of the first down. On the next play, S Darnell Savage gets a pick-six and the Packers are up 14-3.
Play No. 3: Second-and-6 from the Green Bay 24, first quarter, 2:27 left
Result: Incomplete pass
On Minnesota's next possession, here's a coverage change-up. Alexander gets in Jefferson's face to jam him at the line of scrimmage in man-to-man, but Savage is also lurking in the slot actually playing zone to provide inside help, which is why Alexander makes sure he maintains outside leverage on the jam. DL T.J. Slaton (93) tips this pass at the line, which Alexander clearly believes took away a potential interception opportunity.
Play No. 4A: First-and-15 from the Minnesota 37, second quarter, 8:08 left
Result: Offensive holding
This is included for no other reason than to show Jefferson slip and fall on his route, because of what happens four plays later.
Play No. 4B: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 31, second quarter, 6:00 left
Result: Interception by Amos
Once again, Jefferson falls down and it costs the Vikings dearly. But it's also worth pointing out another coverage look against him, with rookie LB Quay Walker (7) lined up across from him in the slot to disrupt his route, and Amos bracketing him in the back. This time, Slaton's tip at the line doesn't prevent a potential INT but produces one, with Amos making an easy, uncontested catch thanks to Jefferson lying on the ground.
Play No. 5: Third-and-14 from the Green Bay 39, second quarter, :48 left
Result: 7-yard completion to RB Alexander Mattison
Another key third down, and Alexander goes back to jamming Jefferson at the line, almost knocking him down entirely this time. The Vikings were setting up a screen regardless, but it's another example of how Jefferson didn't really know how Alexander and the Packers were going to play him from situation to situation. With the defense dropping eight in coverage on the play, the screen is stopped well short of the first down – with LB Preston Smith (91) making a great hustle play from behind – and the Vikings miss a field goal.
Play No. 6: First-and-10 from the Green Bay 15, third quarter, 7:15 left
Result: Incomplete pass
Now yet another different coverage look vs. Jefferson in the red zone, as the Packers simply play zone. Alexander and Amos bracket Jefferson horizontally, giving him nowhere to go on his route, with LB De'Vondre Campbell (59) the underneath defender effectively rerouting Hockenson. Watch how much Alexander and Amos talk to each other before the snap, too, making sure they're on the same page to handle the route combination from Jefferson and Hockenson. Amos then makes a great break on the goal-line pass to Hockenson and almost gets an interception. On the next play, DL Kenny Clark gets a strip-sack and recovery to thwart the scoring threat.
Play No. 7: First-and-10 from the Minnesota 25, fourth quarter, 14:54 left
Result: Interception by Ford
On what turned out to be the last snap with the Packers' full starting defense in the game, they throw yet another coverage wrinkle against Jefferson. This time, it's Savage running right with him from the slot, knowing Ford is his deep help, and when Ford reads that Cousins is taking the deep shot to Thielen instead, his speed allows him to swoop over for the defense's third INT and fourth takeaway of the game.
Now for a closer look at the goal-line stand early in the game.
First-and-goal from the Green Bay 1, first quarter, 11:50 left
Result: Incomplete pass
Credit Amos for a timely reaction to Thielen leaking into the flat after coming in motion and throwing a chip block on Walker. Amos' coverage isn't perfect, but he makes this a more difficult throw than it would've been had he been a half-step slower in reacting.
Second-and-goal from the Green Bay 1, first quarter, 11:45 left
Result: No gain for RB Dalvin Cook
Several key pieces to the first of two run stops vs. Cook. DL Jarran Reed (90) knocks TE Johnny Mundt (86) into the backfield with a strong initial punch, Walker trashes Thielen's block attempt on the edge, and Smith crashes hard, unblocked, from the other side to make the tackle. That's a lot of disruption from the outside while the interior guys, Slaton in particular against a double-team, hold their ground.
Third-and-goal from the Green Bay 1, first quarter, 11:23 left
Result: 1-yard loss for Cook
The final play is mostly due to Slaton, who beats C Chris Reed (62) off the ball to get in the backfield on Reed's first snap of the game. He's just entered to replace an injured Austin Schlottmann. Walker once again provides disruption on his edge, driving Hockenson back, and as Slaton grabs Cook's jersey, Alexander and Amos are there to close in and clean up. A job well done by all.
Bonus play: Minnesota kickoff, first quarter, 10:38 left
Result: 105-yard TD return by CB Keisean Nixon
Last week's bonus play was Nixon's almost-touchdown in Miami, so why not look at the one that went the distance? Here are the three big keys to busting this one, which has been paused right at the moment Nixon is coming out of the end zone.
- Circle: LB Jonathan Garvin (53) doesn't get a clean block on dodging S Josh Metellus (44), but when Nixon is too fast for Metellus through the hole, Garvin smartly pulls up and raises his arms so as not to get flagged for a block in the back (similar to what LB Krys Barnes did last week against the Dolphins).
- Box: TE Josiah Deguara (81) absolutely pancakes LB William Kwenkeu (47), driving him out of the middle of the field into traffic off to the side.
- Star: And most important, the initial path taken by Nixon and lead blocker CB Corey Ballentine (35) right in front of him draws WR Jalen Nailor (83) out of his middle lane, a catastrophic mistake. Nailor abandons his lane entirely and Nixon has only the kicker to beat.