What You Might’ve Missed: Close but not quite

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GREEN BAY – There were plenty of times in Sunday night’s loss at Minnesota when Vikings QB Kirk Cousins was well-protected and had time to survey the field and make the throws he needed to.

But it’s not as though the Packers’ pass rush was non-existent all game. Even though Cousins was sacked only twice, there were at least a handful of times the Packers got significant pressure on Cousins, only to see him stand in and deliver a productive if not pinpoint throw to keep the Vikings moving.

Four of those times (Plays 2-5 below) were on the same drive at the end of the second quarter when the Packers were repeatedly on the verge of a stop to get the ball back and possibly grab the lead by halftime.

It was a night of close but not quite for Green Bay’s pass rush. Here’s a review.

Play No. 1: Second-and-9 from the Minnesota 18, second quarter, 8:22 left

Result: 33-yard completion to WR Adam Thielen

The more you watch this play, the more you can’t help but be impressed by Cousins’ throw. He’s got LB Clay Matthews (52) looping around and closing in from behind, and DL Dean Lowry (94) beats LG Tom Compton (79) to get right in front of him, throwing up both his hands. Not only does Cousins get the throw off, and somehow Lowry doesn’t deflect it, but it falls perfectly into Thielen’s hands for a big gain.

Play No. 2: Second-and-7 from the Minnesota 13, second quarter, 2:51 left

Result: 8-yard completion to RB Dalvin Cook

Here it’s Matthews’ bull rush of RT Brian O’Neill (75) that gets him in Cousins’ face almost immediately, but he gets rid of the ball just in time to Cook. The missed tackles turns this into a first down for the Vikings when it could have, and probably should have, set up Minnesota for third-and-long deep in its own territory.

Play No. 3: Second-and-11 from the Minnesota 20, second quarter, 2:00 left

Result: 6-yard completion to TE Kyle Rudolph

Two plays later, and one play after Lowry makes a nice tackle for loss on a first-down run, he comes right up the middle on Cousins, who again stands in and delivers. Rudolph makes a reaching, one-handed grab. But again, the Vikings have avoided third-and-long…

Play No. 4: Third-and-10 from the Minnesota 21, second quarter, 1:53 left

Result: 15-yard completion to Thielen

…except they put themselves there anyway with a false start, but again the pass rush is just a tick late. This time it’s DL Kenny Clark (97), who puts forth a Herculean effort to get past C Pat Elflein (65), only to have Cousins find Thielen crossing underneath. Thielen’s open-field move on CB Jaire Alexander (23) moves the chains again.

Play No. 5: Second-and-18 from the Minnesota 28, second quarter, 1:10 left

Result: 11-yard completion to WR Aldrick Robinson

After Clark draws a holding penalty on the Vikings, the Packers get one last chance at the stop where they could get good field position for a final first-half drive. But again it’s Clark with the pressure, though just a tad late, as he comes around DL Montravius Adams (90) on a stunt for a free run at Cousins. But the throw to Robinson is on the money, and the Vikings stay out of third-and-long. They convert and eventually get into field-goal range, but even though they miss the long kick on the final play of the half, the sequence prevented the Packers from getting one more possession before intermission.

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