Mike Zimmer versus Aaron Rodgers. One of the game’s great defensive minds would face one of the best quarterbacks of this generation once again, and the two men didn’t mince loving words for the other. This was going to be a game that was going to take 60 minutes of focus from both the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers. Until it didn’t.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers exited the game in the first quarter. following a hit by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. Rodgers, who had some choice words for Barr as he walked off the field, finished two of four passing for 18 yards. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone that could keep him out for the remainder of the season. The complexion of the game, season, and league changed completely, and the Vikings won comfortably 23-10. With a game that gave fans plenty to chew on, let’s take a look at three takeaways from the Vikings victory.
Week Six Minnesota Vikings Takeaways
Rodgers’ Injury Opens Up the NFC North
With Sunday’s victory, the Vikings improved to 4-2 and own the tiebreaker over the Packers. The Detroit Lions lost 52-38 to the New Orleans Saints and fell to 3-3. The Vikings have a much better roster top-to-bottom than the Packers (who suffered other injuries during the game) and Vikings quarterback Case Keenum improved to 2-2 as a starter for the team, not including his relief efforts in last Monday’s win against the Chicago Bears.
The Vikings face the Baltimore Ravens next week and have the Cleveland Browns the week after. Minnesota could realistically be 6-2 heading into their bye week. Green Bay faces New Orleans next week, and then, following their bye week, take on the Lions. The Vikings could have a two-and-a-half game lead on the Packers, setting up a two-team race between Minnesota and Detroit in the season’s second half.
The Defense Continued its Dominance
Obviously losing a Hall of Fame quarterback will affect any team’s game plan, but the Vikings knew going into the game that they would need to contain Packers rookie running back Aaron Jones. Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, Jones ran 19 times for 125 yards and a score. With backup quarterback Brett Hundley at the helm, the Vikings were able to focus more on the run game, holding Jones to 41 yards on 13 carries.
Hundley, meanwhile, was 18-of-33 for 157 yards passing, throwing one touchdown along with three interceptions. The Vikings brought exotic blitzes when he entered the game, with safety Harrison Smith leading the team with 1.5 sacks and adding an interception.
Star cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadowed Packers receiver Davante Adams most of the game, with Adams to five catches for 54 yards on ten targets. Rhodes also intercepted a pass in the first quarter after fellow cornerback Mackensie Alexander deflected a pass into the air. Trae Waynes closed the Packers out for a second straight season at U.S. Bank Stadium, intercepting a pass in the final minute.
The team finished with four sacks but was consistently bringing pressure on Hundley, taking advantage of a Packers offensive line that suffered several injuries throughout the game. Defensive end Everson Griffen had a sack in his sixth straight game to open the season, giving him seven sacks total this year. The league’s best third down defense held the Packers to only four of 17 on third down conversions. The ten points given up followed Vikings turnovers that gave the Packers short fields.
McKinnon Continues Admirably Filling in for Cook
Running back Jerick McKinnon followed up strong 2014 and 2015 campaigns with a sub-par 2016 season. His struggles continued into this season, so when star rookie Dalvin Cook tore his ACL in week four, many wondered how the team would split carries between McKinnon and veteran Latavius Murray.
While Murray has been a mixed bag so far, McKinnon has had two big games since entering the starting lineup. Following a 95 yard showing on the ground last week against Chicago that included a 58 yard touchdown (along with 51 yards through the air), McKinnon added 69 yards and a touchdown on the ground against Green Bay. He was a weapon out of the backfield again, scoring on a 27-yard screen pass in the second quarter.
The Vikings will face the 3-3 Ravens next Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.