“Of all people, Trae Waynes…,” Al Michaels announced on NBC‘s Sunday Night Football as the chosen victim of Aaron Rodgers all but sealed the win for the Minnesota Vikings with less than two minutes to play.
The notion spread like wild fire that the Vikings desperately missed Xavier Rhodes, and that figured to be the case as Trae Waynes performed poorly up until the point of the interception.
Rodgers threw at Waynes 14 times, completing six passes for 93 yards. This accounted for nearly 45 percent of the 213 yards of passing offense given up by Minnesota. Waynes was also flagged for nearly 33 percent (46 yards) of the Vikings’ 137 penalty yards.
Despite stats indicating a sub-par outing, Trae Waynes played well for the majority of the game. The number or plays in which he appeared over-matched were minimal. By personal count, Waynes really only had three poor plays on Sunday. Yes, only three.
The Packers sought to expose a Vikings weakness: a young, inexperienced cornerback. Even when Rodgers opted to throw the ball elsewhere, the first read was towards Waynes much of the night. During the second quarter, Cris Collinsworth stated Rodgers was looking to go deep. He pointed out that Waynes had “perfect coverage” forcing Rodgers to shift his attention elsewhere. This is only one of several plays designed to go at Waynes that won’t show up on stat sheets.
Vikings Spotlight: Of All People… Trae Waynes
First Quarter: Advantage Waynes
3rd and 5 (11:22) – Rodgers tries a deep pass to Jordy Nelson. Waynes perfectly covers from start to finish as the pass sails out of bounds.
2nd and Goal, one-yard line (5:44) – Nelson runs what appears to be a slant. Waynes is initially in good position, but Nelson legally pushes off on Waynes inside of five yards, changes direction and heads towards the corner of the end zone wide open. Touchdown Packers. Waynes utilized poor techniques and leverage on this play.
2nd and 8 (:48) – Rodgers’ deep shot to Davante Adams flies high and out of bounds as Waynes is right in front of Adams in perfect position. Had this throw been on target, Waynes likely breaks up the pass or intercepts.
Second Quarter: Advantage Waynes
1st and 10 (6:58) – Pass is short and incomplete to Nelson as Waynes is perfect coverage again.
3rd and 3 (6:12) – Rodgers throws a short pass to Nelson. Waynes is right there, but somehow the ball gets through as Nelson hauls it in. Nelson turns it into a 21-yard gain.
1st and 10 (:27) – Its a Hail Mary. Waynes is in perfect coverage, but the receiver pushes off to make the catch resulting in Offensive Pass Interference.
Halftime Impressions: Notwithstanding the unlucky 21-yard reception by Jordy Nelson, Waynes is playing an almost-perfect game in coverage.
Third Quarter: Advantage Rodgers & Company
2nd and 11 (13:52) – Waynes blankets Nelson down the sidelines. Rodgers pass flies high and out of bounds.
3rd and 11 (13:49) – Rodgers hits Jared Cook for an apparent first down. Cook runs backwards and ends up short of the marker gaining 10 yards. Expecting inside help on the play, Waynes appears to blow the coverage. Not knowing for sure, Waynes takes the heat.
1st and 10 (10:34) – Waynes picks up a penalty for pass interference versus Cobb on the play, a 13-yarder. Collinsworth questions the call stating if that is pass interference, but there is pass interference on virtually every play. Cris was not only accurate with the call, but also sensible in believing Waynes’ temporary unraveling.
2nd and 11 (9:25) – Rodgers pass is incomplete, but a Waynes’ hold away from the ball gives the Pack a first down. Collinsworth starts to justifiably get on Waynes. Waynes sits out the next two plays, appearing to be benched. After the game, Mike Zimmer stated Waynes was simply gassed.
2nd and 14 (1:12) – Rodgers airs it out to Nelson. In good coverage, Waynes turns for the ball and knocks it away. What looked to be incidental contact turned into a 28-yard penalty against the Vikings. Collinsworth stated that it was definitely Defensive Pass Interference. Thousands of Vikings fans disagreed.
Fourth Quarter: Advantage Rodgers & Co. until Waynes closes the deal
3rd and 18 (14:18) – Rodgers throws up a prayer to Nelson into double coverage. Waynes is in front of the receiver, but Nelson goes up and gets it for a 39-yard reception. Andrew Sendejo is late getting to ball to support Waynes. Here, Sendejo actually deserves more fault.
3rd and 3 (8:43) – Waynes gives up a 10-yard slant to Devante Adams. Waynes is there to make the tackle, but a nice move by Adams at the line of scrimmage created space. Waynes clearly get beats on this play.
2nd and 10 (3:14) – Vikings go to a zone coverage look. Adams catches the 13-yard pass as he cuts towards the middle of the field. Waynes makes the tackle immediately. Due to zone coverage, it’s hard to pin this one on Waynes entirely.
3rd and 14 (1:56) – Zimmer moves Waynes back to bump-and-run coverage. Rodgers tries to force a pass to Adams, but Waynes intercepts it. Waynes is in perfect coverage once again.
Based on the body of work, Waynes did not have a bad game but had a handful of bad plays. That said, Waynes earned a letter grade of “B-” for his decent outing. Unfortunately, Waynes gave up two plays totaling 60 yards despite positioning himself perfectly to make those plays. While those plays do count, credit is due for providing tight coverage on both occasions. Given Rodgers propensity for destroying opposing secondaries, Mr. Waynes proved he has the talent to start in the NFL. He fought and won several battles, coming up big in two-thirds of the plays that were displayed on the box score.
Don’t be surprised if the Vikings move Waynes ahead of Newman on the depth chart and start him opposite of Rhodes once he returns. This 22-year old kid is ready to play every day.