|Photo by Jeff Hanisch, USA Today|
The Eagles gained a lot of yards, but the Packers forced just enough mistakes to hold them to 20 points. For the second week in a row, Clay Matthews' part-time gig as an inside linebacker paid dividends, with Matthews causing matchup problems inside, and registering a sack when lined up outside. Julius Peppers scored his second interception return touchdown of the year, and did a MUCH better Lambeau Leap this time. I assume he has been practicing.
On offense, in re-watching the game, I was impressed by the front line's protection of Rodgers. He was sacked once, but otherwise generally had plenty of time. If I am not mistaken, this is the first time in years that the same 5 offensive linemen have started every game all season, despite some of them being banged up in a number of games. That continuity is making a lot of difference, as is more attention to quick releases by Rodgers, screen passes, and other mis-direction plays. The highlight of the game for me, even though the game was already out of reach, was Eddie Lacy's 4th quarter "boom . .boom . . boom" style touchdown on a short dump-off pass to the left side. Thirty-two yards and five would-be tacklers later, Lacy was in the end zone. Most of the country missed the score, as Fox, I think, had already switched to another game, but what an impressive effort by Lacy.
One thing that I have not seen written about anywhere is whether Jordy Nelson hurt himself in the first quarter of the game. Watching on TV, we both had the impression that he came up with a slight limp after a long incomplete pass on a free play, when the Eagles jumped offsides. He missed a couple of plays, then returned and played the rest of the game, and did not appear on any injury reports this week, so I have to assume he will not be hampered in any way on Sunday.
Special teams was more of a mixed bag. Micah Hyde had a great punt return for a touchdown, but there was also a botched extra point and a missed extra point. If you are going to miss easy kicks, do it in blowout games where it doesn't make any difference.
This week, the Packers get to play the Vikings outdoors, at the University of Minnesota. It will be the first Packers-Vikings road game played outside since 1981. While the Metrodome was mostly a house of horrors for the Packers in the Brett Favre era, the same has not been true for the McCarthy-Rodgers era. The Packers are 8-1-1 in their last 10, and 3-1 in the last four games at the Metrodome. Playing outdoors in Minnesota, if anything, has to be a plus for the Packers. The Vikings' temporary stadium only holds 52,000, and of course with an open end, and an open roof, it has to be easier on the ears than the Humptydome. Weather shouldn't really be a factor either way, as the high will be near 40 degrees, unless it is raining.
The Vikings are playing better recently than they were earlier in the year, and Teddy Bridgewater looks like he will be a definite upgrade for the Vikings at quarterback. All of which sets this game up as a potential "trap" game. The Packers have had many of these games over the years. The would-be perfect season in 2011 was spoiled by the trap game against Kansas City. The Chiefs had their own trap game Thursday night against the previously winless Raiders. Still, I just can't see the Vikings keeping up with the Packers on Sunday, and I expect a comfortable win. You could argue that the Packers are "peaking" too early this season, but I don't think that it will make any difference on Sunday. And, if the Lions lose in their visit to New England on Sunday, the Packers will find themselves in sole possession of first place in the division come Sunday evening.