Why We ... Tied: 4 Takeaways From Sunday's Game

Posted Nov 25, 2013

The Vikings and Green Bay Packers met for the 107th time in series history on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field, but these familiar foes also did something that had only been done one other time in their long-standing rivalry – they tied.

Yes, the Vikings and Packers battled to a 26-26 tie, with the Packers running down the Vikings late after outscoring the visitors 16-3 in the 4th quarter but then the Vikings bowing up in overtime and forcing the tie after giving up a field goal on the opening possession of the extra period.

It was a weird, exciting, thrilling game played in cold conditions and a lot happened in five full quarters of action. So what exactly led to the outcome of a tie? Here are a few ideas…

Ponder played well, ground game was hitting on all cylinders
The Vikings marched into Lambeau Field on Sunday as five-point underdogs but were the better team for much of the game. Quarterback Christian Ponder was sharp and smart with the ball, completing 21 of 30 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions for a passer rating of 103.9. He connected with nine different receivers on the afternoon and averaged 7.8 yards per attempt. Complementing Ponder’s play under center was a powerful ground game that made mincemeat of the Packers defense. The offensive line, with quality blocking help from Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton, the tight ends and receivers, opened up holes for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart all afternoon. The reigning MVP ripped off 146 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries and Gerhart had 91 rushing yards on just eight carries. At times the ground game was dominant, particularly in the first Vikings first overtime possession when they racked up 50 rushing yards on eight attempts to setup Blair Walsh’s game-tying field goal.

This type of run-pass balance is what the Vikings need to put themselves in a position to win games, regardless of who the opponent happens to be. Players executed their assignments well all day, particularly the offensive line, and offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave had a great mix of play calls, with his best call of the game being either the decision to run the ball three consecutive times on the goal line late in the first half or his decision to call a draw to Peterson on 3rd and 9 from the Minnesota 21 while trailing by three in overtime.

Issues in the red zone
An issue both the Vikings defense and offense had against Green Bay was red zone scoring.

Offensively, the Vikings were in the red zone five times and came away with just two touchdowns on those trips. Not one issue was to blame for the offense’s inability to tally touchdowns in the red zone, but it’s something Musgrave and his staff will take a look at this week as they prepare for another divisional showdown (Chicago comes to town on Sunday). Congratulations go to the players who scored the Vikings red zone touchdowns, though. Peterson recorded his 10th rushing touchdown of the season, giving him 10+ rushing touchdowns in every season of his career and tying him with Priest Holmes for 14th all-time with 86 career rushing touchdowns. The other red zone touchdown went to tight end Rhett Ellison, who scored his first career touchdown midway through the 3rd quarter.

Defensively, the Vikings were in the red zone five times and they surrendered three touchdowns. The first score was a scramble by quarterback Scott Tolzien on a play where the defense had everything covered up and also pressured Tolzien. The other two scores came at the hands of running back Eddie Lacy and receiver Jarrett Boykin. Both of those scores came in the 4th quarter, and had the Vikings defense been able to bow up on one of those occasions, the outcome of the game may well have been different.

Goal line stand, offense responds in overtime
There were a number of times the Vikings were close to losing (and winning) the game on Sunday. The closest call of the day came on the first drive of overtime. Green Bay won the toss and elected to receive, and in just seven plays they drove to the Minnesota 7 and had a 1st and goal to go. But the Vikings defense stood up at that point, holding to five yards on consecutive carries and then forcing an incomplete pass by Matt Flynn and 3rd and goal. Green Bay then decided to kick a field goal and the Vikings were still alive.

The offense responded to the second life, driving the ball from their own 20 to the Green Bay 13 behind road-grading run blocking from the offensive line and a back-and-forth combination of Peterson (17 rushing yards) and Gerhart (33 yards). On 3rd and 14 from the Green Bay 17, Ponder found Cordarrelle Patterson running open in the end zone. He rifled a pass to Patterson, but Packers defensive back Davon House got a fingertip on the ball just enough to ruin Patterson’s concentration and cause an incompletion. Walsh came on to salvage a score and tie the game – that wound up being the final score of the game as the team’s exchanged three punts after that.

Big days for young defenders Cole, Rhodes
The Vikings defense has been decimated by injuries this season, but that is giving young players an opportunity to play and prove to the team they belong on the field. Two players in particular who did that on Sunday in Green Bay were rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes and second-year linebacker Audie Cole.

Rhodes has flashed first-round talent all season, but Sunday’s game was easily the most complete performance of the season for the rookie. He came into the game leading the Vikings in passes defensed and added four more to his total, disrupting would-be completions regularly and showing great recovery skills even when he was initially beaten on a route. Unfortunately, Rhodes was evaluated for a concussion during the game so his status going forward is uncertain.

Cole made his first career regular season start on Sunday in place of Erin Henderson, and all he did was lead the team in tackles with 13 and tally a sack on the first play of the game. Cole was active the entire day, pressuring often from his middle linebacker spot and seemingly always being around the ball. Surely he had a miscue here and there against a talented offense with an improving offensive line and a bruising running back in Lacy, but overall Cole played well and was a reason the Vikings were able to go into Lambeau Field and battle the Packers to a tie.

Miscellaneous notes
-- The Vikings defense held Green Bay’s offense to just three of 16 (19%) on 3rd downs.
-- Green Bay sacked Ponder six times on the afternoon, including a crucial sack late in the 4th quarter when the Vikings were trying to run out the clock.
-- Brian Robison had 1.0 sack and was disruptive throughout the game and dominated his matchup with right tackle Marshall Newhouse.
-- Gerhart averaged 11.4 yards per carry on the afternoon and in his last two games has 15 carries for 158 yards.
-- Patterson was targeted 11 times by Ponder and came down with eight receptions for 54 yards on the afternoon. He also had a 57-yard kickoff return.
-- Punter Jeff Locke had one of his better games as a pro, landing three of his six punts inside the 20, booming a 50-yarder and recording a net average of 42.8.