A young and banged up Vikings team turned it around on a short week and traveled to Lambeau Field for a showdown with the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. The outcome was a lopsided victory for Green Bay in the 108th edition of the Border Battle, as the Packers struck early and didn't relent in a 42-10 victory.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday night's loss to Green Bay.
1. Green Bay Played Better Up FrontWhen the Vikings had the ball, QB Christian Ponder was pressured constantly (sacked six times) and the rushing attack never got going (4.4 yards/attempt). When Green Bay had the ball, the Vikings couldn't pressure QB Aaron Rodgers frequently enough (two sacks) and the Packers got their running game on track (28 carries, 156 yards, two touchdowns). In last week's win over the Atlanta Falcons, the Vikings front lines dominated, but that wasn't the case on Thursday night in Green Bay. It's important that both the Vikings defensive line and offensive line identify and address the mistakes because the next opponent – the Detroit Lions – features a physical line on both sides of the ball.
2. Lack of Explosive Runs, Lopsided Score Led to Offensive ImbalanceAs mentioned above, the Vikings offensive line dominated the Falcons defensive front last week, and one of the results was a productive rushing attack where the Vikings racked up 241 yards on 44 carries. Against the Packers on Thursday night, though, the Vikings couldn't get into a similar groove. The Vikings averaged just 3.4 yards per carry over the first 12 attempts, and no running back had a run of more than six yards over those 12 carries. An inability to get the ground game going eventually forced the Vikings to force the issue with the passing game, and that's when Green Bay was able to pressure Ponder and pounce on his mistakes.
View images from Thursday's game at Lambeau Field between the Vikings and Packers.
3. Vikings Couldn't Flip Poor Field Position
From the first possession through most of the second half, the Vikings just couldn't seem to find an advantage in the field position battle. Four of the Vikings first six possessions began inside their own 20 and no possession in the first half began past the Minnesota 21. Furthermore, the Vikings didn't cross midfield until the end of the 3rd quarter. The Packers, meanwhile, had first-half possessions start at the Green Bay 39 (drive resulted in a touchdown), another at the Green Bay 49 and yet another at the Minnesota 20 (drive resulted in a touchdown). Green Bay continuously capitalized on this great field position while the Vikings struggled to dig themselves out of holes, and it wound up being a vicious cycle that contributed to the lopsided score.
4. Teddy Time Returns Next WeekThe Vikings have dealt with a barrage of injuries early this season. While the team will surely not cite that as an excuse for substandard play, it's only fair to acknowledge it as a factor in the 2-3 start. The quarterback position has been impacted as much as any by injury, with the Vikings starting their third different player at the position on Thursday night. But there's good news – it sounds like rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who impressed in his first start last week against Atlanta, will be back in action a week from Sunday. Asked if the Vikings would have to consider alternative options at quarterback if Bridgewater would be unable to play next week or moving forward, Zimmer said: "Bridgewater's gonna go." Then, when asked a follow up question about Bridgewater playing next week, Zimmer reiterated: "I anticipate that, yes."
5. Vikings Have 10 Days to Address Problems, Bounce BackThe flip side of having to play on a Thursday night is that the team receives a few extra days on the back end of the short week to rest, recharge and prepare for the following week's opponent. For the Vikings, that means 10 days to address problems and prepare for the Detroit Lions, who will come to Minnesota for a divisional game on October 12. As Zimmer mentioned during his post-game press conference, there's nothing any of the coaches or players can do now about Thursday night's loss. But there is a lot they can do about how the team will perform in the future, and that work has already begun and will continue as early as Friday.