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Lunchbreak: Takeaways from Border Battle Include Vikings Air Attack 

A lot went on in the Vikings-Packers duel that ended in a 29-29 tie Sunday afternoon.

In a roundtable article reviewing all of the day’s games, NFL.com’s Nick Shook offered three takeaways from the Border Battle, including Minnesota’s passing game led by Kirk Cousins. Shook wrote:

It might sound tired by now, but the Packers decided to make the Vikings beat them by the air, and it was once again the Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen show. Never was it more present than on Minnesota’s final drive of regulation, when Cousins completed an unlikely touchdown pass thanks to an incredible catch made by Thielen in traffic at the front corner of the end zone. Needing two to tie, Cousins then turned to the other side of the field for a fade thrown to Diggs, who ran an excellent route to the back pylon for the successful conversion. The two combined for 21 catches, 259 yards and three touchdowns, all of which being very necessary for Minnesota to overcome a 13-point deficit with a furious, 22-point fourth quarter. All of this was achieved with very little of a running game, thanks to Green Bay’s commitment to stopping Dalvin Cook. Should the Vikings get these things going earlier (and creep closer to a balanced attack), they will be a fearsome offense for opponents all season long.

Shook’s other two observations from the Vikings road game were the three missed field goals by rookie kicker Daniel Carlson and Green Bay’s defensive approach. Shook said that the Packers heavy use of its base defense “paid off through two quarters” but that the team changed its strategy in the second half.

Green Bay shifted to calling five-plus defensive back groupings for most of the second half (understandable, considering the Vikings essentially abandoned the run out of necessity in the fourth) and struggled as the Vikings clawed their way back into the game through the air. 

Rodgers resorted to ‘heavier diet’ of quick passes against Vikings

The Vikings defense contained the Packers late in the game, but Aaron Rodgers still proved he could do some damage despite the knee injury he suffered the previous week. 

Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune said that the “working theory” about Rodgers is that he may have to scale back on outside-the-pocket throws and transition to “a heavier diet of quick passes” as he continues to get older, and Minnesota saw a sample of that style of play. Goessling wrote:

The 34-year-old Rodgers played that way on Sunday not because of his age but because of the bulky brace he wore on his sprained left knee. If what the Vikings saw Sunday was a preview of what they’ll get from Rodgers in future years, it represented a stark difference from what they’re used to seeing.

According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers took an average of just 2.24 seconds before throwing on Sunday, down from his 2.65-second average in Week 1 and his 2.55-second average last year. He completed 21 of his 23 passes when he released the ball in 2.5 seconds or less, posting a passer rating of 105.4 on those throws.

Goessling pointed out that Rodgers was sacked once in the first half and found room to throw when blitzed, “even though the Vikings got to him three times in the second half.”

Goessling referenced ESPN Stats and Information, which said that Rodgers was 9 of 9 for 87 yards when blitzed (“though the Vikings did sack him to end the Packers lone overtime drive on a blitze from Mackensie Alexander”).

Overall, though, it’s worth noting that the Vikings had to bring extra heat after Rodgers in the second half, and how effective he was when they did. Things figure to get easier next week at home, against rookie Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.

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