* GREEN BAY, Wisc. —* The Vikings defense wasn’t about to start celebrating any moral victories inside a quiet locker room at Lambeau Field.
Not after a sour 21-16 loss to Minnesota’s most bitter rival, even if the defense did play lights out for the game’s final three quarters.
No, there are no moral victories when a veteran defense gives up 21 points and didn’t seem to have an answer for anything in the game’s first 16 minutes.
“We knew they’d start fast,” Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said of the Packers offense. “They didn’t start fast last week [against Chicago], so we figured they would.
“They caught us in a couple of things, and we were a little banged up in the secondary, so we made some adjustments,” Zimmer added.
Said linebacker Anthony Barr: “They did a couple things that were different early, but nothing we’re not capable of stopping. We still have to play better in that situation.”
Minnesota’s first three defensive drives were a disaster, as the Packers gained 176 yards on their first 19 plays, good for nine-plus yards per play.
Green Bay opened the game with 39-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to wide receiver Davante Adams, who snuck past Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith.
“I mean, it was a new play. We thought something else,” Rhodes said. “There was no audible or nothing. Adams ran a different route than we thought he’d normally run on film.
“So I thought something, Harry thought something. It’s just not what we’d seen on film, and he just broke it off,” Rhodes added. “The first 15 plays are always different from what you see on film. It was a good play at the right time.”
The Packers needed just four plays to score for an early 7-0 lead. Minnesota’s deficit turned into 14-0 after the second drive, an 11-play sequence where Green Bay went 63 yards in 5:58.
A Vikings turnover then gave the Packers possession at Minnesota’s 33-yard line, and Green Bay scored four plays later.
“We started slowly. We have to come out and start faster than what we did today,” said Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter. “Definitely a lot of stuff we have to work on. That’s a good football team, but we have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Down 21-0, the Vikings defense kicked it in gear for the rest of the game, as Green Bay didn’t make it to the red zone for the game’s final 46 minutes.
After allowing 176 yards on the first 19 plays, Minnesota allowed 159 yards on Green Bay’s final 50 plays of Sunday’s game.
“We had to make up for how we played early on,” Barr said. “Proud of the way we played the rest of the game … shut them down for the most part … but it was too little, too late.”
Added Smith: “Everybody kind of calmed down, and we started playing our game.”
Perhaps the biggest difference came on third down, where the packers started 3-for-3 and didn’t even get to the down on their first and third drives of the game.
In the end, Green Bay converted five of 15 chances on third down, meaning the Vikings held them to just two successful tries on the Packers final dozen chances.
“Just started mixing up some calls and giving them different looks,” Barr said. “Just playing better, really.”
Minnesota also sacked Rodgers twice — with Hunter and Linval Joseph getting to the quarterback in the second half.
Rodgers began the game completing 10 of 11 for 141 yards and two scores, but was 12-of-23 for 68 yards the rest of the game.
Minnesota was depleted in the secondary as cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander and Mike Hughes both did not play. Linebacker Ben Gedeon also missed Sunday’s game.
The Vikings relied on Rhodes and Trae Waynes, while Jayron Kearse mostly played as the slot cornerback. Rookie Nate Meadors, an undrafted free agent from UCLA, also saw the field.
“Once we got settled in, we know the type of defense we have,” said Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. “We have guys that fly around and make plays. And once we got them settled in and the offense started making plays, the defense started making plays.
“It works hand-in-hand – special teams, offense and defense,” Cook added. “I think once everybody started clicking, you started seeing the Minnesota Vikings.”
Minnesota forced a pair of turnovers on the day, with Smith causing and recovering a first-half fumble. Defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa later corralled a Rodgers fumble on a snap.
But the valiant effort over the final three quarters wasn’t enough to mask a tough start, as the Vikings fell to 1-1 before Sunday’s game against Oakland at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” Barr said. “Fortunately, it’s only Week 2, so we’ll get better and learn from this and get ready for next week.”
Added Hunter: “If we would have started fast enough, maybe we would have won the game.”