A Tale of Two Defenses in Vikings Win Over Packers

Oct 10, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift (32) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) and cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) during the second half at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It was a tale of two defenses when the Minnesota Vikings defeated their division rival Green Bay Packers in a thrilling 31-34 victory yesterday. Charles Dickens himself said it best, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It has now become a routine feeling for Vikings fans. This week they had a reason to celebrate! All wins feel great, but few feel as good as beating the Packers. 

Returning from the IR

The Vikings’ defense had been riddled with several injuries to key players.

PlayerPositionInjury/CovidTime missed
Patrick PetersonCBHamstringSince Week 6
Harrison SmithSCovidTwo Weeks
Anthony BarrOLBKneeOn-going
Vikings players returning week 11

Fans (and coaches alike) had their fingers crossed that the return of these three in Week 11 would help to bolster a defense that had struggled with some inconsistencies. It seemed to be going according to plan until the second half. 

What Went Right

Cornerback Patrick Peterson commented after the game that they had cooked up some new defensive schemes that Green Bay QB, Aaron Rodgers, would not have seen before. You could clearly see that in action during the first half. The defense looked strong and held them to only a field goal in the 1st quarter. One of the best defenders on the field yesterday was Armon Watts. The tackle was instrumental in limiting Green Bay’s ability to run the ball. He also had a huge sack/fumble. While he wasn’t able to recover the ball he did stop that drive in its tracks and prevented them from scoring. Barr had a decent game, although it may have just looked that way in comparison to his counterpart Eric Kendricks. This was despite coming off a knee injury that has plagued him all season. 

The Vikings were able to limit Green Bay’s run game all night. Watts, Barr, Sheldon Richardson, and Dalvin Tomlinson were all difference makers. Bashaud Breeland continues to improve and is finally showing some promise. He allowed only 5 catches for 25 yards and forced an incompletion. Last, but certainly not least, was Harrison Smith. The safety was returning from the Covid list and he had a huge game. He had 1 sack, 2 quarterback hits, and 4 solo tackles. During his sack, he actually pancaked the LT and the RB to get to Rodgers; it was a beautiful sight! 

…and What Went Wrong

The defense definitely had some miscues during the first half but nothing like in the second half, where they seemed to self-destruct. It felt like Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense had sniffed out the Minnesota Vikings schematic changes and were passing the ball almost at will. Eric Kendricks blew his coverage at least once. On Green Bay’s opening drive, Kendricks allowed a 32-yard pick-up that led to a field goal. 

While the team was effective at limiting their run game they gashed Minnesota up through the air. The defense struggled to beat their one-for-one matchups. Xavier Woods gave up 5 catches that allowed 152 yards and 2 TDs. This isn’t the best look for Woods when you have Camryn Bynum chomping at the bit to get in the game. Unfortunately, Peterson seemed to still be a bit banged up coming off that hamstring injury. He gave up considerable yardage to Davante Adams and drew a defensive holding call. 

What it Means Going Forward

While it all worked out in the end and the good guys won the game, the inconsistencies continue to plague us. We have long struggled with the “killer instinct” and the ability to just pull away from our opponents and nail a decisive victory. The Minnesota Vikings self-destruction of the defense is what allowed Green Bay to stay in the game. Fortunately, another area of improvement this game was clock management and Coach Zimmer ran the offense so we kicked a last-second field goal to win (no sure thing if you’re a Viking). Winning this game kept our playoff hopes alive but we have to shore up our defense and stop the bleeding in the secondary if we want to find success in the playoffs.