Two numbers tell you all you need to know about yesterday’s Packers-Vikings game—Green Bay sacked Teddy Bridgewater six times and held Adrian Peterson to 45 rushing yards. If you watched the game, those numbers are just the validation of what you saw, which was a sea of green-gold-white jerseys penetrating the line of scrimmage seemingly at will. And it underscored why this Minnesota team—developing though it may be—is not ready for prime-time.
Minnesota built its 7-2 record prior to this game with a simple formula—play great defense, run Adrian Peterson and rely on Bridgewater just as much as necessary. They do have a genuinely outstanding defense, one that ranked third in the NFL in points allowed coming into the game, with playmakers at every level. But the success running the ball could only have been generated by Peterson. This team’s offensive line is just not very good and it was exposed in spades on Sunday afternoon.
I’m a big fan of Bridgewater and believe he’s developing nicely. He’s got good poise under pressure, and he had plenty of opportunity to demonstrate that on Sunday. He made it through a game under constant duress and playing from behind without throwing an interception. It speaks well to what he’s becoming. It also speaks to the fact Minnesota needs an offensive line.
When a good team—and in spite of their recent struggles, the Packers are most assuredly that—decides it wants to sell out and stop the run, they usually can do it. At the college level, Alabama sold out to stop LSU’s Leonard Fournette and did it. Green Bay did it to Peterson. If you can’t open up the passing game in response, it’s going to be a long afternoon and you can’t open up the passing game without the ability to take deeper drops and give a quarterback real time to scan the field.
Maybe Tom Brady, with his ability to decipher defenses seemingly in the blink of an eye can pull it off. Aaron Rodgers, when playing at his peak, can manage it. Peyton Manning could as recently as a year ago. To ask anyone else, much less a second-year quarterback to do it, is asking too much.
Minnesota is still trending in the right direction. They’re still in great position to make the playoffs and even as a wild-card, could get to the 5-seed and get a shot at the winner of the mediocre NFC East.
I don’t sense that anyone is asking more of the Vikings right now, but their recent surge combined with the Packers’ recent slide, raised the question of whether Minnesota might arrive a year or two ahead of schedule. The Green Bay defensive front seven—a group that’s gotten a deserved amount of flack in recent years—stood up and pushed the insurgents back. The Packers sent a message that they’re still a prime-time team. The Vikings are the equivalent of the nice daytime show that gets good ratings, but need a few more pieces up front before we can shift them to prime-time.