Minnesota Vikings expect to see very hungry Green Bay Packers
MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Green Bay Packers got off to a 1-2 start last year, quarterback Aaron Rodgers spelled out to worried fans that they needed to "R-E-L-A-X."...
MINNEAPOLIS - When the Green Bay Packers got off to a 1-2 start last year, quarterback Aaron Rodgers spelled out to worried fans that they needed to “R-E-L-A-X.”
Now, Green Bay has lost three in a row. And Rodgers says he doesn’t have an answer yet to appease panicking Packers fans.
“I don’t have any catch phrases yet,” Rodgers said. “Stay tuned.”
It is anything but business as usual for a Rodgers-led team to drop three straight. It hasn’t happened since his first season as a starter in 2008. In 2013, the Packers lost three straight games during a 0-4-1 stretch, but that happened when Rodgers was out with a broken collarbone.
“To see them lose three in a row, it’s like, ‘Whoa, Green Bay lost three in a row,’” Minnesota Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “It’s definitely shocking.”
When the teams meet Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium, the Vikings hope to extend their rival’s losing streak. But they know it won’t be easy.
“We’re expecting them to bounce back and give us their best shot,” said linebacker Anthony Barr. “I’m sure they’ll be very hungry, but so are we. … This is a big game for us as well.”
Indeed it is. A win by the Vikings (7-2) would extend their lead in the NFC North to two games over the Packers (6-3). It would raise their division record to 4-0 and drop Green Bay to 1-2, which could be important for tiebreaker purposes.
Green Bay’s first division loss was ugly, 18-16 at home to Detroit, which had been 1-7. It was the Lions’ first victory at Lambeau Field since 1991.
Green Bay’s other two losses were on the road - and against much better teams. The Packers lost 29-10 on Nov. 1 at Denver (7-2) and 37-29 on Nov. 8 at Carolina (9-0).
“They’ve played some pretty decent teams,” said Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. “Some people might say, ‘Detroit.’ But this is football. No matter who you play, you can lose if your game is not together.”
Green Bay’s play of late has been anything but together. Rodgers has had by his standards a shaky past three weeks, completing 74 of 131 passes (56.5 percent) for 779 yards with six touchdowns and an interception.
In his first six games, a much more efficient Rodgers completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,491 yards with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. The 2014 NFL MVP was limited in practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury before being a full participant Thursday.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the injury is not a concern.
“We’ve got to start faster,” Rodgers said. “We had three (points against Detroit) and then a bunch of punts in a row. We definitely didn’t have any rhythm, and we’ve got to get into rhythm earlier. …. We have to sustain drives better. … We’ve got to try to find a way to be more efficient on offense, and we’ve got to score touchdowns in the red zone when you’re playing a real good football team.”
The Vikings, riding a five-game win streak, certainly are playing good football. They know, though, they need to put pressure on Rodgers to come out on top Sunday.
“We have to be really smart in our rush lanes,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “He can really hurt you (running the ball). We just have to be smart in the way we rush, and we’ve got to find a way to keep him in the pocket, collapse the pocket on him.”
The Vikings can get pointers from Green Bay’s past three games. Rodgers was sacked three times by the Broncos, five by the Panthers and three by the Lions.
Still, Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer is looking at the big picture. The Vikings are honing in on far more than just Packers losses, and they definitely were impressive in their first six games this season.
“They’re a good football team,” Zimmer said. “I have a ton of respect for them. Rodgers is as good as there is. I don’t look at the records, I look at the film.”