January 3, 2013

Packers vs. Vikings: Three Keys for a Packers Victory

Following a regular season loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome last week, the three-seeded Green Bay Packers will again play their divisional foe, but this time at the Frozen Tundra and in a win-or-go-home game. The winner punches their ticket to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. While the Packers are favorites in the game, the taste of defeat is fresh and the NFC North Champions know they’re in for a challenge. But, if Green Bay can accomplish the below three keys Saturday night, they’ll have less of a problem with the Vikings. 

Lambeau FieldScore early
There are about 20 key decisions/topics Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff talk through each week during their game planning—the coin toss is one of them.

“We’ll talk about the importance of starting fast and we’ll talk about the match-ups and make a decision,” said McCarthy.

Given how the Vikings scored on each of their first three drives of last week’s game and how important scoring first can be from a momentum standpoint—you have to wonder if McCarthy may take the ball if given the opportunity.  

At the same time, McCarthy promised, “We won’t let last week’s performance have an effect on how we feel about this game.”  Either way, the Packers need to put points on the board and early, to force the Vikings out of their game plan of handing the ball to #28 every time.

Control time of possession
Next on the list of keys is to dictate the tempo of the game by owning time of possession. Surely, the Vikings want Aaron Rodgers on the sideline as much as possible, which they accomplished last week.

The Vikings held the ball for 31:55 or 54% of the game, limiting the time the reigning MVP had the ball. In the first game against the Vikings the Packers controlled the ball 64% of the game (38:30). They’ll want to be closer to that number if they expect to hold Peterson in check.

The simplest way to limit Adrian Peterson is to keep him off the field. As effective as Aaron Rodgers and the no huddle offense was in both games against the Vikings, the Packers may want to consider a healthier dose of DuJuan Harris and the running game.

Win the turnover battle
It’s no secret that winning playoff football games is directly correlated with winning the turnover battle. Heck, ask the Packers about that in their last six home playoff games, in which they’re 2-4.

In four of those previous six games, the Packers turned the ball over 4+ times and in total, their turnover ratio is -13 (17 giveaways, 4 takeaways). You won’t win football games doing that.

“We turned it over once and they didn’t,” said Rodgers in his weekly radio show Thursday, referring to the Packers week 17 loss to Minnesota. “We didn’t create any and we had one turnover that turned into seven points for them. That determines who wins and loses.”

Beyond the above three keys, Aaron Rodgers has seven career playoffs appearances (record 5-2) and understands how to win when everything is on the line.

"You make your pay during the regular season and you create your legacy in the post season," Rodgers said. “You have a great team, a great opportunity in front of you and you just want to make the most of it, get back to the Super Bowl and have more of those moments." 

Packer fans are hoping for many more of those moments, starting with Saturday night’s game at Lambeau Field against the Minnesota Vikings.