Packers’ secondary collapses in fourth quarter
By Bob McGinn, Journal-Sentinel
~MPLS – One shocking home-run ball. Three woeful plays on third down.
The Green Bay Packers walked out of the Metrodome as losers for a boatload of reasons Sunday, but the collapse of their secondary in the fourth quarter probably was the most damaging of all.
“You’d rather lose this week than next week,” linebacker Erik Walden said after the 37-34 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. “We’re good. We’ve got to make the corrections and get our Mojo back.”
The Packers had just drawn even for the first time, 27-27, on Mason Crosby’s 40-yard field goal with 12 minutes 21 seconds remaining.
Starting from his 21, quarterback Christian Ponder made a good play-action fake and had ample time to watch Jarius Wright run right past cornerback Sam Shields on the left side.
The rookie made the catch about 48 yards downfield before he was tracked down by Shields after a 65-yard gain.
It was 11 yards longer than the Vikings’ longest reception of the season.
“He just got behind me,” said Shields. “We were in Cover-3 (three deep). It looked like it was going to be underthrown, but it wasn’t.”
After a 12-yard burst by Adrian Peterson, the Vikings had third and goal from the 12. Toby Gerhart gained just 5 on a screen pass to the left but way over near the right sideline was a penalty flag.
Tramon Williams had been called for illegal hands to the face. He went at wide receiver Michael Jenkins hard and paid the price.
“He was just pushing off the whole (expletive) game,” said Williams. “The referees acted like they didn’t see nothing.
“You’ve got to bring some fight to your job sometimes. It’s the time of the year you can bring it out. You’ve just got to be more composed.”
Did Williams retaliate for Jenkins’ aggressiveness?
“I really wasn’t trying to get to the face,” he said. “A lot of times receivers come off the line and drop their hips and get into where you’re punching at.
“I wasn’t doing it on purpose. But I was doing it with violence.”
That left the Vikings at the 7, and Peterson was stacked up for gains of just 2 yards on the next two plays.
On third down, Ponder bought time with his feet and scrambled left. Jenkins worked into the middle of the end zone against Shields, then broke his route back outside where he was picked up by free safety M.D. Jennings, who appeared to be the free man in the coverage.
Ponder threw hard to Jenkins, who made a fine diving catch just in front of the diving Jennings for the touchdown.
“It kind of went through my hands a little bit,” Jennings admitted. “I touched it, but he made a great catch and he threw a great ball.”
That gave Minnesota a 34-27 lead, but the Packers drove 78 yards to tie the score once again.
Beginning from the 28, Ponder was hurried into an incompletion before B.J. Raji smothered Peterson for minus-1.
Before the third-and-11 play, both teams had a long time to set strategy because it was the two-minute warning.
The Vikings ran several vertical routes against a Packers defense that was trying to make it look like man-under coverage but in reality was zone all the way.
The Packers bailed off the line after the snap trying to confuse the second-year quarterback.
“We were in zone,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “We tried to make it look like something else, but we were in zone.”
On the far left, Jenkins knew he had to get 11 yards or else Aaron Rodgers would have gotten the ball with about 1:50 left.
So he stopped in front of the Packers’ bench in a window behind Hayward and in front of Shields and Morgan Burnett.
Jenkins made the catch for 25 yards. Four carries in a row by Peterson gained 37 yards, and Blair Walsh followed with the game-winner.