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Despite Loss to Vikings, Green Bay's Playbook Has Silver Lining

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COMMENTARY | My parents always told me alcohol is its own punishment. The hangover for the Green Bay Packers and their blowout win over the Tennessee Titans was particularly painful and a few aspirin aren't going to do the trick.

Green Bay's defense in particular, looked like a squad who wanted to face Adrian Peterson for a third time, which is to say, they wanted part of him at all. Had the defense taken a few extra hits and actually tried to tackle Peterson, they would be resting this week. Now, because Green Bay couldn't make enough plays to win, they will see Peterson all day (pun intended) this weekend as a 3 seed instead of sitting at home as a 2 seed.

Because they couldn't tackle him, Green Bay will have to face Peterson again. Talk about its own punishment.

Time after time, Packers defenders were in position to make plays in the backfield and either couldn't or failed to even attempt to tackle Peterson.

For some reason, this defense cannot contain this Minnesota offense, despite holding much more balanced and explosive offenses in check. For a game this weekend where temperatures will be frigid and passing conditions will be limited, expect another heavy dose of Peterson, and unless Green Bay magically decides they feel like trying to hit him, it's going to be a long day.

There are some positive takeaways though, for this Vikings game - besides the fact that the loss kept Chicago out of the playoffs.

Sunday's game at the Metrodome might be the toughest road test the Packers face this season including a potential trip to San Francisco or Atlanta. The atmosphere was bedlam, with the Vikes fighting for their playoff lives and Peterson churning toward history. After getting smoked early, the Packers responded with 24 points in the second half including several key drives in the fourth quarter.

If not for a few lucky bounces, like Green Bay being out of timeouts to challenge Jarius Wright's catch off a tip, or Tramon Williams' inexplicable hands to the face penalty which turned 3 points into 7, Green Bay wins.

Minnesota was hungrier. It's hard to match that kind of intensity when you know you're already in the playoffs. To Green Bay, a bye isn't as important as getting into the dance. They know that. It's not an excuse, but rather an explanation of why the Vikings came out with more focus and intensity early.

But by the end of the game, we had a shoot-out as Aaron Rodgers got in one of those groves where he's pretty close to unstoppable. Rodgers finished 28/40 for 342 yards and 4 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 131.8.

Anyone who says Christian Ponder outplayed Aaron Rodgers - there's at least one high-profile sports media commentator who did - is trolling. There's no other explanation.

In doors, Rodgers doesn't lose often and he's almost never stopped. Heading into the playoffs the Packers offense is humming with Rodgers and DuJaun Harris could have been an ever bigger factor if not for limited opportunities thanks to the score. His 70 yards on 14 carries kept the offense balanced and provides some hope for continued success should the weather get ugly in January.

Rodgers wouldn't have been as proficient if not for big plays by Greg Jennings and the receivers in this offense who blocked downfield and sprung one another for big plays. The way the Packers tackled Peterson was the way Minnesota tackled Jennings, which is to say, they didn't.

Randall Cobb is expected back this week which means Rodgers will have his full compliment of receivers for the first time all season. Cobb has been devastating in the slot and putting Jennings opposite him with James Jones and Jordy Nelson on the outside should look pretty formidable, even against the elite defenses like San Francisco's.

There's even a silver lining on defense, despite the team's struggles. B.J. Raji has come on late in the season and he was unblockable at times against Minnesota's excellent interior offensive linemen. He was disrupting almost every play and only a back like Peterson could have escaped and been successful.

San Francisco, for example, has a stable of capable backs but not of them have the lateral quickness and explosiveness to bounce runs the way Peterson did.

As it was, Raji blew up half a dozen plays in the backfield and was constantly redirecting Peterson upfront. That bodes well for the playoffs against teams who love to run the football, and Green Bay would face two in a row if they beat Minnesota to face San Francisco. All is not lost for Green Bay.

Packers fans know that, but they'd much rather have the week off and so too would the players, especially the ones who are banged up.

But the Packers are in a rhythm offensively that will be hard to contain. Minnesota loses by double digits if they had allowed the Packers to do for four quarters what Green Bay did in the third and fourth.

Rodgers is on fire and the running game is working. The loss stings, but it also assures there is no hangover this weekend, no additional motivation needed to play with focus, intensity, and fervor.

The Packers know what happens if they come out flat again. They experienced it last year. I looked for the silver lining, but don't expect Green Bay to do the same. They will come out with hunger and aggression, hoping this time to punish the Vikings.

Get the aspirin ready.

Peter Bukowski is a Wisconsin transplant living in New York and has been covering sports since 2007. He is an award-winning television and newspaper reporter. Follow him on Twitter @BukoTime

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