MINNEAPOLIS - After it was over at Mall of America Field, after the Green Bay Packers again proved, with their fourth consecutive victory, that they are still among the NFC's elite, they waxed nostalgic about playing their last game in the stadium.
Coach Mike McCarthy said he saved his field pass, his last from the building. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he would miss it here.
And why not?
In their final game in the dome, the Packers made ridiculously easy work of a 44-31 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in a game that was, frankly, not nearly as close as the final score would indicate.
The Packers (5-2) essentially had their way while scoring their most-ever points here.
Rodgers? He entered the game with a career 116.4 passer rating vs. the Vikings in regular season games, and went on to complete 24 of 29 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns, both to wideout Jordy Nelson.
The Packers gained 464 yards in all, including 182 on the ground, converted on 13 of 18 third downs plays and both fourth-down attempts.
"I wasn't going to let this team beat us," said Rodgers, who just might have received some extra motivation from the back-and-forth with Vikings receiver Greg Jennings that occurred back in training camp.
After the game Rodgers dismissed the question. Jennings, the former Packer who signed with the Vikings as a free agent, was not available to reporters after making one catch for nine yards.
The Packers scored every time they touched the ball Sunday, until Rodgers took a knee to end it, and held that ball for an absurd 40:54 of clock time.
And that just didn't leave the Vikings (1-6) enough time to make a game of it.
The team's quarterback carousel returned to Christian Ponder, who made his first start in three games because of Josh Freeman's concussion-like symptoms. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 145 yards. He led two late scoring drives. But by then the game had been decided. And it wasn't enough to stop the Vikings from losing their third straight game. Not nearly enough on a night when Adrian Peterson (13 carries, 60 yards) was again less than dominant. Still, for all that, the Vikings' biggest problem, again, was its defense.
"I am embarrassed," said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who was held without a sack. "I have to keep saying it, trying to be as honest as I can. I have never been a part of something like this."
Early on it appeared this game might be interesting, when rookie return man Cordarrelle Patterson returned the opening kickoff 109 yards for a score and a 7-0 Vikings lead; it was the second time this season Patterson had started a game this way.
But the Packers were unfazed. Indeed, with Rodgers nearly perfect, the Packers took the air out of the dome with a 14-play, 74-yard drive that ended with Rodgers' 11-yard touchdown pass to Nelson.
"I really liked the way we responded, with that 14-play drive," McCarthy said. "This is a tough place to play. I was very impressed with our football team tonight."
What the Packers said
"We hope we are improving every game. We do need to find a way to finish out games better." -- Linebacker A.J. Hawk.
"All week long, Coach said if you just hit it, it would be open. Kudos to our punt return team. They blocked it well, and anyone in here could have returned that. It was a huge hole." -- Micah Hyde, on his 93-yard punt return for a touchdown.
What the Vikings said
"It's not pretty, and unfortunately it's been the flavor of the month for us. We just haven't been good. We haven't been good at all on third down across the board." -- Linebacker Chad Greenway, on the inability of the Vikings' defense to get off the field. Green Bay went 13-for-18 on third down, 2-for-2 on fourth down.
"If you can take one good thing out of this game, that is the offense put up 31 points. We should be winning ballgames when we do that, but we cannot do that when we are giving up 44 points." -- Defensive end Brian Robison.
What we learned about the Packers
--Green Bay's avowed commitment to establishing a running game is bearing fruit. The Packers averaged 4.3 yards per rush, and both Eddie Lacy and James Starks scoring rushing touchdowns. A balanced Green Bay offense could be a scary thing.
--Seeing purple is the best thing that can happen to Aaron Rodgers, who once again had a near career day. Rodgers completed 24 of 29 passes for 285 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. "This is really shaping up to be one of Aaron's best years," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
What we learned about the Vikings
--Even a plethora of injuries on defense -- a list that grew with the loss of safety Jamarca Sanford on Sunday -- isn't an excuse for the way the unit played in recent games. Given Vikings' inability to get off the field on third down this season, the current group could wind up being the worst defense in team history.
--There are still no answers at quarterback. With Josh Freeman sidelined due to concussion symptoms, Christian Ponder returned to action and put up pedestrian numbers: 14-for-21, 145 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. If healthy, Freeman is likely to be back in action next week when the Vikings travel to Dallas to play the Cowboys.