4 defensive keys for Vikings vs. Packers

After a potentially season-defining win against San Francisco on Monday, the Minnesota Vikings have to regroup on a short week and get ready for a divisional battle with rival Green Bay Packers.

The significance of this game for Minnesota goes past trying to stack good performances for this team. This will be the first game since 2017 (oh, Brett Hundley) that the Vikings won’t see Aaron Rodgers on the other sideline.

To replace him, the Packers have a first-year starter and fourth-year player in Jordan Love.

After two impressive performances back-to-back to start the season, Love and this Green Bay offense have sputtered. They have averaged 17 points over their last four games, including a lackluster 17 against a struggling Broncos defense last week.

Brian Flores and this Vikings defense has started to look like a good, cohesive unit and can make another statement Sunday. We are going to outline four keys for this defense so they can make that statement.

Key in on the run game

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Green Bay’s offense starts with the success of their run game. Making sure that the defense can’t key in on the passing game is essential to Jordan Love and this offense playing well.

Aaron Jones was a limited participant yesterday, so the onus may fall on A.J. Dillon and undrafted free agent Emanuel Wilson to carry the workload. But, forcing the ball into Love’s hands more often than not leads to defensive success. In the five times that Love threw 30+ attempts, his adjusted net yards per attempt did not reach over 5.65, including a putrid 1.25 against the Las Vegas Raiders.

For reference, those that hover around that 5.6 mark this season are Desmond Ridder (5.42), Justin Fields (5.42) and Dak Prescott (5.72).

Make Love check down

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

One of the more under-appreciated aspects of quarterback play is taking what the defense gives to you.

That means not forcing the issue and taking your layups to stay ahead of the sticks.

With Love, sometimes he has trouble taking and making those layups, while also forcing the football down the field.

These plays are the type that Love has to hit, and has not been hitting thus far. His interception that sealed the game was him forcing the ball to Watson down the field when he didn’t have to.

Brian Flores will make Love take those layups and check-downs amidst all the chaos that he will send at him.

Make tackles in the open-field

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Jordan Love stated how he hadn’t “faced a defense like Minnesota.”

He says to mitigate the aggressive nature of Flores’ defense, it’s all about “getting the ball to our playmakers and letting them make plays, make people miss.”

When teams see this Vikings defense, the immediate answer is to get the ball out of the hands of the quarterback as quick as possible.

The Packers are sixth in Adjusted net yards per attempt against the blitz in 2023. They could try to get guys like Dontayvion Wicks and Jayden Reed the ball quickly on the outside or their tight end Luke Musgrave in the seam.

If the Vikings can stay disciplined and rally to the football to make the tackles, they will force longer drives by the Packers, which could lead to more opportunities for mistakes by their young quarterback in his eighth start.

Continue to develop under Brian Flores

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The past two weeks, Minnesota has fielded a defense that has been within the top-six in the league.

Week-by-week, Flores has had a different player show up in a big way for this defense. They have two back-to-back NFC defensive players of the week, and it if it wasn’t for a breakout game from Devon Witherspoon in week four, there would probably be a third.

Flores is putting his players in positions to succeed and they have rewarded him with big numbers for certain players.

If this continues, we will have to start looking at which player will be the highlight for this Vikings defense week-to-week.

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Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire