On short notice, Packers CB Corey Ballentine delivers impressive performance vs. Vikings

The Green Bay Packers cornerbacks versus the Minnesota Vikings receivers. It was a matchup on paper that didn’t come close to favoring the Packers, but Corey Ballentine stepped in last minute and delivered an impressive performance against an impressive group of receivers.

Ballentine was targeted heavily in this one by the Minnesota quarterbacks, throwing his direction nine times. However, Ballentine allowed only three receptions for 33 yards with two forced incompletions and an interception that led to seven points for the Green Bay offense.

Of those nine targets, three of them came with Ballentine covering Justin Jefferson, but he didn’t allow a reception. Overall, and this goes beyond just this week’s performance, but when Ballentine has been on the field, he’s done a very good job challenging opposing receivers. From Weeks 10-14 and Week 17, when Ballentine was starting, his six forced incompletions during those games are tied for the fourth-most out of 70 eligible cornerbacks.

“I like to play a little mind game, in a sense,” said Ballentine of his play-style. “I don’t like to put all my eggs in on basket. So sometimes I play aggressive. Sometimes I play a little more passive depending on the situation. I try to be very aware of the situation, the sticks, the call, I still want to play within the call.

“So I don’t want to freelance it and do my own thing all the time. But I try to be conscious of everything when I see something pre-snap and I alert it and can break on it and play fast and play free and not think about it, then that’s when I feel like I play best.”

When it was all said and done, Jefferson, who had 225 receiving yards in the previous two games alone, was held to only 59 yards on 10 targets. Jordan Addison and KJ Osborn, who entered the game with almost 1,400 receiving yards between the two of them, combined for just 28 yards against Green Bay, which includes no receptions for Osborn.

Due to injuries at the cornerback position this season, Ballentine came into Sunday’s game with 431 defensive snaps and five starts. Yet even with that previous experience this season, making Ballentine’s performance more impressive was that he went from being a backup on Friday evening to finding out he was starting on Saturday when Eric Stokes was placed on IR.

“I prepare every week like I’m going to be up and playing a lot anyways,” said Ballentine. “Regardless of what happens with anyone else, my preparation stays the same, so I’m ready whenever my name is called and I go out there and put my best foot forward.”

Along with Ballentine’s performance, on the opposite side of the field, Carrington Valentine allowed just three receptions on six targets for 32 yards. Both players were awarded game balls afterwards by Matt LaFleur.

Credit, of course, goes to Ballentine and Valentine for their play, but helping them out was the Green Bay pass rush. The Packers defensive front had both Jaren Hall and Nick Mullens hurried and uncomfortable from the start of the game on. According to Next Gen Stats, the Vikings’ quarterbacks were under duress on 50 percent of their dropbacks, with nine different Packers contributing to 14 total quarterback hits.

In the previous three games, the Green Bay defense had allowed career games to Tommy DeVito, Baker Mayfield, and Bryce Young. But in a must-win game, this unit stepped up, and did so against a very good group of receivers. Even with the unknowns at quarterback for Minnesota during the second half of the season, the Vikings still ranked sixth in yards per pass attempt as a team.

However, led by Ballentine, Valentine, and the pass rush, Minnesota’s quarterbacks averaged just 5.6 yards per pass and threw for only 144 yards in what ended up being a dominant performance by this Packers team.

“We’ve had a lot of guys step up,” said LaFleur post-game. “CV (Carrington Valentine) going in there at corner. Corey Ballentine stepping up, getting the call last minute to go in there and start. Anytime you can come out a game holding Jefferson to 59 yards I think you’ve got a good chance of winning the football game.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire