MINNEAPOLIS – There wasn’t much else the defense could have done.
The Packers bottled up Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and stripped the ball from him once. They also ended their sack drought in overwhelming fashion with six sacks of QB Teddy Bridgewater.
It was the Packers defense looking like it did back in the early stages of the season on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis in a 30-13 win over the border rival.
“Everybody just made a decision,” defensive tackle Mike Daniels said of the defensive effort. “We have to do it every week.”
Peterson, the league’s leading rusher by more than 200 yards, managed just 45 yards on 13 carries (3.5 avg.), with a long of only 11. His patented jump cuts at the line of scrimmage to get away from a tackler usually sent him into another one, and he never got rolling.
The Packers played the run that way last week against Detroit, but that was one of the league’s worst rushing offenses. Peterson and the Vikings were both No. 1, and clamping down on him set the tone for the pass rush.
“Everything was working,” Julius Peppers said. “Great effort by the guys up front. Penetration and we made tackles in the open field. I think that was the difference.”
That allowed the pressure to get after Bridgewater. The Packers had been shut out in the sack department during their three-game losing streak but racked up a cool half-dozen on Sunday, with five different players getting in on the sack party.
Datone Jones led the way with two (and also batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage), while Peppers, Daniels, linebacker Nate Palmer and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix each had one sack.
“That’s basically Football 101,” Peppers said. “You go into the game to stop the run and you try to make a team one-dimensional.”
During the sack drought, Peppers insisted they were like turnovers – coming in bunches. He couldn’t have been more prophetic.
“I’m not psychic. I don’t know,” he said. “I just know we’re going to continue to work, and eventually things like that will happen.”
Bridgewater made only two plays of significance all game, both long passes to tight end Kyle Rudolph. One was for a 47-yard touchdown, and the other was a 33-yard seam route to set up Peterson’s score.
Other than that, the Packers defense ruled the day.
Two defensive stops in particular stood out. The first came late in the first half, when a partially blocked punt gave the Vikings the ball at the Green Bay 42-yard line.
But Clay Matthews swallowed up Peterson for a 3-yard loss, Peppers sacked Bridgewater on second down and the Vikings couldn’t convert on third-and-long. The Packers then took over on their own 20 and drove 80 yards for a huge touchdown before the half, taking a 16-6 lead.
“It’s a division game,” Peppers said. “These games are about toughness, mental toughness and playing big in special situations. We had to go out and get the stops when we needed to.”
Another came early in the fourth quarter. Right after the Packers went up two touchdowns, the Vikings were driving and Peterson broke off a 10-yard run toward the red zone when safety Morgan Burnett popped the ball loose and cornerback Sam Shields corralled the fumble for the game’s only turnover.
That sapped any momentum Minnesota might have mustered late, and the next time the Vikings had the ball, the Packers recorded their fifth and sixth sacks of Bridgewater as the secondary had everyone blanketed.
“It’s complementary football,” Burnett said. “Everyone did their job, and everyone trusted the guy next to him to do his job.”
The most important job got done on Sunday, and the Packers are back atop the NFC North.
“These type of games define who you are,” Peppers said, echoing one of his comments from earlier in the week. “Guys stepped up to the challenge. It was a great sign for us as a team, as a defense. In this moment, guys rose and came up big.”
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