The “next man up” mentality is nothing new for the Minnesota Vikings, but the Green Bay Packers were taken off guard this past week when Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone in the border battle against the Minnesota Vikings.
Awfully timed injuries to key players seems to be a staple every season for the Minnesota Vikings. Sam Bradford looked like an early MVP candidate after Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints until he went down with a possible career-threatening knee injury. Dalvin Cook looked poised to be one of the league leaders in rushing yards this season as a rookie until a torn ACL ended his season in a week 4 matchup against the Detroit Lions.
Often times in professional football, the best player on the field can win you a lot of games; especially when the best player is a quarterback. The quarterback position is the most important in the NFL, which is why nine of the last 10 NFL MVP’s have been quarterbacks, with the lone exception being Adrian Peterson in 2012. This is also why the quarterbacks get the best contracts with the most guaranteed money. Many teams at the top of the draft will reach for a quarterback because they are so desperate to sign a franchise QB that they’ll need to be successful in today’s NFL.
The quarterback can’t do it alone, but as we saw in Week 5 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Aaron Rodgers pulled off an unbelievable comeback with 1:13 left in the game against the Dallas Cowboys. He trotted the entirety of the field and threw a touchdown to Davante Adams in the waning seconds of the game, doing what almost no one else in the league could do.
Rodgers luck seemed to run out against the Minnesota Vikings after a hit from linebacker, Anthony Barr in the first half. Rodgers broke his collarbone and preliminary reports suggest it might be season ending. Enter Brett Hundley, a relatively unknown professional quarterback, but a fairly productive one at UCLA. The packers have a lot of confidence in Hundley, but you have to believe they weren’t expecting to need him so soon in his career.
The Minnesota Vikings actually seemed to have upgraded at QB after Case Keenum replaced an injured Bradford in the second half of the game against the Chicago Bears, and led them to a three point victory. He continued his hot streak against the Packers throwing accurate passes down the field to Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell. He has played so well since Bradford’s injury in week one that he has earned the starting quarterback job. He has also earned the respect of his teammates, and the Minnesota fans. He has developed very good chemistry with all of his receivers, and perhaps most importantly, he hasn’t turned the ball over. Besides the one interception against the Packers, Keenum has not thrown a pick all year. He is playing to his strengths (play-action passes, and maneuvering in the pocket well), and relying on his defense which is one of the top units in the league.
The Vikings run game looked strong as well by using a “running backs by committee” approach with Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. McKinnon had a particularly strong game rushing for 69 yards and a score.
The Packers were more beat up than the Vikings in this particular matchup. Starting running back, Ty Montgomery was nursing broken ribs and looked fairly limited in the game. The secondary was dropping like flies and the Packers were almost forced to start playing linebackers back there because of all the injuries. Morgan Burnett (S), Davon House (CB), and Kevin King (CB) all had to leave the game. Both starting tackles also had to leave the game, and the Minnesota edge rushers were feasting on the backups.
Depth is a big deal in the NFL and the Vikings have built their team the right way to withstand major injuries and still win. They drafted a great defense by drafting Barr, Eric Kendricks, Xavier Rhodes, and Harrison Smith all in high rounds, and relying on them to win games. Rick Spielman, the Vikings GM, also did a great job of restructuring the offensive line this offseason via free agency.
Football is the ultimate team sport because no matter how great you are, it truly takes a team effort to win a game. This is more true than in any other sport. All eleven guys on the field need to work together to accomplish a common goal, and the reserves need to be ready when their number is called.The Vikings backups stepped up, and played extremely well as they have all season. The Packers looked shell-shocked when Rodgers left the game.The sideline looked dead, and there was no energy coming from the bench. It’s hard to blame them, however, when the best quarterback in the NFL had been winning games for them almost single-handedly for nearly the past decade. On the other hand, the Vikings look primed to win the division and compete in the playoffs, despite their injuries.