Green Bay Packers v. Vikings: 5 Big Questions Revisited

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon (28) carries the ball during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon (28) carries the ball during the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports /

Prior to each Green Bay Packers game, I come out with my 5 Big Questions facing the team that week. Now that the game has been played, it’s time to revisit these key questions and find out what the answers ended up being.

Q: Can Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers passing game find a rhythm?

A: Eventually, they did

For much of the first half, this Green Bay Packers offense once again looked disjointed. Aaron Rodgers was struggling with accuracy; it didn’t look like he was always trusting what he was seeing, he was forgoing the easy completion at times, and there were way too many deep shots downfield. The end result was another slow start and only three points before their final drive of the second quarter.

However, it was that drive, when the offense went into hurry-up mode, that we saw Rodgers and this offense find their rhythm–which carried over into the second half. Green Bay would rely more on the quick passing game to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands on time as well as some boots and play-action. There was also a much better run/pass mix.

"“At times the last couple years we’ve been so good in the first 15 to 20 plays that we script, and scoring on opening drives, touchdowns,” said Rodgers via “Hasn’t really been the case this year. We’ve been a lot slower starting, so we gotta look at that.”"

According to NFL NextGen Stats, when Rodgers threw “in rhythm” — meaning he got rid of the ball between 2.5 and 4.0 seconds and didn’t hold on to it, he completed 16 of his 19 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns.

As I mentioned in by 5 Big Questions article, a lack of practice time is contributing to these issues, but it, unfortunately, doesn’t look like that will get any better this week. As Rodgers deals with a “very, very painful” toe injury, he likely won’t practice much once again this week. The formula we saw in the second half is how this Green Bay Packers offense will find success–not what they did for the first 25 minutes of the game.

Q: Will the Green Bay Packers lean on AJ Dillon and the run game?

A: Not really

As I just mentioned, Green Bay seemed a bit reluctant to run the ball early on as they tried to spread things out and hit the big play downfield. It also didn’t help that they were being called for so many penalties, which put them in several 1st and 20 situations, essentially taking away their ability to run the ball.

But in the second half, there was a better run/pass mix, which was one of the catalysts behind Green Bay’s success on offense that half. Dillon would finish the game with only 11 carries, but he averaged 4.8 yards per rush. Patrick Taylor had four attempts for 11 yards.

Entering the game, Minnesota was allowing 4.7 yards per rush, which was the third-most in football at that time. This is why I thought we might see the Green Bay Packers give Dillon 20 or so carries, especially with the lack of practice for Rodgers and his receivers.

It’s easy to look at this offense and see Rodgers and Davante Adams, but as we all know, it is really the run game that makes this unit go. Moving forward, leaning more heavily on the run game — especially early on in games — is one way that can help this offense start to click.

Q: Will Rashan Gary play for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday?

A: Unfortunately, no

Rashan Gary did not play, but Preston Smith and Kenny Clark did their best to make up for his absence. Smith would finish with six pressures, according to PFF ($$), and Clark with five, which accounted for half of the Green Bay Packers’ 22 total pressures–their fifth-highest total of the season.

Kingsley Keke and Tyler Lancaster would also play well along the interior, and especially in that second half, we saw Joe Barry really turn up the pressure with several blitzes. There were a few big plays for the Minnesota offense that were nearly negated by the Green Bay pass rush getting home.

Against the run, the Packers would hold up well, holding Dalvin Cook to only 3.9 yards per rush with a long of 13.

Q: Can this Green Bay Packers secondary contain Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen?

A: Oof, not at all

The Green Bay Packers secondary had played very well in recent weeks, in part to Joe Barry’s defense, which had provided them with some extra help. Against quarterbacks Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson, Green Bay played with lightboxes for much of the game–daring the opponent to run the ball with an extra defender or two in the secondary.

But against Minnesota and Dalvin Cook, we saw less of that, which created more one-on-one opportunities for Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. The end result was this duo — particularly Jefferson — having huge games. Jefferson finished with 169 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions, while Thielen had 82 yards of his own and a touchdown.

Cornerbacks Eric Stokes, Kevin King, and Rasul Douglas would combine to allow 14 receptions on 18 targets for 231 yards and two touchdowns.

Q: Can the Green Bay Packers slow Dalvin Cook?

A: Yes

We’ve seen Dalvin Cook have some big games against this Green Bay Packers defense, but this past Sunday was not one of them. As I just mentioned, the Packers played with lightboxes less often on Sunday in an effort to contain Cook, and for the most part, it worked.

Cook entered the game not on the same torrid pace that he was on a season ago, but he was still averaging 4.7 yards per rush this season. Against Green Bay, he ran the ball 22 times for 86 yards, or 3.9 yards per rush, and had a long of 13 yards. You’re very rarely ever going to truly stop Cook but the Packers did a very good job of containing him.

When you run into an offense with Cook, Jefferson, and Thielen, as a defense, you basically have to pick your poison–will you commit more defenders to the run game? Or to the passing game?

"“Certainly, we knew it was an explosive offense,” coach Matt LaFleur said via SI. “They got two premier receivers, Dalvin Cook, he’s a premier back and I think Kirk Cousins is a premier quarterback, so that’s quite a tandem that they have across the board. I think their O-line did a nice job. That’s a good offense and they got the better of us today.”"