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Packers sink the Vikes

One of the themes early in the 2014 season has been the one-sided nature of Thursday Night Football games. The first three matchups were decided by an average of 27.3 points. Whatever the reason, TNF has created some major outliers in terms of scores.

The Packers’ victory continued that trend. Green Bay rarely had to get out of first gear but dominated the game. The night was all but over at halftime, by which point the Packers had a 28-0 lead.

Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished the game 12-of-17 for 156 yards and three touchdowns.

Running back Eddie Lacy had his best game of 2014, with 105 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 13 carries. At one point, it looked as if he’d match his entire output coming into the night, per Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin:

Considering the way that Lacy has struggled through the early stages of the regular season, watching him run over Vikings defenders was a welcome sight for Packers fans.

From beginning to end, this was the Packers’ most comprehensive win of the season.

Green Bay got off to a fast start, with Rodgers hitting wide receiver Randall Cobb for an eight-yard touchdown pass on the team’s second drive of the game.

On the Packers’ next possession, a breakdown in the Vikings secondary left wideout Jordy Nelson alone with yards of space. Rodgers found him for a 66-yard touchdown, putting the home team on top early 14-0.

Before the game, the Vikings announced that Teddy Bridgewater was inactive, meaning Christian Ponder would start under center.

His return to the starting job was nothing short of disastrous.

Ponder finished the game 22-of-44 for 222 yards and two interceptions.

His first half in particular was brutal. The veteran QB went 8-of-18 for 60 yards and two picks.

Part of the reason for his problems was the Vikings offense’s inability to get anything going downfield. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he attempted four throws of six or more yards and completed only one:

With a little over 10 minutes left in the first half, the Vikings still had a shot of winning the game or at the very least keeping it competitive. The Packers weren’t moving the ball at will on offense, and Minnesota was within a touchdown of making things interesting.

Then, within a four-minute span of game time, everything fell apart for the Vikes.

Ponder was intercepted by Packers linebacker Julius Peppers, who ran 49 yards for the pick-six and gave the Packers a 21-0 lead. The 34-year-old made history with that turnover, becoming the first player in NFL history with 10 interceptions and 100 sacks:

On his very next throw of the game, Ponder was picked off by Packers linebacker Jamari Lattimore. Three plays later, Rodgers hit rookie wideout Davante Adams for an 11-yard touchdown, putting Green Bay ahead 28-0.

Adding insult to insult, running back Matt Asiata fumbled on Minnesota’s next drive, bookending what was a brutal stretch for the Vikings in the second quarter.

They had one more chance to put some points on the board before halftime, but Ponder was sacked on the final play of the first half, which was a microcosm of the entire night for the Vikings offense.

In the second half, the Packers hit Minnesota with a heavy dose of Lacy—which was good news for fantasy football owners who started the Green Bay running back—and fellow running back James Starks. Lacy added two touchdowns in the third quarter, putting even more distance between the teams and giving Green Bay a 42-0 lead.

Ponder scrambled six yards for a touchdown to start the fourth quarter, handing the Vikings their first points of the game. With 10 minutes to go, Blair Walsh hit a 26-yard field goal to make it a 42-10 game.

The Vikings are in serious trouble. Even when Bridgewater returns, it’s hard envisioning him making a demonstrable impact on the team’s fortunes. Things aren’t going to get much worse than they were on Thursday, but they aren’t going to get much better either.

This was a big win for the Packers if only for the fact that it puts them over .500 for the first time in 2014. Green Bay alternated wins and losses during the first four weeks. Packers fans should be encouraged by Thursday night’s result, but the Vikings set the bar so low that you can’t take a ton of positives away from the performance.

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