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Monday, Nov. 25, 2013

A Tie is What Counts as Good News for the Packers with Rodgers Out

Looking Pack: Week 12

packers minnestoa vikings matt flynn 10 2013
Jim Biever / Packers.com
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The last time Matt Flynn ducked under center at Lambeau Field, he was running up 480 yards and six touchdowns (both tied Green Bay records) against the Detroit Lions in a Week 17 start as a resting Aaron Rodgers looked on excitedly. Most Packers fans know Flynn’s career trajectory since the first day of 2012. Nearly two years, three teams, one start and a massive contract later, the Packers backup returned to Lambeau to help lead Green Bay to another rare Packers honor: the first Packers tie since 1987.

Despite Scott Tolzien’s nimble six-yard rushing touchdown to put the Packers up 7-0 on the Vikings in the first quarter, the ex-Badgers quarterback’s second career start ended one possession into the third quarter due to the mere 98 yards passing he’d managed to that point. Meanwhile, the Vikings amassed 20 unanswered points after Tolzien’s scamper in the form of two Blair Walsh field goals, an Adrian Peterson touchdown run and Rhett Ellison touchdown grab.

Enter Flynn. Initially, the beloved backup echoed Tolzien’s struggle with a stalled first drive. On the next Minnesota drive, sparsely-used Vikings running back Toby Gerhart would impose his will on Green Bay’s defense (continuing its ongoing motif of being putrid) to set up another Walsh field goal—pushing Minnesota’s unanswered point total to 23. That tally would stop at 23 straight, as Flynn was the trusty fill-in Packer Backers had grown to (somewhat) know and love (in limited spurts) during his previous stint in green and gold between 2008 and 2011.

First he—with the assistance of human wrecking ball Eddie Lacy—captained the Packers down the field on his second drive, which culminated in Lacy hitting paydirt from three yards out. The two-point conversion failed, to keep Green Bay within 10 at a 23-13 margin. Later, Flynn would find Jarrett Boykin for a touchdown pass… which was made possible when Lacy dragged purple jerseys in his wake as he transformed a would-be loss into an astounding first down run.

Uncharacteristically, the Packers defense—which yielded 232 rushing yards on the day—decided to step up against its sub-.500 opponent late in the fourth quarter. Trailing 23-20, Clay Matthews (who, to his credit, played the best he has since returning from injury) and the rest of the Packers D prompted Minnesota to go three-and-out to put the ball back in Flynn’s hands with 2:27 remaining in regulation. A hard-count provoked Minnesota’s Everson Griffen offsides on 4th and 6 to give Flynn a free play—which he used to hit James Jones for 28 yards and put Green Bay in the red zone. With 46 seconds left, Mason Crosby knotted the game at 23-23, where it would stay until overtime.

In the extra period, the Packers (aided by a Robert Blanton defensive holding penalty on what would’ve been a failed third down conversion) went ahead 26-23 with a Crosby chip shot, but the Vikings answered back with a field goal of their own when the temporarily-passable Green Bay rush defense reverted to its rotten gourd form and let Gerhart run amok. That’s where it would stay; 26-26—no winners, no losers and everyone left feeling strange. Detroit and Chicago’s losses Sunday would’ve made a Packers come from behind win extra sweet. With Flynn back in the fold, the Packers are in capable(ish) hands until Rodgers returns—which can’t be soon enough.

Player Of The Game (Offense) – Eddie Lacy
Lacy bounced back after last Sunday’s 27-yard performance with 110 hard fought yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, not to mention 48 yards receiving. After that much production, the overtime asthma flare-up is understandable. 

Player Of The Game (Defense/Special Teams) – Tim Masthay

Any defense that allows Toby Gerhart to rush for 91 yards on eight carries shouldn’t be recognized for anything but that. Masthay did his part to at least make the Vikes scoring drives take longer, pinning them within their own 10 yard line twice, while averaging 40.8 yards per punt. 

Up next: at Detroit Lions, 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 28

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