It was epic. It was chaotic. Ultimately it was triumphant. It was by far the craziest, most entertaining Vikings game of 2012. And 2011. And probably 2010 although there was some pretty amusing insanity that season too. Let’s just say, it was the best game any of us witnessed since the great 2009 season. And it ended just the right way. Blair Walsh sticking a 29-yarder to win it. Well okay, maybe the ending wasn’t totally perfect. If Adrian Peterson had gotten those extra 9 yards. That would’ve been perfect. But Adrian didn’t seem to mind. He got the win for his team.
Like I said, crazy game. Here are my top 10 crazy moments from this all-time great Vikings-Packers clash.
10. Blair Walsh saves a TD with sort of a tackle
The Vikes’ kick coverage has been great all year. Part of their success has been Blair Walsh’s ability to boot a large percentage of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. But they don’t all go for touchbacks. The Packers’ Jeremy Ross got a chance to bring one out in the second quarter. For the first time in many weeks, the coverage did not hold up. Ross got a lane and shot through it. He might have housed it. But Blair Walsh managed to get in his way enough for Tyrone McKenzie to bring Ross down. Yup, Blair Walsh is a tackling machine. Sort of. Not to be outdone, Chris Kluwe later threw himself in front of Ross to help prevent a punt return TD. Those guys are nuts.
9. Jordy Nelson burns Marcus Sherels for 73-yard gain
You knew the Vikes were in trouble when Antoine Winfield had to leave the game with severe inflammation of his broken hand. Sadly for the Vikes, their 2012 draft pick Josh Robinson is not reliable enough to be left out there in certain situations. So Marcus Sherels had to cover the slot in nickel with Winfield out. The Packers of course realized this mismatch right away and exploited it. Jordy Nelson ran a seam route and Sherels got caught peeking in the backfield. Nelson just blew by Sherels and caught Aaron Rodgers’ pass in stride for a 73-yard gain. A.J. Jefferson managed to chase Nelson down and prevent the TD. And that wasn’t even the craziest thing that happened on that drive. The real craziness would come on the ensuing Packers touchdown. But we’ll get to that.
8. Jarius Wright 65-yard reception
Wright now has two huge deep catches to his name this season. He had the big one against Detroit that set up an early stunning touchdown. And against the Packers he had an even more mindblowing play. There was nothing special about the pattern he ran necessarily or even Christian Ponder’s delivery. It was a well-executed play, a well-thrown ball, everything went right. What made it so crazy was the timing of it. The last thing anyone expected with the game tied at 27 early in the fourth was a deep pop. But that’s where the Vikings went. Jarius Wright clowned Sam Shields and got wide open. And Ponder laid it in perfectly. Two more crazy plays later (we’ll get to them) and the Vikings had a 34-27 lead.
7. Packers leave Michael Jenkins wide open for first down
If I were a Packer fan I’d be all over Dom Capers for this playcall. The Vikings are trying to drive down late for the winning score. The Packers know good-and-well Blair Walsh has a huge leg and the Vikings don’t have to get it that close. They really need to keep the Vikes from getting over midfield. So what do they do? Of course. They go into soft zone coverage with a three man rush. I guess they were trying to confuse Christian Ponder? Didn’t work. With no pass rush in his face at all, Ponder easily diagnosed the zone and found Michael Jenkins wide open on the sideline for a key first down. Dom Capers has to be second-guessing himself after that decision. Got to bring some heat on Ponder and speed him up. If he scrambles and makes a play, so be it. But don’t make it easy for him.
6. Christian Ponder throws a TD pass right through M.D. Jennings’ hands
I’ll give Ponder the benefit of the doubt on this one and call it a great throw. But I’m not really sure. I think it might have been a terrible decision. But he got away with it. After the Fail Mary and this, I don’t think M.D. Jennings has any luck at all. He should change his name to N.B. as in “No Breaks.”
5. Adrian Peterson runs for a first on 2nd-and-27 after Phil Loadholt’s stupid taunting penalty
This was an incredible play by Adrian Peterson. That whole sequence was just bizarre. Started with Adrian apparently fumbling. Replay showed that he was down before the ball came out. Unfortunately, Phil Loadholt was called for taunting after the fumble and the Packers’ goofy return which featured a dumb lateral. That was a crazy moment by itself but ultimately meaningless because the fumble was overturned on replay. But Loadholt’s 15-yard penalty still stood. So the Vikes got the ball back but were faced with a 2nd-and-27. No problem though. Just hand it to Adrian Peterson and watch him run 28 yards for the first. Of course. Happens that way every time. Never had a doubt.
4. Tramon Williams is flagged for illegal use of hands on Jerome Simpson
I guess some stuff was going on all game between Tramon Williams and Jerome Simpson. It was probably just a matter of time before one or both of those guys lost their cool. Well it finally happened in the fourth quarter with the Vikings driving down to take the lead. This was shortly after Jarius Wright’s 65-yard catch. The Vikes were in deep trouble on 3rd-and-12. They dialed up a short pass to Toby Gerhart just to get a few more yards and then kick the field goal. But they received a gift from Tramon Williams. Idiot got flagged for illegal use of hands against Jerome Simpson way on the back end far from the play. Basically, Williams lost it and popped Simpson in the face. A small scuffle ensued. Simpson could’ve easily gotten flagged himself but luckily the official saw the original infraction. So the Vikes go from settling for a field goal to having 1st-and-goal. And then the TD pass to Michael Jenkins happened and the Vikes went up seven. It could be argued that Williams lost the game for Green Bay right there by not keeping his head. Terrible, stupid play by him.
3. Vikings execs go ballistic during review fiasco
Tom Pelissero snapped an image of Vikings brass losing their minds and screaming at replay officials during that whole mess after the James Jones touchdown (we’ll get into that in more detail in a bit). You know it’s a big game when the guys in shirts and ties are getting into it with officials.
2. Jordy Nelson picks up Mike McCarthy’s challenge flag
First off, let’s just admit that it’s a stupid rule. That whole thing where you get a penalty for throwing the challenge flag after an automatic review has already been started. What the heck difference does it make? It’s dumb and that rule should be thrown out. That said…you have to know that rule. Especially after the Jim Schwartz fiasco. Every coach needs to have that down. All turnovers and scores are reviewed. So don’t throw the flag. The James Jones play that started the review in question here was being looked at both as a potential scoring play and a potential turnover play. Maybe that’s what confused McCarthy. Maybe he thought when it’s both, they cancel each other out? I’m trying to help the guy out. I’m trying to hand him an excuse for his boneheaded flag throw. Kudos to Jordy Nelson for knowing the rules better than his coach. Jordy pays attention. Maybe the Bears should hire him to replace Lovie Smith. Too soon?
But now to the issue most Viking fans are really annoyed about. Why does the review still happen after the challenge flag penalty? Referee Mike Carey said after the game that he didn’t know if the flag came out before the booth review started. So the review went on despite the penalty. This is what had Vikings brass so angry in the booth. And had Leslie Frazier apoplectic on the sidelines. I can understand their irritation. Whole thing is just dumb. Only remedy is to throw out the dumb rule. Thankfully it worked out for the Vikings ultimately. Cause, you know, they won the game.
1. Jarius Wright’s tipped-ball catch after Christian Ponder’s silly heave
Sometimes it’s just your day. Well yesterday was just Christian Ponder’s day. He got really lucky a couple of times. He was lucky not to get picked off by M.D. Jennings on the TD pass to Michael Jenkins. And he was even luckier on the Jarius Wright tipped-ball play. That play was the flat out craziest moment of a crazy game. Ponder has a blitzer in his face and like Ponder sometimes does, he tries to get the ball out when he should probably just eat it. The ball is tipped into the air and miraculously comes down in Jarius Wright’s hands for a 17-yard gain. It sort of looked like Wright maybe didn’t catch the ball though. Oh, but Mike McCarthy couldn’t challenge because he was out of time outs. Because Aaron Rodgers kept getting mad at the refs for not spotting the ball fast enough and had to call a couple time outs to let his underwear untwist. So I guess the lesson here is what? Aaron Rodgers has no composure in big games? Let’s go with that. Anyway, crazy play by Jarius Wright. Lucky break for Ponder. Great game all around. And there is more insanity to come this weekend in Green Bay.
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