Packers notes: Rodgers gets protection he needs
By: By Jim Polzin, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
GREEN BAY -- One of the Green Bay Packers' biggest problems in a pair of losses to the Minnesota Vikings last season was their inability to keep quarterback Aaron Rodgers upright.
That wasn't a problem for the Packers during their 28-24 victory over the Vikings Sunday night at Lambeau Field.
After giving up 14 sacks to Minnesota in the two games in 2009 -- defensive end Jared Allen had 7 1/2 alone -- the Packers didn't allow any this time around.
It helped that the Packers had Chad Clifton, who missed both Minnesota games last season, manning his spot at left tackle. And rookie Bryan Bulaga did a good job against Ray Edwards on the other side.
"Well, zero sacks says it all," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "That was something that we challenged both Chad and Bryan with on Wednesday and they definitely stepped up."
Rodgers was 21 of 34 for 295 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 84.8.
"The fact that Aaron wasn't sacked today, that's priority No. 1 for an offensive lineman," Clifton said. "So we're definitely proud of that."
Trick, but no treat
McCarthy went to his bag of tricks midway through the second quarter, but it didn't lead to a treat for the Packers.
Green Bay initially lined up for what would have been a 55-yard field goal attempt before switching to a spread formation. Kicker Mason Crosby lined up wide to the right and holder Matt Flynn, the Packers' backup quarterback, lined up in the shotgun.
Rookie tight end Andrew Quarless, who earlier in the game scored his first career touchdown in the NFL, broke free on a deep corner route and Flynn led him with a nice pass. But Quarless stumbled as he was he was trying to get under the ball and it fell incomplete, giving the Vikings possession of the ball.
The Vikings should have been tipped off by the fact that punter Tim Masthay -- not Flynn -- is the regular holder for Crosby.
Packers get a lift from replay
McCarthy came up a winner during a second-quarter challenge, but the decision only briefly delayed a Minnesota score.
Vikings quarterback Brett Favre threw the ball backward to receiver Percy Harvin, who ran down the right sideline and was ruled to have scored on his dive to the end zone. But the call was overruled because Harvin stepped out of bounds and the ball was placed inside the 2-yard line with 10 minutes, 32 seconds left in the second quarter.
Adrian Peterson scored on a run up the middle on the next play, with 10:16 left before halftime.
McCarthy challenged another apparent Minnesota touchdown later in the quarter.
Favre zipped a 17-yard strike to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who made an apparent diving catch in the end zone on a first-down play. But after the review, the officials ruled Shiancoe didn't have possession. The Vikings settled for Ryan Longwell's 28-yard field goal with 3:59 left in the first half.
From the infirmary
The Packers' pass rush got a much-needed lift with the return to the lineup of outside linebacker Clay Matthews.
Matthews missed last week's game with a hamstring injury. He drew a key 15-yard facemask penalty against Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt on Minnesota's final drive.
Defensive end Ryan Pickett also returned to the lineup after missing the Miami game with an ankle injury but appeared to re-injure the ankle early in the game and didn't return.
Defensive end Cullen Jenkins suffered an apparent hamstring injury in pregame warmups and didn't play.
Linebacker Brandon Chillar returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games with a shoulder injury.
Right tackle Mark Tauscher missed his third straight game with a shoulder injury. He was replaced in the starting lineup once again by Bulaga.
Joining Tauscher on the list of inactives for Sunday's game were linebacker Brady Poppinga, fullback Quinn Johnson, defensive end Mike Neal, defensive end Michael Montgomery, linebacker Maurice Simpkins, and offensive linemen Nick McDonald and Marshall Newhouse.
Minnesota's inactives were wide receiver Hank Baskett, cornerback Lito Sheppard, running back Albert Young, safety Husain Abdullah, linebacker Erin Henderson, offensive guard Chris DeGeare and defensive tackle Fred Evans. Joe Webb was the Vikings' third quarterback.
Tyrell Johnson started at strong safety for Abdullah (concussion).
Johnson, a second-round pick in 2008, was a starter last season but lost the job to Abdullah in training camp and was inactive the previous three games.
Quarless' first NFL TD reception came on a 9-yard catch of a Rodgers pass with 14:53 left in the second quarter. ... Packers receiver Donald Driver didn't catch a pass and had his streak of regular-season games with at least one reception snapped at 133 straight. It was the longest streak in team history. Entering the game, Driver's two highest single-game receiving yardage performances were against Minnesota (191 yards on Nov. 12, 2006, and 162 yards on Dec. 24, 2004). ... Driver moved into sole possession of the No. 7 spot for most games played in team history (168). ... Clifton became the 19th player in team history -- and the sixth offensive lineman -- to appear in 150 career games in a Green Bay uniform. ... The referee Sunday was Scott Green, who was the head official for last season's Super Bowl and officiated the Green Bay-Arizona playoff game last season that ended in controversial fashion when Rodgers appeared to have his facemask grabbed on the game-ending play when he was hit and fumbled. ... The attendance of 71,107 was the third-largest regular-season crowd at Lambeau Field.
-- Copyright (c) 2010, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services