MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WLAX/WEUX) – No fans. Young cornerbacks. Near-perfect protection.
The conditions were ideally suited for Rodgers and Adams to dominate the airways at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday. The duo took full advantage as Green Bay pulled away from a tight contest with two touchdowns in the final 39 seconds of the first half in a 43-34 victory.
The 120th meeting of border rivals in a fanless stadium noted for its raucous home crowd will go down in franchise lore due to the COVID 19 pandemic. U.S. Bank was quiet inside and devoid of the usual festive atmosphere around the stadium when Viking and Packer fans congregate before their annual meeting.
“It was one of the strangest experiences I’ve had in the NFL,” Rodgers said, “Being in a stadium like this to have memories of some really rocking times.” In his previous four visits to U.S. Bank Stadium, Rodgers had thrown only three touchdown passes in the venue known for its ear-splitting fan noise.
Rodgers was stellar in the empty stadium, completing 32 of 44 passes for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers in his 24th career four-touchdown performance could have been even gaudier if not for several key drops by Adams and speedster Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
“Any time you punt one time, you know it’s going to be a good day, especially when you don’t turn the ball over,” Rodgers said. “I thought we executed really well. . . we were in rhythm.”
Adams exploited outmatched Vikings corners all afternoon, tying a franchise record held by Don Hutson with 14 receptions and catching two touchdowns passes.
His first scoring catch was perfect from start to finish. Rodgers delivered on the run a pinpoint 24-yard strike in the end zone as Adams deftly got his feet down before falling out of bounds for a 15-7 lead with 39 seconds left in the first half.
But it was the cumulative effect of the duo’s short- and medium-routes throughout the game that allowed the Green Bay offense to sustain drives and amass a 41:16-18:44 time of possession advantage.
“It was just locking in and tapping into getting ready to play here in front of zero thousand fans,” Adams said.
The Green Bay defense contributed to the victory, holding Vikings star Dalvin Cook to 50 yards in 12 carries. The Minnesota running back found the end zone four times, scoring twice on touchdowns and twice on 2-point conversions runs as the Vikings scored each time it appeared the Packers were on the verge of a rout.
Cornerback Jaire Alexander created the defensive play of the game Sunday, swinging the contest’s momentum with a sack of Kirk Cousins in the end zone for a safety to cut the Vikings’ lead to 7-5 early in the second quarter.
It came just two plays after the Vikings defense stymied the Packers on fourth down at Minnesota’s 1-yard line. Alexander came off the right edge untouched to blindside Cousins, and Green Bay capitalized on their ensuing possession with a Mason Crosby 43-yard field goal for an 8-7 lead.
The Packers cornerback then intercepted Cousins in the final minute of the quarter on a pass thrown slightly behind Adam Thielen, and Rodgers again turned it into points with a 45-yard bomb to Valdes-Scantling for a 22-7 cushion.
“Turnovers are always big plays, you know,” Alexander said. “It gives our offense an opportunity to score and put points on the board. It was real fun.”
It was evident the lack of no preseason contests hurt the young but talented Vikings cornerbacks—it will be interesting to see the progress of Mike Zimmer’s defense in the rematch at Lambeau Field in November (possibly with fans). This was the most points scored on Minnesota in Zimmer’s tenure.
Cousins and the Vikings never gave up Sunday, rallying to outscore Green Bay, 24-14, in the fourth quarter as they aired it out and converted two 2-point conversions to cut the final margin to nine points.
Green Bay hosts 0-1 Detroit at Lambeau Field Sunday in contest televised exclusively in Western Wisconsin at 12 noon by FOX 25/48 while the 0-1 Vikings travel to Indianapolis.