By Tom Pollin
The NFC North Black & Blue Reviewer (@tjpollin)
Aaron Rodgers and his high-octane offense spotted the St. Louis Rams a 3-0 lead before going to work. The Packers turned out to be too much for a young Rams team to handle in a 30-20 victory.
In Minnesota, the Vikings used a 153-yard performance by "Bionic Back" Adrian Peterson and their best defensive showing of the season to overcome the play of quarterback Christian Ponder in a 21-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
As we wait for the kickoff at Soldier Field for the battle between the Bears and Lions on Monday night, here are five takeaways from Sunday's action.
1. Aaron Rodgers’ uniform stayed clean all game.
Part of the reason is that the game was played in a dome on artificial turf. The other part was that the Rams’ defensive front seven couldn’t supply consistent pressure against the No. 2 most sacked quarterback in the NFL. The Rams sacked Rodgers three times for 10-yards and hit him while throwing five other times. Other than that, Rodgers had the time to pick his targets and took advantage by carving up the Rams like a Christmas ham.
Rodgers hit on over 80 percent of his pass attempts, threw for a 9.0 Real Passing Yards per Attempt average and finished with a 132.2 Offensive Passer Rating, which puts him solidly ahead of Peyton Manning for the top spot in the league.
2. The passing game can’t falter because it’s all the Packers have right now.
The downside to the Packers victory against the Rams is they continue to disappoint when trying to run the ball which, while equivalent to saying Jenna Jameson continues to disappoint when trying to act, can come back to hurt them if the problem isn't addressed.
Even with a 19-yard run by Randall Cobb the Packers only managed to rush for a 2.7-yards per carry average against a Rams defense that has allowed a 4.03-yards per attempt average so far in 2012.
Alex Green had his second consecutive substandard performance with 35-yards in 20 rushes for a 1.8-yards per carry average.
Without a competent running game to call on, the Packers will have to lean on the passing game to continue performing at a high level for short-yardage, goal-to-go and fourth quarter situations where even an average ground game would help in easing the pressure.
3. It's Halloween in Minnesota.
And Christian Ponder went trick-or-treating as the 2011 version of himself. Ponder finished the game against the Cardinals with a 35.5 Offensive Passer Rating. A starting quarterback hasn’t recorded that low a passer rating in a victory by his team since John Skelton did it last season in Week 12 against the Rams.
After an impressive start to the 2012 season, Christian Ponder has been slowly regressing to the quarterback he was in his rookie season. Other than Vikings finale last year when he put together an 8.3 passer rating before being pulled from the game with an injury , Sunday's game against the Cardinals is his worst performance as a professional quarterback.
Ponder completed 8 passes in 17 attempts for 58 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Take away the sack yardage from his total and he averaged 2.5 Real Passing Yards per Attempt, a total so low that Blaine Gabbert would be insulted by it.
The Cardinals came into the game rated No. 5 in the Defensive Hog Index but only sacked Ponder three times and were only credited with another four quarterback hits, hardly enough pressure to have Ponder hearing footsteps in the pocket.
Ponder started the season like he intended to be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Vikings. Right now he’s close to being an answer to a “where are they now” question.
4. The Vikings’ defense played their best game of the season.
As noted in the preview to this week’s NFC North games, Jared Allen and his line-mates were eager to welcome the No. 32 ranked Defensive Hog Unit to Minneapolis.
The Vikings added seven sacks to Arizona's league leading total, two by Allen and two more by his defensive end partner Brian Robison to lead the effort. The also hit Skelton eight other times and hurried him a lot more.
Even though Skelton completed close to 70 percent of his passes the Vikings held him to a 6.4 Real Passing Yards per Attempt average and forced an interception that safety Harrison Smith returned 31-yards for the touchdown that made the score 21-14.
5. Sunday's NFC North game balls.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers - No reason to rehash what's already been covered about his Sunday performance. Five of the Packers remaining nine games will be against division rivals and Rodgers is showing that he's ready to take up the challenge.
Jordy Nelson, Packers - The 2011 Nelson that had 68 catches for 1,263-yards and 15 touchdowns is finally fully emerging in 2012. He had his second straight 100-yards plus receiving game and scored the first touchdown of the afternoon for the Packers.
Randall Cobb, Packers - He was the Packers' running game with one carry for 19-yards and also caught eight passes for 89-yards and two touchdowns.
Antoine Winfield, Vikings - Allen and Robison had great games but Winfield led the team with 11 tackles along to go with a sack of Skelton to lead the defensive effort against the Cardinals.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings - The Vikings' passing game went missing which made Peterson's contribution even more vital to his team's victory. He carried the ball 23 times for 153-yards, a 6.7-yards per carry average against a defense ranked No. 5 in the Defensive Hog Index.
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