MINNEAPOLIS -- When Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings on the second play of the second half for a 79-yard touchdown, he gave Green Bay a 20-17 lead it wouldnt relinquish.
The fact that Rodgers found Jennings open against the Minnesota Vikings secondary wasnt much of a surprise. Rodgers is perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL this season and Jennings is his top target. How open Jennings really was had to have been the most-eye opening aspect, and clearly a sign of the trouble in the Minnesota defensive backfield.
Jennings didnt have anyone within 20-yards of him when Rodgers had scrambled around and lofted a ball deep down the sideline where Jennings waited, hauled it in and jogged 45 yards into the end zone.
(Rodgers) happened to look up and I was just streaking down the field wide open, Jennings said. I really had to take a double-take to see if there was a safety back there because it was almost too good to be true.
Facing the depleted Vikings secondary had to feel too good to be true for the Packers. Minnesota was already without starting cornerback Antoine Winfield, who is still dealing with neck stiffness, and safety Jamarca Sanford, who has a concussion, but was dealt another blow when Chris Cook was arrested and jailed for domestic assault Saturday morning.
Cook missed Sundays game while in jail and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier didnt add anything further about Cooks situation when asked after the game.
Well just have to wait until we learn more about whats going on with him, Frazier said.
Cook was beginning to develop into Minnesota top coverage cornerback and the team was surely missing the 6-foot-2, second-year player on Sunday against Green Bays potent offense. Cornerback Asher Allen was forced into a starting assignment due to Cooks absence. Punt returner Marcus Sherels became the nickel back and Tyrell Johnson earned the start at strong safety for Sanford. Rookies Brandon Burton and Mistral Raymond were active, but Minnesota didnt utilize a six defensive back set, even when spread out by the Packers.
Without two starters and Cook who had started the past two games while Winfields been hurt the Vikings offered little resistance against Rodgers and his stable of receivers. After Minnesota scored on the opening possession of the game in just three plays, Rodgers began to put on a clinic.
He was 6 of 6 for 76 yards on the first drive and connected with John Kuhn for a 2-yard touchdown pass. In the first half, Rodgers was 17 of 20, his only incompletions coming on two drops and a spike to stop the clock late in the half.
The Packers were clearly ready to test the Vikings secondary.
I kind of thought we might throw it a little more actually with Cook and Winfield out and them playing some guys who might not get a ton of playing time, Rodgers said. Thought wed maybe throw it a little more, but the way that the game kind of was flowing in the first half with us not getting a lot of possessions kind of hindered us from having a ton of passing attempts, but I think we were pretty efficient throwing it.
And when Rodgers was able to throw, it only exposed the lack of depth in the defensive backfield for Minnesota.
We had to do a little bit of adjusting, Frazier said of his short-handed secondary. There were some things we had worked on during the week for the multiple receiver sets and so on, but our guys responded well. The guys who had to step up did a good job today. We had some plays that they made, but theyre going to make some plays. I thought overall they did some good things.
Rodgers finished 24 of 30 for 335 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked four times, twice by Jared Allen, but had plenty of time to find open receivers on most occasions.
Starting safety Husain Abdullah said he was caught out of position on Jennings long touchdown.
I just really lost sight of him; trying to play football and he got behind me, Abdullah said. Thats terrible because then they ensue to steamroll and put up 20 points in a hurry. Kind of a sick feeling.
Rodgers ended up hitting nine different receivers during the game, a tough challenge for the depleted Vikings.
Obviously youre a little shorthanded and a couple of your packages wont really work when youre shorthanded, safety Tyrell Johnson said. No excuses. We still had enough people to go out there and do our job.