EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mike Zimmer has the answer to all the Minnesota Vikings’ ills when it comes to Aaron Rodgers.
“I think they should trade him,” the Minnesota Vikings head coach said after spending ample time praising the Packers’ all-world quarterback, who has the NFL buzzing once again after beating the Cowboys 35-31 in Dallas despite trailing by three points with 73 seconds left on Sunday.
Rodgers and the NFC North-leading Packers (4-1) visit the 3-2 Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. It will be the ninth time Green Bay’s Hall of Fame-bound quarterback has faced a Zimmer-coached defense. The series is knotted at 4-4, with Zimmer winning both meetings when he was Bengals defensive coordinator and Rodgers taking four of six meetings since Zimmer became Vikings head coach.
“He’s an innovator,” Rodgers said of Zimmer. “People try to copy what he’s been doing defensively, but they can’t. I call that an innovator.”
Zimmer is expected to be without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who didn’t practice Wednesday after his ailing left knee forced him to be pulled in the first half of Monday night’s win at Chicago. Case Keenum, who has four touchdown passes and no turnovers in 3 1/2 games played this season, would get his fourth start of the season.
Although two defensive starters – strong safety Andrew Sendejo and tackle Tom Johnson – didn’t practice Wednesday, Zimmer still will have a healthier, fresher defense than the one that Rodgers carved up in a 38-25 victory last Christmas Eve. In knocking the Vikings out of the playoff hunt that day, Rodgers completed 28 of 38 passes for 347 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 136.6 passer rating. He had 268 yards and three touchdowns by halftime.
The game marked the first time Rodgers had thrown for 300 yards against a Zimmer-coached team. In a 17-14 Vikings win in Week 2 last season, Rodgers completed only 20 of 36 passes for 213 yards while being sacked five times and posting a 70.7 passer rating.
The Packers are expecting something closer to the first game last year than what happened in the second meeting. Despite receiver Adam Thielen’s 12 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns, Zimmer’s defense simply couldn’t stop Rodgers.
“Mike has the defense playing exceptionally well right now,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. “They lead the league in third-down defense. They’re tough to move the ball against.”
The Vikings have allowed only 14 third-down conversions out of 55 chances for a 25.5 percentage this season. They’ll need to stop the Packers’ newfound running game and keep favorable downs and distances to have any chance to beating Rodgers.
“I’ve been in the NFL 20-some years and I can’t remember a guy that does the things that this guy does,” Zimmer said. “Obviously, we’ve played against (Tom) Brady and Manning, Peyton Manning, other Mannings, all these guys. This guy, when you combine everything – his arm strength, his intelligence, his escape ability, the way he sees things. … I think they should trade him.”
If Zimmer had his choice, it would be out of the division.
SERIES HISTORY: 111th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 59-49-2. Vikings are 27-28 at home, including 1-0 at U.S. Bank Stadium. They opened up the stadium by beating the Packers 17-14 in Week 2 of last season. The Vikings are 1-2 against the Packers at home under head coach Mike Zimmer. The teams have played twice in the playoffs. Both were wild-card games at Green Bay. The Vikings won during the 2004 season, while the Packers won during the 2012 season.
–It was tight end Kyle Rudolph’s idea to use the children’s game “Duck, Duck, Goose” as a touchdown celebration on Monday Night Football.
But Rudolph said there was one offensive starter who didn’t know what he was talking about: Wide receiver and Minnesota native Adam Thielen.
Minnesotans grow up playing the same game, but call it, “Duck, Duck, Grey Duck.” And, boy oh boy, they are adamant that the other 49 states are calling it by the wrong name.
“(Thielen) said until he went to college and until he went to Mankato and met people from outside of Minnesota, he had no idea that it was called Duck, Duck, Goose everywhere else in the United States except for here,” Rudolph said. “Like I said, Minnesotans are proud about their Duck, Duck, Grey Duck. It’s something to hang your hat on, I guess.”
The celebration involved offensive linemen and skilled players all sitting in a circle as Rudolph ran around them, tapping them on their helmets. What ensued was a Twitter war of Minnesotans and non-Minnesotans debating the name of the game.
So, head coach and Illinois native Mike Zimmer, where do you stand on the controversy?
“I am in Minnesota, so I’ll go with grey duck,” he said. “I never heard of that before, but I am a Minnesotan.”
–Quarterback Case Keenum was asked — again — if he’s preparing to be the starter. His answer was the same as all the other weeks he’s been asked the same question.
“I don’t want to be boring,” he said. “But that’s the way I prepare every week.”
Keenum is a virtual lock to start Sunday’s game against the Packers after Sam Bradford missed practice on Wednesday. Bradford missed three starts before returning on Monday night in Chicago. But his left knee clearly wasn’t ready for action, and he was mercifully pulled before halftime.
Keenum relieved Bradford last week and completed 17 of 21 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown. Wednesday, he praised quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski for preparing him.
“I think that says a lot about Stefanski and how he prepares us as a quarterback room,” Keenum said. “We see the defense through the same set of eyes. It starts with the coordinator (Pat Shurmur), quarterbacks coach and then as quarterbacks being able to see everything.”
NOTES: QB Sam Bradford (knee) did not practice Wednesday and is unlikely to play against the Packers on Sunday. … WR Stefon Diggs (groin) did not practice Wednesday. He is day-to-day and could be able to play on Sunday. If he doesn’t play, the Vikings could start Laquon Treadwell or Michael Floyd. … LG Nick Easton (calf) did not practice Wednesday. He’s day-to-day. If he’s not ready by Sunday, Jeremiah Sirles will likely get the start. … DT Tom Johnson (knee) did not practice Wednesday. He’s day-to-day. If he can’t play, the Vikings probably would start rookie Jaleel Johnson or Shamar Stephen. … SS Andrew Sendejo (groin) did not practice Wednesday. He’s day-to-day. If he’s unable to play, the Vikings likely would start Jayron Kearse. Kearse missed last week’s game with a groin injury, but had full participation in Wednesday’s practice. … RB Jerick McKinnon had his fourth career game of 100 or more yards from scrimmage in the win over the Bears on Monday. His 58-yard rushing touchdown was the third time he has scored a rushing touchdown of 50 yards or longer. That’s the fifth-highest total in team history. … DE Everson Griffen has a sack in five consecutive games. That’s a career high and is tied for the eighth-longest streak in team history. Jim Marshall set the record with an eight-game streak in 1969. … QB Case Keenum has the 10th-best passer rating (97.6) in the NFL. He’s one of three quarterbacks with four or more touchdown passes and no interceptions. Alex Smith (11-0) and Drew Brees (8-0) are the others.
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