The Packers are, and will continue to be quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ team.
But their ability to grind away at the Vikings in the second half could be the thing that makes them more dangerous as the season progresses.
The Packers opened the second half of Sunday’s 44-31 indoors win over the Vikings with a cold-weather drive — a 15-play, 80-yard march that put the spotlight on rookie running back Eddie Lacy.
Lacy had eight of the nine runs on that counterintuitive Packers possession, including five runs of 7 yards or more. The final one of that set, a 1-yard touchdown, was almost anticlimactic.
It’s the latest in a month of performances that have shown the rookie running back is ready. He’s gone for at least 22 carries and at least 82 yards in every October game, and provides the perfect complement to a passing game that is among the best in the league when everyone’s well.
The Packers have needed the kind of ballast Lacy provides, even though Rodgers and the passing game should always be the foundation of the offense.
Having a back who can keep them in second-and-short — and an offensive line that can enable it — will help them now and as the weather worsens. Immediately, it keeps them from pushing inexperienced receivers into roles they’re not ready for.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Josh Freeman solidified his grip on the Vikings quarterback job, without even putting on a uniform.
Former first-rounder Christian Ponder — who isn’t that far removed from playing the kind of inoffensive football that at least did not prevent a playoff berth — looked lost.
While he has a degree of talent, Ponder did something impressive: He looked tentative in the pocket, while also ready to check down or scramble at the first hint of pressure.
To be honest, Freeman might not be any better. His play in Tampa Bay was inconsistent enough to indicate that it’s entirely possible he’s a tease — a guy with enough talent to fool you into thinking he’s something other than what he appeared to be there.
But at the moment, the Vikings need to look elsewhere. Ponder’s response to getting the hook for Matt Cassel and then Freeman did nothing to make them think he’s going to push anyone as a backup, or justify a roster spot for very long.
2. Apparently Jared Allen isn’t going anywhere.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf told NBC’s Michele Tafoya that suggestions the veteran defensive end being on the trade block prior to Tuesday deadline were “baloney.”
Wilf is in an uncomfortable spot of trying to sell tickets for a bad team for half a year, and moving such a popular and productive player would not help in that effort.
But to discount the possibility of considering getting something for a 31-year-old pending free agent is also irresponsible, considering where the Vikings are as a franchise.
3. The Packers have flaws, but they also have a personnel department that keeps them consistently competitive.
Giving defensive tackle Johnny Jolly a chance after jail time is one thing, he was one of their own. But finding productive players elsewhere is the sign of a team that understands what it wants to be, and conducts job searches accordingly.
A year and a half ago, wide receiver Jarrett Boykin was deemed not sufficiently talented to be a Jaguar.
Signed by Jacksonville as an undrafted rookie in 2012, he was cut in May. He ended up hanging around Green Bay, and made several significant catches Sunday night.
Granted, it’s easier to look good catching passes from Rodgers than it is from Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne. But sifting through the pile and finding a contributor who was cut by one of the worst teams in the league is the mark of a confident and intelligent group of evaluators.
4. The Vikings have missed with some high picks lately, but first-rounder Cordarrelle Patterson’s talent is obvious.
His 109-yard kickoff return was something, and he needs time to become a polished receiver.
If they’re patient, and find someone to throw it to him, he could become a special player.
5. The Packers have been decimated by injuries lately, particularly on defense. There have been times when it appeared assistant coach Kevin Greene might be a reasonable option at outside linebacker.