Packers receiver Jordy Nelson had a huge first half against the Vikings today, catching seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns before halftime. And he did it against a Minnesota secondary that was defying the orders of head coach Mike Zimmer to have cornerback Xavier Rhodes shadow Nelson.
At halftime, Zimmer ordered the players to go back to the game plan of Rhodes shadowing Nelson, and it worked: Nelson managed just two catches for nine yards in the second half. But the damage was done in the first half. After the game, Zimmer acknowledged that the players hadn’t followed the game plan until he told them they had to at halftime.
“That’s what he was supposed to do the whole game,” Zimmer said, via the Star-Tribune. “Someone decided they wouldn’t do that.”
So who decided to go against the coach’s orders?
“To be honest, I really don’t want to answer that,” Rhodes said.
But as reporters asked him to explain, Rhodes did: He said the defensive backs decided on their own that he shouldn’t shadow Nelson because he hadn’t shadowed Nelson when they had faced the Packers in the past.
“We felt as a team, as players, we came together and we felt like we’d never done that when we played against the Packers,” Rhodes said. “Us as DBs felt like we could handle him. That’s how we felt as DBs that we could stay on our side and cover him. In the beginning, we’d always played against them and played our sides, so that’s what we as DBs went with.”
Zimmer confirmed that he exchanged words with cornerback Terence Newman about it in the first half.
“In the first half when Terence Newman came over and said something to me like ‘I can cover this guy, let me have him,’” Zimmer said. “I said, ‘do what you’re supposed to do.’”
It wasn’t until the second half that the Vikings’ defensive backs did what they were supposed to do. By that point, Nelson had done his damage. For the players to defy their coach like that is stunning.