It was powerful a half-hour prior to kickoff Sunday, when every Vikings player, coach and on-field staff member lined up on the east goal line at U.S. Bank Stadium and locked arms in what they called a Unity Formation.
They stood, still and silent, just 10 yards from a message on the turf at the back of the end zone that read “END RACISM,” as an NFL-produced video titled “Be The Change,” supporting the players’ push for social justice, was shown.
The message was powerful, as was the one sent by 11 Vikings players who took a knee during the national anthem.
But those were the only powerful messages the Vikings delivered on Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams took it from there in a 43-34 Green Bay Packers victory that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.
The Packers’ dynamic passer-recevier duo spent most of the offseason and all of training camp hearing about how the Packers were the team in the NFC North that was going to regress in 2020. Sure, they went 13-3 a year ago and reached the NFC Championship Game, but the front office did nothing to upgrade either side of the ball in the offseason, they were told. Aaron Rodgers’ clock is ticking down in Green Bay, he was told, after the franchise drafted its quarterback of the future, Jordan Love, in the first round of the NFL Draft back in April.
But Rodgers is the team’s quarterback of the present. The sure-fire Hall of Famer reminded everyone — in particular, the Vikings’ young group of cornerbacks — of that on Sunday.
It wouldn’t have mattered if U.S. Bank Stadium’s 66,000 seats were filled with Dalvin Cook jersey-wearing, cheese-grating, Skol-clapping purple fanatics who’d been partying on the plaza for four hours before kickoff.
Rodgers didn’t need to audible, didn’t need to alter anything at the line of scrimmage. All he had to do was glance in Adams’ direction and make eye contact.
The Vikings haven’t been able to cover Adams since he came into the NFL six years ago. Former first-round cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes couldn’t do it the past three years. Nothing changed Sunday with a new crop of corners that included 2018 first-round draft pick Mike Hughes and two of the team’s first four picks in this year’s draft — first-rounder Jeff Gladney and third-rounder Cameron Dantzler.
Adams knew what Hughes was going to do before Hughes did. Gladney and Dantzler didn’t draw Adams very often; they had their hands full enough with the Packers’ receivers who weren’t supposed to hurt the Vikings — Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard.
“It was definitely different without Xavier and Trae on the other side,” Rodgers said after slicing up the Vikings’ new-look secondary to the tune of 32-for-44 passing for 364 yards and four touchdowns. Sunday marked his fifth four-touchdown game against the Vikings and the 364 passing yards are his third-best in his career against Minnesota, “but they have some really good young cornerbacks. As we’ve seen with young corners over the years, if you don’t make plays on them early, they’ll catch up.”
Nobody made more plays than Adams on Sunday. The seventh-year pro caught 14 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns, tying Don Hutson’s 78-year-old Packers’ franchise record for most catches in a game.
The Vikings had no answer for Adams. Hughes couldn’t keep up with him. Holton Hill broke up a pass intended for Adams on a fourth-and-goal play early in the second quarter, but Adams beat Hill cleanly for a 1-yard score on the Packers’ first drive of the second half. Then, with five minutes left to play, Adams beat Hill again for a 40-yard reception down to the Vikings’ 23. Three players later Aaron Jones ran in from five yards out for the Packers’ final touchdown and a 43-26 lead.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re new to the league or not,” Adams said of the Vikings’ young corners. “You can sense it, but they’re really good players and I just try to bring it every time I’m out there. I don’t take anyone lightly just because I’m Davante Adams and they’re a new guy coming into the league.
“I treat every opponent like they’re Deion Sanders, treat them like they’re the best ever, and that’s why you see the success.”
The Vikings were left to once again scratch their heads as to how to contain the Packers’ passing game. In the last five meetings between the rivals — in which the Packers are 3-1-1 — Adams has 47 catches for 511 yards and four touchdowns. Sunday, Green Bay put up the most points against a Vikings’ defense since Mike Zimmer took over as head coach in 2014.
“We didn’t play very well,” Zimmer said. “We couldn’t get off the field on third downs. We didn’t cover them very good. And we let (Rodgers) get out of the pocket and make big plays. When he gets out of the pocket, bad things happen.”
Jason Feldman is the Rochester Post Bulletin’s sports editor. He can be reached at [email protected]