MINNEAPOLIS – A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers’ 44-31 win over the Minnesota Vikings:
What it means: After all the awful things that have happened to the Packers over the years at the Metrodome, it almost seemed fitting that in their last regular-season game here they gave up a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Vikings rookie Cordarrelle Patterson to start the game. But it was no house of horrors this time. Aaron Rodgers turned in another masterful performance. Without two of his top three receivers and his top tight end, the Packers quarterback completed all but five of his passes, going 24-for-29, and threw a pair of touchdown passes. The win kept the Packers (5-2) in first place in the NFC North, one-half game ahead of Detroit (5-3).
Stock watch: The Packers seemingly can run the ball no matter which running back they use. James Starks was active for the first time since his Week 3 knee injury. He spelled Eddie Lacy for a few series, and looked just as explosive as he did in Week 2, when Starks rushed for 132 yards against Washington. The Packers matched their season high with 182 yards rushing, and dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for 40 minutes and 54 seconds. Lacy, the NFL’s leading rusher over the previous three weeks, rushed for 94 yards on 29 carries, while Starks carried seven times for 57 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown.
What you can do, I can do, too: After Patterson returned the opening kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown, Packers rookie Micah Hyde returned a second-quarter punt 93 yards for a touchdown. Hyde nearly got taken out by one of his own men, linebacker Sam Barrington. But once he avoided Barrington, Hyde was gone.
Scrambling man: Rodgers hurt the Vikings with his feet. Other than two kneel-downs, he ran four times for 34 yards, including a 14-yard scramble on a third-and-2 play on the opening drive of the third quarter. Three plays later, Rodgers scrambled on another third-and-2 play, and although he took a hard hit, he picked up 3 yards to set up Lacy’s 1-yard touchdown. Those two plays by Rodgers kept alive a drive that chewed up the first 8:10 of the second half.
No trouble on third down: The Packers converted their first seven third downs and finished 13-of-18 for the game. At 72.2 percent, that was the highest third-down conversion rate in the NFL this season, bettering Denver's 69 percent against Dallas in Week 5, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They also converted both of their fourth-down attempts.
What’s next: The Packers make their first – and only – appearance of the season on "Monday Night Football" when the Chicago Bears come to Lambeau Field on Nov. 4. The Bears (4-3) will be coming off their bye week.