Defense takes control, Packers pound Vikings 45-7
The Green Bay Packers' primary pass rusher took down Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder twice, leading a defensive resurgence as the Packers blew out the Vikings 45-7 on Monday night.
"Tonight was no different than any other night for me," Matthews said. "It was just the fact I was able to get home. (I'm) just putting pressure on the quarterback each and every week and if he holds on to the ball when I hit him, then so be it. If not, I'm still going to take a shot. It's good."
Matthews came into Monday night with only three sacks in the Packers' first eight games, part of an inconsistent pass rush that has helped make the Packers' defense susceptible to big plays.
But Matthews, Charles Woodson and the rest of the Packers' defensive players showed they still can take over a game, limiting Adrian Peterson to 51 yards and a touchdown and holding Ponder to 190 yards passing with an interception.
"We're mad," Woodson said. "We're mad about the way we've been performing. Not holding up our end of the bargain. The way our offense has been playing and carrying this team, we want to be a part of that too. We don't want it to just be one-sided."
At 9-0, Green Bay remains the NFL's lone unbeaten team. And if the Packers can field a decent defense to go with its trademark high-octane offense, they just might become unstoppable.
"I think we've known that we can play at this level, it's just a matter of getting it done," Matthews said. "We have the same players, same coaching staff, same defensive scheme, it's just a matter of putting it all together and that's exactly what we did tonight."
Green Bay's defense came into the game giving up nearly 300 yards passing per game, second-most in the NFL. Their last time out, the Packers nearly blew a big lead in the fourth quarter at San Diego, holding on for a 45-38 victory.
"I felt as a defense we owed it to ourselves to play a game like that," Woodson said. "Owed it to our fans, our team, especially our offense who's been playing out of their minds this year. We needed a game like that. It feels good, but it's still one game."
Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, turned in another one of the standout performances the Packers have come to expect from him, throwing for 250 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.
Rodgers comes closer to perfection than nearly anyone in the NFL most weeks, but even he isn't ready to start pondering the possibility of a perfect season by the Packers.
"We try to go 1-0 every week," Rodgers said. "I know I said that last week. We've got nine of them right now banked and we're going to try to get to 10 this Sunday."
The Vikings did their best to make life rough for Rodgers, sacking him three times and smacking him virtually every time he took off running. In the end, their NFC North nemesis just walked away with another victory.
"Anybody can be stopped," defensive end Jared Allen said. "We were hitting him. It comes back to guys doing their jobs. We've got to cover guys better, we've got to get to him, we've got to capitalize on third and long — I don't think we got off the field on third down. He's in the zone, though. He's a hell of a player. I hope they win it all now."
Worse yet, the Vikings could be without cornerback Antoine Winfield for the rest of the season because of a broken clavicle. Monday was Winfield's first game back from a neck injury.
It was a rough night all around for Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
"You got to take a look at where we are and you look at the team that's undefeated in our division," Frazier said. "And you try to use this game as a gauge as to how far you have to go. And if the score's any indication we have a long ways to go."
The Packers' biggest play of the day came from rookie Randall Cobb, who returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
It was an up and down night for Cobb, who muffed a punt to set up the Vikings' only touchdown — then immediately rebounded with a 55-yard kickoff return.
"I guess when the lights come on my tempo, my game speed goes up," Cobb said. "But I've got to get to where I'm doing it every game, not just on big games. Going forward, moving forward, like I said a few weeks ago, I want to be more consistent on my returns, especially in the punt-return game.
"It's been ups and downs. I'm still having some ups and downs. I've got to get better and get more consistent at that."