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Rushing opposing quarterbacks hasn’t been the primary focus for Vikings LB Anthony Barr, who has only rushed 20.8 percent of the time on passing plays in his career. Mike Zimmer wouldn’t say that this is the most consistent five-game stretch he’s seen from Barr. But Zimmer certainly believes Barr has played up to his ability at other points during his career.
A week ago, Barr said he wasn’t sure what Rodgers said to him.”He wasn’t happy, and I understand. He probably realized that he was injured at that time and he wasn’t happy,” Barr said. “I probably would have had that same reaction. It’s fine.” Both Barr and Smith wound up watching most of the first half on the sidelines, and things couldn’t have started much worse for the Vikings.
His athleticism was in peak form when he dropped Tarik Cohen on a run reverse for a 4-yard loss. On second-and-8 with 3:23 to play in the first quarter, Cohen, one of the Bears top pass-catchers, was flanked as a receiver on the left side with Jordan Howard lined up in the backfield. Barr had his eyes glued on Cohen before the play was initiated and zeroed in on him as the ball was snapped. He drew initial contact seconds after the handoff and got Cohen again as he tried to make a break for the edge. It was one of 10 times Barr was sent on rushes against the Bears, the most rushes he’s had this season, according to PFF.
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I wrote in my weekly research notes column that Aaron Rodgers is the most fun quarterback I’ve wached in my lifetime. I’m far from alone in that sentiment, which is what makes his injury so disappointing for so many football fans. Above is probably the last image we’ll have of Rodgers on an NFL field in 2017 — discount jerseys frustrated, likely aware of the severity of his situation, and barking at Anthony Barr, the man who plastered him to the turf and single-handedly changed the complexion of the NFC.
Rodgers was miffed at Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr for the tackle, which came outside the pocket and drew no penalty flag. The Packers’ superstar quarterback appeared to land hard on his shoulder with Barr’s weight driving him into the turf. When backup Brett Hundley came over to offer a “high-five,” Rodgers was forced to answer left-handed.
This was acknowledgment that there is no going back. That Rodgers is, quite possibly, not coming back to save them as he did after another broken collarbone in 2013 after Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr took him down Sunday with a hit that had Rodgers barking as he left the field. That Hundley — a talented, but raw underclassmen who slid to the fifth round in the 2015 draft and has trained mostly in the shadows behind Rodgers since — is going to have to seize this role immediately to keep the loss of his brilliant mentor from punching the wind out of this team.
He played the role admirably in 2015, as the knife edge of a defense that finished fifth in the league and helped the Vikings win the NFC North. But Barr had an off year in 2016, posting just two sacks and forcing only one fumble. And though the Vikings picked up his $12.3 million option for 2018 this week, his contract for next season and his play last season put him in an interesting position this fall.
Barr knocked Rodgers out of the game on the sixth play of the Packers’ second drive. The quarterback rolled to his right and threw a pass to Martellus Bennett, which the tight end dropped. Barr followed through on his tackle as the throw went incomplete.
If Barr is around on his option next year, however, he’s going to get paid like a 3-4 linebacker.Barr said last month he has an idea of what he needs to do better in 2017, and he’s got every reason to be motivated, with a lucrative option awaiting him next year and the possibility of a long-term deal looming beyond that.