GREEN BAY, Wis. – Deep on offense and scary-good on defense, the Green Bay Packers were way too much for the Minnesota Vikings.
Maybe everyone else in the NFC, too.
Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson and the Packers reminded everyone of how dangerous they can be when they’re at full strength Saturday night, overwhelming the Vikings 24-10 in an NFC wild-card game that was never really close.
“Our defense played great,” Rodgers said. “Our defense tonight played at a championship level and that’s what you need in the playoffs.”
John Kuhn scored two touchdowns, DuJuan Harris added another and Rodgers connected with an NFL playoff-record 10 receivers as he threw for 274 yards in his first playoff victory at home. Defensively, the Packers (12-5) finally managed to contain Adrian Peterson and were all over Vikings backup Joe Webb, pressed into service because of Christian Ponder’s triceps injury.
Peterson was held to 99 yards – an improvement after gaining 199 and 210 in the first two games against Green Bay. It was only the second time in the last 11 games that he was held below 100 yards. Webb, who hadn’t thrown a pass all season, was sacked three times and off target all night. His only highlight was a 50-yard scoring pass to Michael Jenkins late in the fourth quarter, but it was far too late for the Vikings (10-7).
“No disrespect to Ponder, but … it’s about one guy and that’s Adrian Peterson,” said Woodson, who played his first game since breaking his right collarbone Oct. 21. “Our main focus, whether it was Ponder or Webb, was to keep 28 (Peterson) from getting off. And if we were going to keep him from getting off, put the ball in the quarterback’s hands, whatever quarterback it was, we felt good about what was going to happen.”
The win snapped a two-game losing streak at Lambeau Field in the playoffs, and sent the Packers to San Francisco next Saturday for an NFC divisional game with the 49ers. The teams met in the season opener, with San Francisco winning 30-22.
“A lot has happened since we played San Francisco,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re a different team.”
Rodgers used so many different options other NFL quarterbacks must have been drooling. He went with Harris on Green Bay’s first scoring drive, mixed it up between James Jones, Tom Crabtree and Greg Jennings on the second, and had 22- and 23-yard completions to Jordy Nelson before Kuhn scored on a 3-yard run that put the Packers up 17-3 just before the half.
And pretty much everyone got in on the fun on the last score, a 12-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up more than 5 1/2 minutes. Rodgers connected with Jones on a 19-yard completion to put the Packers in Packers territory, then connected with Harris for 14 yards two plays later to reach the red zone. Rodgers threw incompletes on second and third downs, but just when the Packers thought they’d have to settle for a field goal, the Vikings were whistled for 12 men on the field, giving Rodgers another crack at the end zone.
He found Kuhn for the 9-yard score, and the game was all but over.
“We have some stuff to work on,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to help our defense out more, close a team out like that. Tough test next week back in San Francisco.”
Ponder was hurt last weekend when Morgan Burnett slammed into him on a blitz. Though initially thought to be an elbow injury, Ponder said it was actually a deep bruise in his right triceps. It limited his flexibility along with his power and, though it is better, there simply wasn’t enough time to recover with the short, six-day turnaround.
After testing the arm before the game, the Vikings decided to go with Webb, whose only playing time this year was a couple of handoffs at the end of a blowout of Tennessee in early October.
“I can play with pain. The biggest thing is the loss of flexibility,” Ponder said. “It wouldn’t have been wise to play.”