Though he did not break the single season rushing record, Adrian Peterson did not seem to care one bit. Adrian “All Day” Peterson fell short by just 9 yards, finishing with 199 for the day as the Vikings won on a last second field goal to clinch their first playoff birth since Brett Favre was under center in the purple and gold. The Packers, meanwhile, could not take advantage of their opportunities and lost out on their second seed and a first round bye. As a result, these two teams will face off again next week in Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs, something that Peterson must be salivating at the thought of. In one of the wildest games of the year, Peterson proved to be the man of the hour once again, powering his team to victory.
Minnesota jumped out in front on an early field goal and a 7 yard touchdown run by AP, adding another field goal to make their lead 13-0 just into the second quarter. The Packers offense had stalled to that point, including a couple of punts. Aaron Rodgers then led the Packers to a touchdown drive, hitting Greg Jennings to put the Packers on the board, 13-7. It was the first of their two connections, and the first of four for Rodgers as he threw for 4 touchdowns and 365 yards with no interceptions. Minnesota responded immediately, however, with Christian Ponder finding Jarius Wright on an 8 yard touchdown, Ponder’s first of 3 for the game. The Packers were able to add a field goal as time ran out in the first half, and trailed 20-10 at the break. On the opening drive of the second half, Rodgers found Jennings again to trim Minnesota’s lead to 20-17. After forcing a punt and driving to midfield, Green Bay looked poised to take over the game, when Rodgers was sacked and fumbled the ball, only to see Jared Allen pounce on the loose ball and give the Vikings possession again. This led to a 2 yard touchdown catch by Peterson, and in a matter of minutes the lead was back up to 10. The Packers did not relent, though, as Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson on a 73 yard pass play to set up a touchdown to James Jones, and once again Green Bay forced a punt to get the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead. The Packers kicked a field goal, but Minnesota responded with a touchdown after Ponder hit Wright on a 65 yard pass to set up the score. In true MVP fashion, Rodgers led his team on an 11 play, 78 yard touchdown drive to tie the game with just under 3 minutes left, but then Peterson made his claim for MVP that much stronger. With the Vikings trying to drive to win the game as well as eat up clock so Rodgers would not get the ball back, Peterson busted a 26 yard run to the 11 yard line with 30 seconds left to set up Blair Walsh for the game winning, playoff clinching field goal which sneaked inside the upright as the clock hit 0. This sent Minnesota to the playoffs and the Packers now forced to prepare to face Peterson once again.
While the Packers must be disappointed by the loss, this was truly one of the best games of the season. They can’t be happy, however, about having to face Peterson for a third time this season, as he has gashed them for 210 yards and 199 yards in the two meetings thus far. As I wrote earlier in the week, if Green Bay could slow Peterson they would win the game easily, and sure enough they could not, failing to clinch a first round bye that they wanted to rest their players and give time for injured players to heal. This rubber match will mean a whole lot more than the first two meetings, and we should all be in for another treat in round 1 of the 2012 NFL Playoffs.