Green Bay’s night started off with some good news, and ended with some even better news. In a surprising turn of events, Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder was ruled out about an hour and a half before game time at Lambeau. He had been battling an elbow injury, but was expected to play until he was working out before the game and it was determined he would not be able to go. This left backup Joe Webb in a record breaking situation, but not in a good way. He became the first ever quarterback to start a playoff game without attempting a single pass in the regular season of the same year. While it seemed at first that his running ability would be an x-factor for Minnesota, Green Bay quickly seized control and never looked back.
When it was announced Joe Webb would be the starter, the Packers defense was probably not adequately prepared for his running style to complement Adrian Peterson. As a result, Webb led the Vikings to an opening drive field goal, powered almost exclusively by run plays to either himself or Peterson. After that, however, the Packers adjusted and were stifling on defense for the rest of the way. It took almost a whole quarter for Rodgers and the offense to get on track, but once they did they rolled to 24 straight points, starting with a clever 9 yard touchdown run by DuJuan Harris. A designed cutback toss opened up a hole up the middle for Harris to plow through, and he fought his way to the goal line for a touchdown that was originally ruled down short before Green Bay challenged the play. After a goal-to-go situation stalled for Green Bay with 3 minutes to go in the half, the Packers got a field goal to make it 10-3. The Vikings surprisingly passed on 2 of their 3 plays, both of which were incomplete, giving Rodgers the ball back with just under 2 minutes to go. He promptly dissected the defense before handing off to John Kuhn for a 3 yard touchdown run to put serious pressure on Minnesota. The Vikings seemed to crack under the pressure, and in the third quarter their lack of discipline and poise began to surface. On 4th and 4 with 10 minutes to go in the third, the Packers lined up for a field goal, but the Vikings had 12 men on the field, resulting in a first down. On the next play, Rodgers found Kuhn for a 9 yard touchdown pass that effectively sealed the game for the Packers. Webb was largely ineffective, though he did hit Michael Jenkins on a 50 yard touchdown pass from a blown coverage to make it 24-10, which ended up being the final score.
Vikings fans will be left to wonder what the result could have been had Christian Ponder been under center on Saturday. Webb finished at 11 for 30 with 180 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He was missing receivers all over the place, and could not get the offense into a rhythm despite having the game’s top running back in his backfield. The Packers did an excellent job containing Peterson this time, holding him to (only) 99 yards, less than half of what he averaged against them in their first two meetings. Peterson played just as hard as ever, but the Packers scheme was more effective this time and they were able to limit his effectiveness to propel the Packers to the second round, where they will travel to San Francisco. This will be a rematch of the season opener, where the 49ers topped the Packers in Lambeau. Stay tuned for more playoff Packers news and as always, enjoy your week!