Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy looks on during the first
half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, in Minneapolis.
GREEN BAY —
As disappointing as their loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday
had been — especially since it cost them the NFC's No. 2 seed and
a first-round playoff bye — the Green Bay Packers had no time to
feel sorry for themselves.
same Vikings coming to Lambeau Field on Saturday night for an NFC
wild card game, the work week is already underway. And coach Mike
McCarthy as already stressing the positives.
there's nothing but positives right now," McCarthy said at a
7:45 a.m. press conference, on a day when players were technically
off but could come to the stadium if they wanted to.
playoff football, and really, yes, we had every intention of winning
the game in Minnesota (Sunday). OK, it didn't work. I'm not just
fluffing it by, but you have to, because the door is open for the
playoffs to begin.
playoffs. It doesn't matter who we play, where we play them. We feel
confident that we're going to get it done and do whatever we need to
get it done."
onward-and-upward theme was predictable — "We have no choice
at this point," defensive tackle B.J. Raji correctly pointed
out — it was also necessary with the shortened work week.
the team would practice Tuesday afternoon, then Wednesday and
Thursday mornings, doing all of its normal installations. The
players will have a mandatory weightlifting session Tuesday morning,
and the team will gather at noon to officially kick off their week.
been through some adversity this year, more so than probably in the
past, and I felt like we dealt with it very well throughout the
year," left guard T.J. Lang said. "Knowing these guys,
these players, these coaches, we're going to be ready to go — get
this game out of our minds and get ready to prepare for them next
It will help
that the Packers will be prepping for the Vikings for the third time
in a month. The Packers won at Lambeau Field, 23-14, on Dec. 2
before Sunday night's 37-34 loss.
who our opponent is. The preparation for our opponent should be
pretty clean," McCarthy said.
Whether or not
the rematch is a good thing was a matter of opinion. In the
visitors' locker room at the Metrodome, opinion had been mixed.
the playoffs now, so you play who you are seeded against. The road
got a little tougher having to play on opening weekend, but we've
got a home game and that's why you win the division,"
quarterback Aaron Rodgers replied when asked if he wanted a rematch.
"You get to go back home and the game will be a different type
of game. They won't have the home-crowd advantage and hopefully that
will make a difference."
anxious to get another shot at the Vikings and running back Adrian
Peterson, who followed up a 210-yard effort on Dec. 2 with a
199-yard effort Sunday, which left him eight yards short of Eric
Dickerson's 1984 NFL single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.
as we're in the playoffs, it really don't matter who we play.
Obviously, it's a team we play twice a year so it's going to be a
lot of recognition out there," cornerback Tramon Williams said.
"We've got the Vikings next week, (so) bring them on. Bring
them on. Obviously, they have to go to Lambeau and hopefully we can
go out and put together a better performance that we did."
This isn't the
first time the Packers have faced their Week 17 opponent the
following week in the opening round of the playoffs. At the end of
the 2009 season, the Packers went to Arizona for the regular-season
finale and knew before kickoff that there would be a postseason
rematch the following week. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt pulled
his starters while McCarthy played his, and the Packers won the game
that didn't matter. The next week, the Cardinals won in dramatic
fashion, advancing with a 51-45 overtime victory.
It's also not
the first time the Packers have faced an NFC North opponent in the
postseason. In 2004, the Packers swept the Vikings in regular-season
play but lost in the wild card round at Lambeau. And in 2010, the
Packers split their regular-season series with the Chicago Bears
before beating them in the NFC Championship Game to advance to Super
instance, the Bears could have kept the Packers out of the playoffs
by beating them in Week 17 at Lambeau Field. Instead, the Packers
won, and the Bears lived to regret it. McCarthy's task is to make
sure the Vikings don't return the favor.
different because there's a familiarity. There's a lot more tape.
You're watching it over and over and over again. You can call out
the plays just as soon as they start," McCarthy said.
"Those are the things you have to be cautious of, but at the
end of the day playoff football is about fundamentals.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -
Charles Woodson has been cleared to play again, and the Green Bay
Packers are counting on the defensive back to provide a lift in
Saturday night's playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.
to team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie and gave his broken collarbone
as much time to heal as possible, sitting out Sunday's
regular-season finale at Minnesota. He was injured on Oct. 21 and
has missed nine consecutive games.
But now that the
Packers are in win-or-go-home mode, Woodson is back.
been a stud in this league for 15 years, so whenever he's on the
field with us, he's always a huge threat," inside linebacker
A.J. Hawk said after practice Tuesday evening. "Not only is
he a threat to make huge plays throughout the game, but
quarterbacks, I think they know where he's at every single play.
He seems to know what receivers are running before they do. And I
think he has an intimidation factor as well.
we play has to respect him."
Woodson each time, Green Bay split its two regular-season games
against Minnesota. But Vikings star Adrian Peterson had two strong
performances against the Packers, rushing for 210 yards in Green
Bay's 23-14 victory on Dec. 2 and gaining 199 yards on the ground
in Minnesota's 37-34 win on Sunday at the Metrodome.
think having Charles Woodson back on the field helps our football
team," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said in announcing that
Woodson had been cleared. "I mean, just what he's meant to
our defense, his playmaking ability, his ability to make plays at
the line of scrimmage. He's extremely productive, so I'm just glad
to have him back on the field."
Woodson was not in the Packers' locker room during the media
access period on Tuesday night. But when he last spoke at length
with reporters on Dec. 21, he acknowledged that he hasn't always
agreed with McKenzie or McCarthy's recommendations. But if waiting
allows him to make it through an entire playoff run - right
through Super Bowl XLVII - without reinjuring his collarbone, he
will be grateful, he said.
Before his injury
at St. Louis, Woodson was playing strong safety in the Packers'
base defense, then playing the nickel and dime slot positions in
sub packages. After he went down, M.D. Jennings was his primary
replacement at safety in the base defense, while rookies Casey
Hayward (nickel) and Jerron McMillian (dime) covered opposing slot
where Woodson will line up this weekend, but his defensive
teammates believe he'll help against Peterson and Christian
Ponder, who completed 16 of 28 passes for 234 yards and three
touchdowns on Sunday.
helps us in every aspect of the game, just his experience,"
cornerback Tramon Williams said. "No doubt about it,
obviously he's a great player from the start, but with that
experience, we know he's going to be in the position he's supposed
to be in, we know he's going to be looking to make a play. You can
be aggressive yourself because you know you have a guy back there
you can trust."
Woodson also makes a difference because, while some of the team's
young players have done well in his absence, his knowledge of the
game allows him to do things that younger players aren't able to
do, aren't comfortable doing or can't do as well as he does them.
defense is based off disguising and things like that, so Charles
has been so experienced so he knows how long to hold a disguise,
and he's not scared to do it," Williams said. "It's
definitely going to help us in the long run."
QB Ponder has quietly moved past struggles
Minn. - The most glaringly bad performance by Christian Ponder
in a season marked by costly mistakes and curious decisions had
just concluded, and the skepticism about his viability as
Minnesota's quarterback was as prevalent as ever.
As for Vikings
coach Leslie Frazier, well, his faith in Ponder was never
threw two devastating interceptions in the third quarter at
Green Bay that day, one in the end zone with Minnesota leading
14-10 and the other at the Packers 13-yard line with the Vikings
trailing 20-14, the playoffs appeared improbable. They were 6-6
and facing a difficult four-game segment at the end of the
schedule. Ponder's future as the starter looked tenuous.
anticipating the swirl of speculation and criticism from the
analysts and the fans, sought out Ponder in the locker room at
Lambeau Field to assure him the team was still behind him.
Adrian Peterson gave him a pep talk, too.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) throws a touchdown
pass to Kyle Rudolph during the first quarter of an NFL
football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Dec. 23,
2012, in Houston.
want you to walk in there with any doubt about your future here
as our starting quarterback," Frazier told Ponder before
his postgame news conference. "Next ballgame, you're going
to be our starter."
finished with four straight wins to secure a wild card spot, and
though Peterson and the defense had a lot to do with the rally
they wouldn't have qualified for the postseason without
improvement by Ponder. Yes, the Vikings are Peterson's team, but
Ponder is ultimately the one most responsible for their
a lot has changed. I think the biggest thing for me was making
better decisions," Ponder said. "Obviously I made some
bad decisions in that first game. It's something that I knew I
had to improve upon. I think each week it's gotten better."
First, he had
to eliminate those turnovers. In victories over Chicago and at
St. Louis, Ponder's efficiency improved, and his last
interception of the year came Dec. 9 against the Bears. The
Vikings were more conservative than usual with the pass, though,
asking Ponder to do even less. Safe, short throws were about all
he tried. Part of that, of course, was Peterson running wild.
The next week,
though, Ponder was a more assertive passer in that 23-6 victory
at Houston. The Texans were the only team to contain Peterson
since October, limiting him to 86 yards on 25 rushes, so the
second-year quarterback had to step up. He threw for a
touchdown, finished with 174 yards and went 9 for 13 on third
down, moving the chains on six of those completions. Ponder also
ran more effectively than he had all season, taking off seven
times for 48 yards, twice for first downs.
Then on Sunday,
Ponder matched his career high with three touchdown passes,
turning in his fifth turnover-free performance of the year and
taking only one sack in the most important NFL game he's played
in. His 65-yard completion to Jarius Wright that set up one of
those scores was his longest of the season.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder walks off the field after
an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday,
Dec. 30, 2012, in Minneapolis. The Vikings won 37-34.
favorite receiver since Percy Harvin's injury on Nov. 4, Ponder
has had a tougher time finding open targets. But his patchwork
group, while never being confused with the collection of
standouts the Packers have at their disposal, has begun to give
him more help. Wright, Michael Jenkins and Jerome Simpson all
made tough catches on Sunday against Green Bay.
think my confidence ever really was shaken or anything. I think
it just goes back to obviously understanding what I can and
can't do. I can't force things that aren't there," Ponder
Tuesday how much he appreciated the assurance from Frazier,
Peterson and others.
"It was a
tough situation and I was very hard on myself, so it was good to
hear," Ponder said.
game was so weak and the ground game so good that, for a while,
Peterson was rushing for more yards than Ponder was accumulating
passing. During an eight-game stretch from Oct. 21 to Dec. 16,
when the Vikings went 4-4, Peterson averaged 164 yards rushing
and Ponder averaged 137 passing. In the other games this season,
of which the Vikings won six, Peterson averaged 98 yards and
perspective as the head coach, you can't be swayed by outside
opinions," Frazier said. "You can listen, but you've
always got to make sure you're doing the best thing for the team
and what gives the team the best chance to win. And for me, that
was making sure that Christian knew that he had my unwavering
At some point,
the Vikings might face more of a crossroad about whether to
stick with Ponder or find a replacement. But with only 26 career
starts — Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, by comparison, has 80 —
they have a lot more performance reviews to conduct.
a fantastic job these past few weeks. I thought this past game
was his best," center John Sullivan said. "Obviously
he's taking care of the football. He's completing passes, a lot
of third-down conversion and some big plays down the field. And
that's all we can ask of him. He's doing his job just like
everybody else is trying to do."
he's under the most scrutiny, except maybe for Peterson.
he's done a great job just weathering that and continuing to
play ball. It's not always going to be pretty in this
league," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "I think he's
just going to continue to push and improve, and you can kind of
see where the results are now."