Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) is taken down by
Green Bay Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji (90), inside
linebacker Brad Jones (59) and defensive end Ryan Pickett (79)
during the first half of an NFL wild card playoff football
game Saturday in Green Bay.
GREEN BAY - DuJuan
Harris and John Kuhn had short touchdown runs, Kuhn caught a scoring
pass from Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers took a 24-3 lead
over the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night into the fourth quarter
in their NFC wild-card playoff game.
was inactive for the Vikings because of a right elbow injury so Joe
Webb started at quarterback for the first time all season, and
Rodgers made the passing gap between the two teams even wider.
Rodgers went 19 for 26 for 260 yards and no turnovers, leading
touchdown drives of 82, 62 and 80 yards.
Peterson being boxed in by a fired-up Packers defense that he gashed
for 409 yards rushing over the previous two meetings this season,
Webb had to go to work in his first start of the season.
The results weren't
pretty. Webb tripped over Clay Matthews to give the Packers star an
easy sack early in the second quarter, and he was called for
intentional grounding while being swarmed behind the line of
scrimmage on the next play.
Webb ran five times
for 60 yards, but he completed only seven of his first 20 attempts
for a measly 61 yards. Peterson gained 69 yards on 19 carries.
Rodgers didn't let
up after halftime. The Vikings had the Packers stopped for a field
goal on fourth-and-4, but Jasper Brinkley was called for 12 men on
the field when he couldn't make it to the sideline in time, and the
penalty gave the Packers just enough yards to keep going. Rodgers
found Kuhn open on the next play, and the fullback barged into the
end zone by barreling over Jamarca Sanford at the goal line for a
The last time the
Vikings were in a playoff game, they infamously were called for 12
men on the field, too, on offense that time in the fourth quarter of
the NFC championship game in New Orleans to push them out of
field-goal range. Brett Favre threw an interception, and they lost
to the Saints in overtime.
The Vikings finally
made it across midfield again on the next possession, but on
fourth-and-3 at the 38, Matthews took down Webb for another sack,
forced the ball out and recovered it. After a Packers punt, Webb
scrambled for a first down at the Green Bay 46. But on the next
play, his long pass was intercepted by Sam Shields at the 8.
After the Vikings
forced another punt early in the fourth quarter, Marcus Sherels
fumbled, and the Packers recovered at the Minnesota 39.
entered the game with the NFL's best postseason passer rating in
history at 105.5 after seven previous playoff appearances, was in
prime form. After a fourth straight punt by the Vikings, Rodgers got
the Packers from their 38-yard line to the Minnesota 3 in three
plays. He rolled right and threw a zinger to Jordy Nelson in the
final minute of the first half to set up Kuhn's plunge.
On the previous
drive, Rodgers found Greg Jennings open on fourth-and-5, and
Jennings spun around Chris Cook to sprint up the sideline and reach
the Vikings 2. Mason Crosby's field goal pushed the lead to 10-3.
Rodgers went 4 for
4 on the first scoring drive for the Packers, who used their
hurry-up, no-huddle scheme they weren't able to make work in the
noisy Metrodome last Sunday. The Vikings won that game 37-34 to
force the rematch, the third time these border rivals have met in a
The Vikings used a
33-yard field goal by rookie Blair Walsh on the opening possession
to get in front early. Webb ran for 17 yards on third-and-3 to keep
the drive alive, but his underthrow to Michael Jenkins bounced well
short on third down to set up the kick.
Rodgers had his top
four receivers healthy together for the first time since September,
with Jennings, Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones all set to go
against a Vikings secondary that had trouble keeping up in their
game last week after veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield left with a
broken right hand. Winfield returned for this one, but his ability
to play his usual physical style was in question.
more on his running backs early. Harris caught two passes for 28
yards and Ryan Grant had a 16-yard reception to put the Packers in
position to take the lead. The on-field ruling on the scoring run by
Harris was that he was down at the 1, but Packers coach Mike
McCarthy challenged the play, and the call was reversed.
For Rodgers, this
game was another benchmark in his stellar career. Despite leading
the Packers to a Super Bowl championship after the 2010 season, he
had yet to win a playoff game at Lambeau Field. After rolling
through the regular season at 15-1 in 2011, the Packers were upset
here in their first postseason game by the eventual champion New
York Giants. But Rodgers, despite all the injuries to his receivers
this year, posted the NFL's best passer rating for the second year
in a row.
Webb became the
first quarterback in 20 years to start a playoff game without
starting any games during that regular season since Frank Reich did
so for Buffalo, according to STATS. Reich led the Bills to their
famous comeback victory over Houston that year.
These teams squared
off for the second time in seven days, so there wasn't much either
side could do to surprise the other — except, perhaps, make a
quarterback switch just before the game.
After preparing all
week for Ponder, whose second-year struggles peaked in a loss here
on Dec. 2 when he threw two interceptions inside the Green Bay
20-yard line, the Packers defense suddenly faced a totally different
player in Webb.
220-pound sixth-round draft pick in 2010 was athletic enough to play
some wide receiver at Alabama-Birmingham and even take a few turns
there with the Vikings last year before becoming a full-time
quarterback this season as the backup to Ponder.
Webb had three
starts over his first two NFL seasons, the first coming at
Philadelphia on Dec. 28, 2010. The Vikings beat the playoff-bound
Eagles that night 24-14, and Webb passed for 195 yards and ran for a
Ponder was hurt
last Sunday when Packers safety Morgan Burnett delivered a jarring
hit on a blitz, but he finished the game with a career-high 120.2
passer rating and three touchdowns in the 37-34 win. His elbow just
didn't improve enough during the week, however, for the Vikings to
put him in.