Last week, Adrian Peterson outdueled Aaron Rodgers at the Metrodome.
On Saturday night, Rodgers won in a rout as Peterson’s starting quarterback was in street clothes.
The Green Bay Packers handled the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 in an NFC wild-card game at Lambeau Field. Rodgers did most of his damage in the first two-and-a-half quarters, finishing 23-of-33 for 274 yards and a touchdown. Rodgers, with the highest passer rating in NFL postseason history at 105.5, finished with a 104.9 rating.
The story, however, was Minnesota’s offense. Peterson, who rushed for 409 yards in the first two matchups against the Packers, saw a much more disciplined defense this time. Already wearing a bull’s-eye on his No. 28 jersey, the Packers doubled down on their efforts to stop him after starting quarterback Christian Ponder was ruled out with a sore right (throwing) elbow. Joe Webb was miserable in Ponder’s place, going 7-of-24 for 61 yards until the Packers blew coverage on Michael Jenkins’ 50-yard touchdown pass with 3:39 remaining.
Green Bay will play at No. 2-seed San Francisco next Saturday night. Minnesota had won four in a row, including 37-34 at the Metrodome six days earlier to claim the No. 6 seed with a 10-6 record.
The Vikings, with little margin for error considering their quarterback and a 17-3 halftime deficit, started digging their grave on the first possession of the second half. Harrison Smith’s deflection on an end-zone pass to Jermichael Finley forced what should have been a 33-yard field-goal attempt. Instead, Jasper Brinkley was flagged for 12 men on the field before the kick. That gave the Packers a first down at the 9, and Rodgers’ dump-off to Kuhn turned into a touchdown that made it 24-3.
The Vikings kept digging with three consecutive turnovers, though the defense kept them on life support.
After the touchdown to Kuhn, Clay Matthews sacked Webb, forced a fumble and recovered on fourth-and-3. On the next drive, Webb went left on a bootleg but Matthews cut him off and hit him just as Webb went deep, with Sam Shields hauling in the interception. The Vikings’ defense forced a three-and-out but Sherels muffed the punt and Dezman Moses recovered.
Last week, with Ponder at quarterback and Peterson running wild, the Vikings led 20-10 at halftime. On Saturday, the Packers led 17-3.
Webb was terrible in the first half, completing 3-of-12 passes for 22 yards – including 1-of-8 for 8 yards to his wide receivers. With two sacks taken into account, the Vikings had 6 net passing yards. Peterson ran six times for 31 yards as the Vikings marched to an opening field goal but six times for 17 yards for the rest of the first half.
Rodgers, on the other hand, picked up where he left off during the final three quarters of last week’s 37-34 loss. He completed 14-of-18 for 205 yards in the half. Running backs DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant did most of the work on the Packers’ first touchdown drive, with a 16-yard screen to Grant setting up Harris’ 9-yard touchdown run.
The Packers made it look too easy in extending their lead to 17-3 late in the half. Taking possession at their 38 with 1:48 to go, Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for 22, Greg Jennings for 13 and Nelson for 23 to the 3. After a first-down throwaway, Kuhn scored on a draw.
Notes: With his touchdown run before halftime, John Kuhn became the only player in the NFL with a touchdown in each of the last four postseasons and is the only player in Packers history with a touchdown catch and reception in two playoff games. … Charles Woodson returned for the Packers after missing the last nine games with a broken collarbone. … Other than a brief period in the Dec. 2 game against Minnesota, the Packers had receivers Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb on the field for the first time since Sept. 30. … The Vikings ran the ball on eight of the first nine plays en route to the opening field goal. They’ve scored on their opening possession in each of the last five games. … The Packers had 239 yards in the first half and scored on three of five possessions but went 0-for-4 on third down.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.