By Tom Pollin
CHFF's Black and Blue Man (@tjpollin)
The Packers cruised past the Vikings 24-10 Saturday night in the third meeting since December 2 between these old NFC North rivals.
Green Bay took the lead 7-3 late in the first quarter and were never seriously challenged the rest of the way.
Here’s what we learned in the second game of the Wild Card weekend double-header.
The Vikings needed the threat of a passing game from Ponder.
The Vikings started Joe Webb at quarterback after deactivating Christian Ponder because of a bruised elbow he suffered in their season finale last week.
Webb hadn’t started or thrown a pass in a regular season game since Week 17 of the 2011 season and it showed. Other than on their first drive, the Vikings struggled to move the ball all game.
With the threat of an effective passing attack from the Vikings removed the Packers had an easy time keeping their offense under control after that first drive.
With the Packers only having to worry about shutting down the Vikings' ground game they did an excellent job of closing running lanes and holding containment outside the tackles. They held Peterson to a longest run of 18-yards.
Webb completed three passes for 22-yards in the first half while under and overthrowing his targets the rest of the time. Those 22-yards were offset by two sacks by the Packers for 16-yards. The Vikings netted 6-yards passing on 13 drop backs for a Yards per Attempt average that would be mediocre in 1920, the NFL’s first season of existence.
Even if Ponder had played the Packers were too good for the Vikings to beat.
Aaron Rodgers was in complete control the entire game. He completed passes to 10 different receivers, an NFL record, for a very good 6.9 Real Passing Yards per Attempt average and finished with a 104.9 Passer Rating.
The Vikings were only able to register one sack in the first half and hit him while passing one other time. Without the threat of a pass rush Rodgers picked the Vikings apart on the way to a 17-3 first half lead.
It’s the playoffs, it’s all about the quarterback.
It’s true with rare exceptions during the season. It’s true as a rule in the postseason. About an hour before the Vikings and Packers kicked off it was a wonder how Christian Ponder managed to win the starting job for the Vikings with such a superior quarterback on the bench waiting for his chance. One quarter into the game and no one was wondering why Joe Webb had spent the season watching from the sidelines.
Webb was able to finish with 180-yards passing but 119 of that total was in the fourth quarter when the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt.
Adrian Peterson had a very good game, rushing for 99-yards in 22 carries for a 4.5 YPC average but had a minimal impact as the Vikings only dependable offensive threat.
For the Packers, the game became a tune-up for a tough battle next weekend.
The Packers will play next Saturday in prime time against the 49ers in San Francisco in a rematch of their opening week game at Lambeau Field.
If we’ve learned anything from then it’s that observations drawn from team’s September performances mean nothing.
After beating the Packers 30-22 the 49ers finished the opening month 3-1 and looked formidable on their way to a sure Super Bowl appearance. Now, they’re counting on a second year quarterback with no playoff experience while Alex Smith smiles through gritted teeth on the sidelines.
The Packers survived through a 2-2 September struggle and look like a team the 49ers will have a tough time defeating in their Divisional Round match-up.
The Vikings will be back.
The Vikings began their rebuilding process under new general manager Rick Spielman this past spring after a 3-13 disaster of a season in 2011.
Ponder had four games with a Passer Rating of over 100 and one over 90. He was also without star wide receiver Percy Harvin for the second half of the season.
They fought their way into the playoffs for the first time since 2007 with a four game win streak against the Bears, Rams, Texans and Packers, teams that finished the season with a cumulative 40-23-1 record and a .625 winning percentage.
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