Green Bay Packers cruise past Minnesota to set up San Francisco test
Superb on offence and defence, Green Bay mixed up the plays to crush Vikings and perhaps take first step on run to Super Bowl
Deep on offence and scary-good on defence, the Green Bay Packers were way too much for the Minnesota Vikings. Maybe everyone else in the NFC, too.
Aaron Rodgers, Charles Woodson and the Packers reminded everyone of how dangerous they can be when they're at full strength, overwhelming the Vikings 24-10 in an NFC wild-card game that was never really close.
"Our defence played great," Rodgers said. "Our defence tonight played at a championship level and that's what you need in the play-offs."
John Kuhn scored two touchdowns, DuJuan Harris added another and Rodgers connected with an NFL play-off-record 10 receivers as he threw for 274 yards in his first play-off victory at home. Defensively, the Packers (12-5) finally managed to contain Adrian Peterson and were all over Vikings back-up Joe Webb, pressed into service because of Christian Ponder's tricep injury.
Peterson was held to 99 yards - an improvement after gaining 199 and 210 in the first two games against Green Bay. It was only the second time in the last 11 games that he was held below 100 yards. Webb, who had not thrown a pass all season, was sacked three times and off target all night. His only highlight was a 50-yard scoring pass to Michael Jenkins late in the fourth quarter, but it was far too late for the Vikings (10-7).
"No disrespect to Ponder, but ... it's about one guy and that's Adrian Peterson," said Woodson, who played his first game since breaking his right collarbone in October. "Our main focus, whether it was Ponder or Webb, was to keep 28 [Peterson] from getting off. And if we were going to keep him from getting off, put the ball in the quarterback's hands, whatever quarterback it was, we felt good about what was going to happen."
With a little over a minute left, Packers fans began taunting the Vikings (10-7) with chants of "Nah-nah-nah-nah ... goodbye." The win snapped a two-game losing streak at Lambeau Field in the play-offs, and sent the Packers to San Francisco for an NFC divisional game with the 49ers on Saturday. The teams met in the season opener, with San Francisco winning 30-22.
"A lot has happened since we played San Francisco," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We're a different team."
This was the third game in six weeks between Green Bay and the Vikings, and the second in six days. The Packers' loss in Minnesota last weekend cost them the No 2 seed in the NFC, along with a bye, and left them looking - dare we say it? - vulnerable going into the play-offs. But with Woodson back and Rodgers having all four of his top receivers for, essentially, the first time since September 30, Green Bay looked like a team who could make the kind of deep run they did two years ago when they won the Super Bowl.
Rodgers used so many different options other NFL quarterbacks must have been drooling. He went with Harris on Green Bay's first scoring drive, mixed it up between James Jones, Tom Crabtree and Greg Jennings on the second, and had 22- and 23-yard completions to Jordy Nelson before Kuhn scored on a three-yard run that put the Packers up 17-3 just before the half.
And pretty much everyone got in on the fun on the last score, a 12-play, 80-yard drive that chewed up more than 5½ minutes. Rodgers connected with Jones on a 19-yard completion to put the Packers in Vikings territory, and then connected with Harris for 14 yards two plays later to reach the red zone. Rodgers threw incompletes on second and third downs, but just when the Packers thought they'd have to settle for a field goal, the Vikings were whistled for 12 men on the field, giving Rodgers another crack at the end zone.
He found Kuhn for the nine-yard score and the game was all but over.
"That was tough. We were down seven and they went and scored and they were coming out of the half, too, getting the ball, too, and they got it and scored again," Antoine Winfield said. "Can't do that against the Green Bay Packers."
Harris, who didn't play in the first game against Minnesota this season because he'd only been elevated from the practice squad a day earlier, led the team in receiving (five catches for 61 yards) and rushing (47 yards on 17 carries). Jennings and Jones had four catches each and Nelson had three before hobbling off late in the fourth quarter.
"We have some stuff to work on," Rodgers said. "We've got to help our defence out more, close a team out like that. Tough test next week back in San Francisco."