With the Minnesota Vikings defeating the Green Bay Packers in the final game of the regular season, that meant they would face off again in the first round of the playoffs. So, on a cold night in Green Bay, the Packers and Vikings took the field and met for the third time this season. Kicker Mason Crosby booted the ball five yards deep in the end zone and return man Marcus Sherels returned it to the Viking 32.
Starting quarterback Christian Ponder missed most of practice all week and tried to give it a go in warmups before the game. He was unable to go and that meant Joe Webb would be the starter. Like everyone expected, running back Adrian Peterson was a huge part of the game plan. Two carries netted seven yards and on third and 3 from the 39, Webb took off up the right side for a 17 yard gain. Just like that, the Vikings were in Packer territory. Three more runs by Peterson moved the ball to the 18, but they would only get as far as the 15 and have to settle for a field goal attempt. Kicker Blair Walsh made it from 33 yards out and the Vikings had an early 3-0 lead with nine and a half minutes to go in the first quarter.
That was all the scoring there was in the first quarter until with six minutes to go, the Packers started their next drive from their 18. Running back DuJuan Harris got things started with two runs for eight yards. On third and two, running back Ryan Grant got the call and gained two yards. However, the Vikings were flagged for a neutral zone infraction and that gave the Packers a first down at the 31. A short scramble by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a 16-yard pass to Harris moved the ball to the Packer 49. From there, Rodgers found tight end Jermichael Finley for ten yards and Harris for 12 more. On second and 11 from the 25, Rodgers found Grant on a screen pass that went for 16 yards. That made it first and goal at the nine and Harris ran up the middle for an apparent touchdown. He was ruled down at the one, but the Packers challenged the play. After review, it was ruled that he broke the plane and the call was reversed. Kicker Mason Crosby made the point after and the Packers led 7-3 as the first quarter came to an end.
After the teams traded punts, the Packers got the ball at their 27 with a little under eight and a half minutes to go in the second quarter. Passes to tight end Tom Crabtree and wide receiver James Jones moved the Packers to the Viking 39. On fourth and five from the 34, Rodgers threw a short pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings who took it all the way down to the two-yard line. An incomplete pass to Finley and two unsuccessful runs by fullback John Kuhn put the Packers in a fourth and goal situation from the one. Instead of trying again, Packer head coach Mike McCarthy opted to go for the easy field goal. The 20-yard attempt was good and the Packers increased their lead to 10-3 with 3:25 to go in the first half.
The Vikings had a quick three and out and the Packers took over at their 38 with just under two minutes to go. Deep passes to wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings gave the Packers a first and goal at the three-yard line. This time, there would be no easy field goal attempt. Kuhn ran off right guard for a Packer touchdown. Crosby made the point after and the Packers now led 17-3 with 38 seconds to go in the first half. The Vikings couldn’t do much with the ball with the little time that was remaining and the first half ended on an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Devin Aromashodu.
Starting at their 20, the Packers went right to work. Two runs by Harris and a nine-yard pass to Jones gave them a first down at the 37. Another pass to Jones and two more to Harris quickly put them at the Viking 20. The drive stalled at the 14 and Crosby was once again called on for a field goal attempt. But, there would be no field goal attempt this time. The Vikings were flagged for 12 men on the field and that gave the Packers a first down at the nine. From the nine, Rodgers found Kuhn across the middle. Kuhn bounced off a couple of Vikings and landed in the end zone for another Packer touchdown. Crosby made the point after and the Packers now had a commanding 24-3 lead.
Try as they might, the Vikings just didn’t have the ability to come back from such a deficit. What followed the touchdown by Kuhn was a whole lot of nothing. The Packers ran the ball and took time off the clock. However, there would be one more touchdown. With four minutes to go in the game, wide receiver Michael Jenkins got loose and was wide open on the right sideline. Webb spotted him and hit him in stride for a 50-yard touchdown. Walsh made the point after and the Vikings now trailed 24-10 with a little over three minutes to go. The Packers ran six plays and punted the ball back to the Vikings with 19 seconds to go. Needless to say, that’s not enough time to score twice. Final score: Packers 24 Vikings 10.
For the Vikings, Joe Webb completed 11 of 30 for 180 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble. He also had 68 yards rushing on seven carries. Michael Jenkins and tight end Kyle Rudolph tied for the lead in receptions with three apiece. Jenkins had the most receiving yards with 96 and one touchdown. Adrian Peterson ended up with 99 yards on 22 carries and the Packers did a good job of not letting him get loose. All totaled, the Vikings had 167 yards rushing on 29 carries. Defensively, linebacker Chad Greenway led the Vikings with ten solo tackles.
For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of 33 for 274 yards and one touchdown. He spread the ball around to ten different receivers and DuJuan Harris led the team in receptions with five. Greg Jennings was the leader in receiving yards with 61. Harris had the most rushing yards with 47 on 17 carries and one touchdown. As a team, the Packers had just 76 yards on 31 carries. Defensively, cornerback Sam Shields led the Packers with five solo tackles, two passes defensed and an interception.
With that win, the Packers head out to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco 49ers next Saturday. They met in week one in Green Bay and the 49ers came away with a 30-22 win. A lot has changed since then. In that game, the “replacement refs” threw 18 flags for 143 yards. Something tells me that won’t happen this time and it should be a close game.