GREEN BAY, Wis. — This rematch was a mismatch.
And the rest of the NFC might want to take note.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers showed how dangerous they can be when they’re at full strength Saturday night, overwhelming the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 in an NFC wild-card game.
John Kuhn scored two touchdowns, DuJuan Harris added another and Rodgers connected with an NFL playoff-record 10 receivers as he threw for 274 yards in his first playoff victory at home. Defensively, the Packers (12-5) finally managed to contain Adrian Peterson and were all over Vikings backup Joe Webb, pressed into service because of Christian Ponder’s elbow injury.
Peterson was held to 99 yards – an improvement after gaining 199 and 210 in the first two games. Webb, who hadn’t thrown a pass all season, was sacked three times and off target all night. His only highlight was a 50-yard scoring pass to former Atlanta Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins late in the fourth quarter, but it was far too late for the Vikings (10-7).
The win snapped a two-game skid at Lambeau Field in the playoffs, and sends the Packers (10-7) to San Francisco next Saturday for an NFC divisional game with the 49ers.
This was the third game in six weeks between Green Bay and the Vikings, and second in six days. The Packers’ loss in Minnesota last weekend cost them the No. 2 seed in the NFC, along with a bye this weekends. But with Charles Woodson back from the broken collarbone that’s sidelined him since Oct. 21 and Rodgers having all four of his top receivers for, essentially, the first time since Sept. 30, Green Bay looked like a team that could make the kind of deep run it did two years ago when it 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 3-yard run that put the Packers up 17-3 just before the half. It was more Harris and Kuhn on the final scoring drive.
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.
Ponder’s right elbow was hurt last weekend when Morgan Burnett slammed into him on a blitz, and there just wasn’t enough time to recover with the short, six-day turnaround. He tested the arm before the game, but the Vikings decided to go with Webb, whose only playing time this year was a couple of handoffs at the end of a blowout of Tennessee in early October. It was the first time Buffalo’s Frank Reich in 1993 a quarterback had started a playoff game after not starting during the regular season and, in the first series at least, he seemed to have caught the Packers off guard. That or they were too busy trying to bottle up Peterson, who bulldozed them for 409 yards in their first two games, to pay attention.
With what seemed like every Packers defender focused on Peterson, Webb converted a third-and-3 with a 17-yard pickup. His 5-yard run four plays later put the Vikings at the Green Bay 13. But Webb’s first pass of the night went into the ground, and the Vikings were forced to settle for Blair Walsh’s 33-yard field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead.
But the Packers quickly settled down and the Vikings never had a chance.