Rodgers and Packers impress
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 that was never really close.
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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. 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 Michael Jenkins late in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers led touchdown drives of 82, 62 and 80 yards as the Packers built a 24-3 lead.
Webb did not fare well. He tripped over Clay Matthews for an easy sack early in the second quarter, and he was called for intentional grounding while being swarmed behind the line of scrimmage on the next play.
Webb ran five times for 60 yards, but completed only seven of his first 20 attempts for 61 yards. Peterson gained 69 yards on 19 carries through three quarters.
Rodgers didn't let up after the Packers took a 17-3 halftime lead. The Vikings had the Packers stopped for a field goal on fourth-and-4, but Jasper Brinkley was called for 12 men on the field when he couldn't make it to the sideline in time, and the penalty gave the Packers just enough yards to keep going. Rodgers found Kuhn open on the next play, and the fullback barged into the end zone by barreling over Jamarca Sanford at the goal line for a 24-3 lead.
The last time the Vikings were in a playoff game, they infamously were called for 12 men on the field, too, on offense that time in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game in New Orleans to push them out of field-goal range. Brett Favre threw an interception, and they lost to the Saints in overtime.
The Vikings finally made it across midfield again on the next possession, but on fourth-and-3 at the 38, Matthews took down Webb for another sack, forced the ball out and recovered it. After a Packers punt, Webb scrambled for a first down at the Green Bay 46. But on the next play, his long pass was intercepted by Sam Shields at the 8.
After the Vikings forced another punt early in the fourth quarter, Marcus Sherels fumbled, and the Packers recovered at the Minnesota 39.
Rodgers, who entered the game with the NFL's best postseason passer rating in history at 105.5 after seven previous playoff appearances, was in prime form. After a fourth straight punt by the Vikings, Rodgers got the Packers from their 38-yard line to the Minnesota 3 in three plays. He rolled right and threw a zinger to Jordy Nelson in the final minute of the first half to set up Kuhn's plunge.
On the previous drive, Rodgers found Greg Jennings open on fourth-and-5, and Jennings spun around Chris Cook to sprint up the sideline and reach the Vikings 2. Mason Crosby's field goal pushed the lead to 10-3.
Rodgers went 4 for 4 on the first scoring drive for the Packers, who used their hurry-up, no-huddle scheme they weren't able to make work in the noisy Metrodome last Sunday. The Vikings won that game 37-34 to force the rematch, the third time these border rivals have met in a five-week span.
The Vikings used a 33-yard field goal by rookie Blair Walsh on the opening possession to get in front early.
Rodgers focused more on his running backs early. Harris caught two passes for 28 yards and Ryan Grant had a 16-yard reception to put the Packers in position to take the lead. The on-field ruling on the scoring run by Harris was that he was down at the 1, but Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, and the call was reversed.
For Rodgers, this game was another benchmark in his stellar career. Despite leading the Packers to a Super Bowl championship after the 2010 season, he had yet to win a playoff game at Lambeau Field. After rolling through the regular season at 15-1 in 2011, the Packers were upset here in their first postseason game by the eventual champion New York Giants.
Webb became the first quarterback in 20 years to start a playoff game without starting any games during that regular season since Frank Reich did so for Buffalo, according to STATS. Reich led the Bills to their famous comeback victory over Houston that year.