Starting a rookie QB and facing an undefeated defending Super Bowl champion, the Vikings weren’t expected to give their opponents much of a challenge on Sunday. But as is the case so often in the NFL, the expected didn’t happen. The Vikings had the ball and a chance to win late in the 4th quarter, but saw their comeback attempt fall painstakingly short, allowing the Green Bay Packers to leave Mall of America Field with a 33-27 victory.
It was Christian Ponder’s first career NFL start, but it didn’t take him long to get right into this heated Vikings-Packers rivalry. On the game’s first offensive play, Ponder used a play-action fake and rollout to find a wide open Michael Jenkins down the left sideline for what was originally a 73-yard TD that caused the Mall of America Field crowd to burst into a frenzy. Officials took the TD away via replay, but just two plays later Ponder found TE Visanthe Shiancoe for a 2-yard TD and an early 7-0 lead.
Ponder made mistakes in the game – he threw 2 INTs and completed 40.6% of his passes – but ultimately he showed poise under pressure and got his teammates to play hard around him.
The Vikings scored 3 offensive TDs, and two of them were TD tosses from Ponder. The other TD came from Adrian Peterson, who carried the ball 24 times and gained 175 yards. With Ponder posing as a threat to move the ball through the air, Peterson found a little extra room in the running game and he took advantage, registering runs of 54, 29 and 25 yards.
Ponder spread the ball around, hitting 6 different targets for 219 total yards. Jenkins was Ponder’s most productive receiver, as he hauled in 3 receptions for 111 yards and 1 TD. Shiancoe had 4 grabs for 45 yards and the score, while both Greg Camarillo and Percy Harvin had 2 receptions; Harvin missed much of the 2nd half because of a rib injury.
Green Bay retaliated immediately after the Vikings scored on their first drive, going 91 yards in 9 plays to tie the game at 7 on a 2-yard pass from QB Aaron Rodgers to FB John Kuhn. Rodgers guided a passing attack that methodically drove down the field against the Vikings on that first scoring drive, and it was a sign of things to come for Rodgers and Co. Rodgers completed 24 of 30 passes for 335 yards and 3 TDs on the afternoon.
Following the Packers first score, Ponder responded by guiding another TD drive in the 2nd quarter that culminated in Peterson’s TD, and a 14-7 lead. The Vikings and Packers exchanged FGs after that, which led to a 17-10 Vikings lead at halftime.
Green Bay came out in the 3rd quarter and scored 20 points behind more precision from Rodgers in the passing game. The Green Bay QB found a wide open Greg Jennings thanks to busted coverage for a 79-yard TD right away in the 3rd quarter, and then the Packers scored only minutes later on a 2-yard strike from Rodgers to TE Jermichael Finley. The Packers added 2 more Mason Crosby FGs to take a 33-17 lead into the 4th quarter.
From there, though, Green Bay was done scoring. The Vikings defense held Green Bay out of scoring range and Ponder rallied from a poor 3rd quarter to nearly pull off an upset. He guided the offense 93 yards in 10 plays to score a TD - Jenkins hauled in a 24-yard TD pass – and bring the Vikings to within just 6 points.
The Vikings defensed forced a Green Bay punt after just 4 plays on the ensuing drive, and Ponder took over from his own 2-yardline after a special teams miscue by the Vikings. Missing his best receiver (Harvin), Ponder willed the offense to a pair of 3rd-down conversions, but the Vikings couldn’t extend the drive on a 3rd and 10 play from their own 36. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier made the right move and punted the ball away, thinking his defense – armed with 3 timeouts and the 2-minute warning – could stop Green Bay’s attempts to drain the clock.
But the Packers executed better than the Vikings in the game’s final 2:30, and they were able to run out the clock and come away with a hard-fought 33-17 victory.
CB Asher Allen and LB Chad Greenway each finished with a team-high 11 tackles, while DE Jared Allen collected 2.0 sacks. Allen now has the Vikings franchise record for consecutive games with at least a .5 sack; he’s at 9 now, and surpassed the previous mark set by Jim Marshall and matched by Carl Eller.
The loss drops the Vikings to 1-6 on the season. And while moral victories don’t count in the standings, the Vikings and their fans came away from Mall of America Field on Sunday encouraged by what they saw from their rookie QB and a secondary that was over-matched against Rodgers and Co.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Asher Allen, Chad Greenway, Christian Ponder, Greg Camarillo, Jared Allen, Leslie Frazier, Michael Jenkins, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 178 Comments »