The Vikings did a lot of things right while winning their final four games of the regular season to advance to the postseason. But they ran out of magic on Saturday night at Lambeau Field, falling to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 24-10 while playing without their starting QB.
Christian Ponder injured his arm in last week’s win over the Packers and was unable to play Saturday night. Joe Webb started in place of Ponder, but he and the offense were unable to muster any momentum until it was too late. Webb opened the game nicely, driving the Vikings 53 yards in 10 plays to take an early 3-0 lead. From that point on, though, the offense struggled to stay on the field. The following four drives all ended in punts for the Vikings, and at halftime they had just 97 net yards and were 2 of 8 on 3rd downs.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, was his usual self and paced his team to the victory, the first home postseason win of his career. Rodgers was 23 of 33 for 274 yards with 1 TD on the night, seemingly always finding the open receiver at the biggest moments and always staying away from the back-breaking mistake.
It was the Vikings who made the mistakes. Green Bay’s first TD of the game came on a drive that was kept alive by a 3rd-down offsides penalty against the Vikings. Then Green Bay’s second TD of the game came one play after the Packers were awarded a 1st down via penalty on a FG attempt because the Vikings were flagged for having 12 men on the field. On top of those two TD-yielding mistakes, the Vikings also turned the ball over three times and forced zero turnovers of Green Bay.
After the Vikings took their early 3-0 lead, both teams exchanged punts. That’s when the offsides penalty against the Vikings led to Green Bay’s first score, an 8-yard TD run by RB DuJuan Harris that capped an 11-play, 82-yard drive. The teams traded possessions after that, and eventually Green Bay kicked a 20-yard FG after a stout goal line stand by the Vikings defense. Green Bay led 10-3 at that point, but they extended their lead to 17-3 thanks to a late 1st-half TD run by FB Jon Kuhn.
Green Bay opened the 2nd half with the ball and bookended their TD late in the 1st half with another TD early in the 2nd half, this one a TD reception for Kuhn from 9 yards out to make the score Green Bay 24, Minnesota 3. That’s all the scoring Green Bay would generate, but that’s all the scoring Green Bay would need. The Vikings turned the ball over on their next two possessions – a Webb fumble and then a Webb INT – and then a muffed punt by Marcus Sherels at the start of the 4th quarter only made matters worse.
The Vikings eventually got on the board with a TD when Webb found a wide open Michael Jenkins along the right sideline for a 50-yard score. A failed onsides kick gave Green Bay possession at their 20 and they were able to run all but 19 seconds off the clock from there.
Adrian Peterson finished the game with 99 yards on 22 carries, modest numbers for a runner that racked up 409 yards rushing against the Packers in 2 regular season games this season.
The loss ends what was a successful season for the Vikings. They were a 3-win team just a season ago, and their jump up to 10 wins this season marks the greatest single-season turnaround in franchise history. There is a lot upon which this young Vikings team can build going into 2013, and that process will commence almost immediately at Winter Park now that their postseason run has concluded.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blair Walsh, Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Michael Jenkins
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