For all of the successes, accolades and eyebrow-raising statistics accumulated during his five years in the captain’s chair of the Green Bay Packers offense, Aaron Rodgers had never walked off of Lambeau Field victorious in the playoffs.
Well, the 29-year-old, Chico, Calif. native can now cross that off his list of accomplishments, too.
Paced by Rodgers’ 274 yards passing and a defensive effort which slowed Adrian Peterson, the NFL’s leading rusher and proverbial thorn in the side of the Packers (12-5), to 99 yards on the ground, Green Bay commenced their push for the franchise’s fifth Super Bowl title in fine fashion by trumping the Minnesota Vikings, 24-10, Saturday evening in an NFC wild-card matchup.
Meeting their division rival in the playoffs for the first time since Jan. 9, 2005, the Packers, who were defeated by Minnesota, 37-34, at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in its season finale this past Sunday, overpowered the Vikings en route to setting up a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round next Saturday.
While Rodgers, who entered the game holding the highest passing rating in NFL postseason history (105.5), did not let his foot off of the accelerator all night, the Vikings quarterback play was another story.
Joe Webb, a sixth-round pick by the Vikings in 2010 out of UAB, was pressed into action—his first of the season—upon second-year signal caller Christian Ponder being declared inactive prior to kickoff with an elbow injury.
Webb’s performance was, to be blunt, not idyllic.
The 6’4”, 220-pound Webb, who became the first quarterback since Buffalo’s Frank Reich 20 years ago to start a playoff game without starting any games during that regular season, put forth a stat line of 11-of-30 passing (including connecting on only seven of his first 20 attempts) for 180 yards, one touchdown toss, one interception and endured three sacks.
Minnesota, however, did jump out to a 3-0 lead following a 33-yard field goal from rookie Blair Walsh on their opening drive. In turn, Peterson, who gashed the Packers for 409 rushing yards in the team’s two previous matchups this season, ran for 31 yards on six carriers. The man known as All Day (aka, AD), though, would be relegated to 68 yards on the ground the rest of the evening.
From there, the Packers, who won their first home playoff game since upending the Seattle Seahawks, 42-20, on January 12, 2008, held the Vikings scoreless the rest of the half en route to boasting a 17-3 advantage at intermission.
Buoyed by three second-half turnovers and fullback John Kuhn’s second touchdown of the game (a nine-yard pass from Rodgers, who connected with an NFL playoff-record 10 receivers, at the 9:25 mark in the third quarter), the Packers, who saw five players with at least two receptions on the game (headlined by DuJuan Harris’ five grabs), cruised to their second triumph over their border foe in six weeks.
“The energy level was at an all-time high,” cited Green Bay safety Charles Woodson, playing in his first game since sustaining a broken right collarbone on Oct. 21, according to the AP. “This week, like last week, we buzzed around. But this week we made the tackles, we didn’t allow [Peterson] to get through the line of scrimmage and get yards after first contact. We just kept putting heat on them. That was the difference.”
Harris, meanwhile, accounted for 100 total yards (53 receiving; 47 rushing) and had a nine-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter in the former Troy Trojan’s first playoff contest.
“We have some stuff to work on,” noted Rodgers, who improved to 5-2 in the playoffs, according to the AP. “We’ve got to help our defense out more, close a team out like that. Tough test next week back in San Francisco. We’ll be excited about that.”
Kickoff between the Packers and 49ers (11-4-1) is slated for 7:00p.m. CST on Saturday, Jan. 12.