The Green Bay Packers‘ playoff matchup against the Minnesota Vikings took a surprising turn shortly before the game when the Vikings announced that starting quarterback Christian Ponder would be inactive for his first postseason game with an elbow injury.
The Packers coasted to an easy victory over the Joe Webb-led Vikings, though the score was much closer than it felt. I thought Green Bay would win big, but the game didn’t look as I imagined. Rather than a high-flying, pass-heavy, big-play offense, the Packers had a very even-keeled performance.
The defense did its part beautifully, finally learning to keep Adrian Peterson in the box. Peterson still ran for 99 yards, but after performances of 210 yards and 199 yards earlier in the season, keeping Peterson out of triple digits felt darn near dominance for the Packer defense.
Charles Woodson was back in the mix, bringing a spark to the defense and giving the poor, over-matched, under-talented Webb an extra thing to worry about. Webb was held to just a 37% completion rate, with one touchdown, one interception, and one fumble.
Linebackers Erik Walden and Dezman Moses also had excellent games for Green Bay. Moses was key to helping to set the edges in the run game and limit Peterson’s runs to the outside. Walden kept steady pressure on Webb, with one sack and two quarterback hits.
Offensively, the Packers were balanced not just in run-pass ratio, but in personnel. The run game produced just 76 yards, but two touchdowns as well. As Minnesota began the game sticking with a Tampa-2 defense, Green Bay continued to run until the Vikings were forced out of the scheme. The Packers had only 2 more pass attempts (33) than rushing attempts (31).
Aaron Rodgers hit ten different receivers with his 23 completions. Guess who led the team in completions? Running back DuJuan Harris, who was incredibly effectual in the screen game. With the Vikings playing tight coverage in the secondary, Harris was often left alone for short throws with big gains after the catch. Harris also had 17 carries, 10 more than the next rusher, Ryan Grant. The Green Bay run game is still nothing to fear, but Harris’ speed, field vision, and ability to accelerate after contact has added a desperately-needed dimension to the Packer offense.
That’s all well and good for the Packers, who should be proud and happy of their win. But … 24-10? Against Joe Webb? Rodgers was rightly critical of his offense in his postgame interview, pointing out that the team failed to score after an early third-quarter touchdown. The Minnesota defense is good (especially that Harrison Smith in the secondary), but the Packers’ offensive power and the game situation should have led to a lot more than 24 points.
And the defense was good – especially against Peterson – but they should have had about eight turnovers in the game. I’m sorry to kick a man when he’s down, but Joe Webb was terrible. Half the time I couldn’t tell if he was attempting a throw or trying to throw the ball away. He had me wondering things like, “Is there such a penalty as unintentional grounding?” His ridiculous habit of chucking the ball up blindly while being sacked is not one that’s going to fly in the NFL. I know he was in an undesirable position in playing his first snaps of the season in a playoff game, but there was absolutely no point during the game at which he looked like he belonged in a professional football game.
The Packers will have quite the challenge coming up in the San Francisco 49ers, and they have plenty of areas in need of improvement. For now, however, they should celebrate their playoff win as the first step on their way to Super Bowl XLVII!