The hype machine had this week’s game billed as an upset in the making. In reality, it wasn’t even close.
Green Bay absorbed Minnesota’s best shot on their first drive, and more or less bottled up Adrian Peterson from there en route to a victory that was much easier than originally expected.
Well, maybe not easy. It was still a contest late into the second quarter, and Green Bay didn’t exactly slam the door on the Vikings in the third. But it was still a win, and the Packers are still moving on.
Christian Ponder‘s injury ended up being a lot more than a smokescreen, as Minnesota’s offense sputtered without any threat of a passing attack. Joe Webb did some good things early on, particularly on the ground, but after that, we saw something more like this…
And then maybe some of this…
And that’s just not going to get the job done.
The Packers, for their part, were excellent, especially in the second and third quarters. Aaron Rodgers was masterful, completing surgically precise passes to ten different receivers throughout the game. What’s more, the Packers’ defense was solid, save for one play late in the game where a busted coverage allowed for Minnesota’s first touchdown.
Most importantly, though, is this: the Packers are heading to San Francisco for a rematch with the 49ers next week.
DuJuan Harris (17 carries, 47 yards, 1 TD; 5 catches, 53 yards) - Not spectacular numbers, but Harris offered just enough in the run to keep the Viking defense honest, and gave Rodgers valuable outlets in the passing game. Harris has rendered Ryan Grant all but unnecessary, and could be this year’s version of James Starks.
John Kuhn (3 carries, 4 yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 15 yards, 1 TD ) - With two touchdowns Saturday, Kuhn became the only player in the NFL to score in each of the last four postseasons. Other than his touchdown catch, Kuhn didn’t really have a spectacular play, but man, you gotta love a fullback helicoptering into the end zone.
Clay Matthews (3 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble forced, 1 fumble recovered) - Though he recorded two sacks, Matthews’ greatest contribution may have been in run defense, holding the point of attack and allowing other defenders to swarm in and take down Adrian Peterson. Plus, it’s hard to pick against a guy who gets a sack by doing this:
5 - Consecutive made field goals by Mason Crosby as of this week. Yeah, he may have only hit a 20 yard chip shot on Saturday, but we’ll take what we can get after his atrocious slump.
5 - Difference between the Packers’ total pass plays (36) and total run plays (31) this week, a remarkably balanced approach for a team that’s reportedly all about the pass. And honestly, they are all about the pass, but developing a run game has made their passing attack just that much more effective.
5 - Receptions by DuJuan Harris, a career high and the most by any Packer pass catcher this week. Harris has been a revelation over the past few weeks, and he may be one of the more important weapons in the Packers’ arsenal right now.
Return of Woodson - It would have been easy to be skeptical about Woodson’s return, given that he’s 36 years old and playing a position based almost entirely on speed. But the savvy veteran (mega-cliche for the win!) showed he may have something left, giving a big boost to the Packers’ run defense. Woodson brought down Adrian Peterson on a solo tackle on at least two occasions, and he was in on several other stops. It remains to be seen how big his impact will be long term, but it appears he won’t be a liability, if nothing else.
Empty Infirmary - Health has been a big problem for the Packers throughout most of the year, but they’re getting healthy at the very best time. Not only that, but they got through this game without any major injuries, although Jordy Nelson looked like he may have tweaked a previous injury near the end of the game.
Roll With the Punches - The Packers took Minnesota’s best shot early in the game, absorbing several explosive runs from both Joe Webb and Adrian Peterson while holding the Vikings to just a field goal. Although it seemed like it was going to be the same story as last week in the first quarter, the Packers were able to bounce back quickly, and that’s the mark of a good team.
Well, let’s see…a playoff win over a hated division rival in which John Kuhn scores two touchdowns and Clay Matthews gets a sack while laying on the ground….Nope, can’t think of any bad things.
Up Next - Green Bay heads to San Francisco for a Saturday evening rematch with the 49ers.