Much to Ponder Before the Rematch at LambeauPosted:Dec 31st, 2012 2:23 am
Christian Ponder needed to do two things if the Vikings were going to snap the Packers' five game winning streak against them and earn the NFC's final playoff berth. He had to protect the football and make a big play in the fourth quarter. Well, young Mr. Steele delivered and we have ourselves a rematch next Saturday night.
The Packers delivered a defensive clunker in a game that Minnesota needed more, but obviously meant a lot to the green and gold as well. Too many missed tackles, some missed assignments which turned into third down conversions and some boneheaded penalties at the worst possible time.
None was bigger than Tramon Williams' illegal hands to the face call that turned a field goal try into a first and goal and ultimately a Vikings TD that put them up seven late in the fourth quarter. Williams seemed off all day: taking bad angles, being chippy after plays. Just a real step backward for a guy who's played lights out all season.
The two MVP studs were ridiculous. After a first quarter where the Pack didn't earn one first down, Rodgers heated up big time, completing 70% of his passes for 365 yards, with four TDs and no picks. Adrian Peterson may have narrowly missed the rushing record, but he earned the MVP with his 199 yard performance: none were bigger than the 26 he ripped off to set up Blair Walsh's game winning chip shot.
But it was Ponder who delivered when the Vikes needed it most. The third down conversion to Michael Jenkins on the left sidelines kept the Purple in the game--a big time pass at a crucial moment. He won over a lot of Lavender fans with that toss. His passer rating at Lambeau was 42. Sunday, in the biggest game of his career, he delivered a rating of 120. Marriage is obviously treating him well.
So what do we take away from the Pack's performance? Offense was fine, special teams was good (Jeremy Ross was a revelation on returns and Mason Crosby actually made a 51 yard field goal) but the defense was a big letdown. I did not expect the Pack to give up 444 yards of offense, even if they were facing a desperate team with a running back chasing history.
Peterson gained 409 yards in two games and you know what the Vikes' recipe will be next Saturday night. If he gets 34 carries again next week we might be looking at a replay of the '04 playoffs. I would expect Ponder to have a much tougher time on the road in what are sure to be frigid conditions. I just checked the forecast--looks like it will be about 20 degrees at kickoff.
It sounds like Antoine Winfield will be challenged to play with the quick six day turnaround. The Packers saw Jerel Worthy and Jarrett Boykin carted off, so they're out. We'll see if Randall Cobb is good to go. It was awesome to see Greg Jennings play like the #85 of seasons past. He, Jones, Nelson and Finley all did their jobs. Surprised to not see Alex Green get any snaps. I would think he would be in the mix along with DuJuan Harris, who gave the running game life after Ryan Grant showed a Sinykin-like burst on his early carries.
Vikings fans will spend much of this week gleefully reminding us of Moss's moon over Lambeau the last time these rivals met in the playoffs. But after this instant classic at the Dome, where the more desperate team did just enough to win, Aaron Rodgers and company have six days to sit, stew and prepare for the rematch. They'll play the next time with as much on the line as the Vikes. For that reason, you can expect a much different outcome on Saturday night.