The Green Bay Packers’ 2-4 record over the last six home playoff games will be a fact beat to death this week, but here’s a record that might have more relevance for Green Bay’s NFC Wild Card matchup with the Minnesota Vikings Saturday: 0-4.
In four games outdoors this season, Minnesota does not have a single win. While sites such as Yahoo! and ESPN list the Vikings’ 23-6 win over the Texans in Week 16 as “outdoors,” Houston had the roof closed at Relient Stadium that day. Technically, the game should be considered indoors.
If fine with counting Houston, the Vikings ended up playing a remarkable 12 games indoors this season. Eight came at the Metrodome (where the Vikings finished 7-1), while road games in Indianapolis, Detroit, St. Louis and Houston were played under the controlled conditions of a roofed stadium. Overall, Minnesota was 10-2 indoors.
When the Vikings had to leave the comfort of such a setting this season, however, Minnesota—and its quarterback—struggled.
In October, the Redskins jumped out to a 31-12 lead over Minnesota and held on to a 38-26 decision. A month later, the Seahawks ran away with a 30-20 win to drop the Vikings to 5-4. In back-to-back weeks to close November and start December, Minnesota was outscored 51-24 by Chicago and Green Bay.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t put much stock into Minnesota’s record outdoors.
“I really don’t care about their statistics. I know how we play,” McCarthy said. “This is the atmosphere you prefer to play in. Personally, I think football should be played outdoors.”
However, the Vikings’ inability to win games outdoors can be traced back partly to the stat splits of second-year quarterback Christian Ponder.
In 12 games indoors, Ponder completed over 62 percent of his passes (209/336) for 2,171 yards, 13 touchdowns and just six interceptions. His passer rating was a respectable 86.3.
The numbers dropped significantly outdoors. Without a roof over his head, Ponder completed 91 of 147 passes for 764 yards (191 yards/game), five touchdowns and six interceptions. His passer rating dropped to just 69.6.
Other numbers emerged as reasons for the Vikings’ losing ways outdoors:
- Minnesota had 10 turnovers outdoors but forced just four. In each game, the Vikings lost the turnover battle. The overall turnover differential of minus-six was well off Minnesota’s plus-five mark indoors.
- The Vikings defense allowed 1,477 yards outdoors, or over 369 a game. In 12 indoor games, Minnesota allowed almost 25 less yards a contest. Points allowed were a similar story, as the Vikings gave up nearly 30 a game outdoors. Minnesota stayed under 20 a game indoors.
- Despite the Packers failing to register a sack of Ponder in Week 13, teams were still able to get to the Vikings quarterback 10 times outdoors this season. Ponder was sacked just 22 times indoors. The difference is almost a sack a game.
- In the final three games outdoors, teams averaged 37:20 time of possession against the Vikings.
- Opposing quarterbacks had their way against the Vikings secondary. Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers combined for eight total touchdowns and a passer rating over 105.0.
Four games isn’t a large sample size, but the limited results available for the Vikings’ 2012 season do point to these potential trends: Ponder plays considerably worse in road games outdoors, the Vikings turn over the football at a higher rate outdoors, an otherwise strong defense becomes merely average without controlled conditions, Ponder isn’t protected as well, teams can control the clock and opposing quarterbacks produce efficient, productive stat lines.
The Packers will have to continue a handful of those trends Saturday to help buck their own recent trend of playing poorly at home in the postseason.
“It’s a home game. It’s Lambeau Field,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “That definitely tilts the field towards us.”