The Green Bay Packers cruised past the Joe Webb-led Minnesota Vikings 24-10 Saturday night at Lambeau Field, securing a trip to San Francisco to take on the 49ers in a Week 1 rematch next Saturday at 7:00 p.m. CT.
It was over when…
Aaron Rodgers found John Kuhn for a touchdown on the first drive of the second half, doubling up on the decision to defer and giving the Packers a 24-3 lead. In reality, the chances of Minnesota winning this game evaporated when Christian Ponder was made inactive with an elbow injury.
- Aaron Rodgers: The Packers offense struggled to move the ball after the second half’s first drive, but Rodgers did enough in the first 40 minutes to put away the Vikings early. Rodgers threw for 274 yards and one touchdown, connecting with 10 different receivers and looking a lot like the surgeon he was during the 2010-11 playoff run. The Packers quarterback is getting hot at the very best time.
- Erik Walden: After losing contain on a quarterback bootleg in the first half, Walden played lights out in both setting the edge against the run and attacking an ultra athletic quarterback outside the pocket. He finished with a sack, two tackles for losses and another quarterback hit. The Packers defense would get a big boost during this playoff run if Walden can provide a steadying presence opposite Clay Matthews.
- DuJuan Harris: The rushing stats don’t jump off the page (17 for 47 yards, TD ), but Harris provided a check down option in the passing game and seemingly never went down on first contact with the football in his hands. He’s patient, explosive and hard to get to the ground. Overall, he tallied 100 total yards on 22 touches. Expect him to start again in San Francisco.
- Sam Shields: The box score will show Shields’ one interception of Webb, but it was his containment and willingness to tackle in the running game that earned the Packers’ third-year cornerback a game ball. He’s locked in as the Packers outside cornerback opposite Tramon Williams.
- Tramon Williams: The former Pro Bowl corner didn’t allow a career-worst performance in Minnesota to beat him the following week. He defensed three passes and held Jerome Simpson to just two catches and 21 yards.
The Vikings had just six passing yards at the half, as Webb struggled to find any semblance of accuracy with the football. He was just 2-for-11 after 30 minutes and finished 11-for-30…Minnesota was just 5-for-16 overall on both third and fourth downs…The Packers held the ball for 32:58, compared to Minnesota’s 27:02…Green Bay defensed five passes and hit or sacked Webb nine times…The Vikings sacked Rodgers three times…The win was Rodgers’ first at Lambeau Field and fifth overall (5-2)…Adrian Peterson carried 22 times but was held under 100 yards (99). Overall, the Vikings rushed for 167 yards…The Packers entered the red zone four times and came away with three touchdowns and a field goal. The Vikings kicked a field goal on their only trip inside the 20-yard line…The Packers scored their first touchdown with seven runs and no completions to a receiver…Green Bay is now 3-4 in their last seven home playoff games.
–What can you really take away from this win? The Packers were playing a quarterback that had no business starting a postseason game. Webb finished 11-of-30 for 180 yards, one TD and one interception, with a large chunk of the yards coming on a broken coverage with the game in hand in the fourth quarter. The 49ers are very similar to the Vikings in style and approach on both sides of the ball, but they also possess an athletic quarterback who can actually complete NFL throws.
–The Packers went three-and-out on five straight possessions in the second half. Was the play-calling aimed at milking away the clock up three scores? Absolutely. But you’d have to assume Rodgers and the offense would have liked to carry some of the first-half momentum into San Francisco.
–Turnovers are important in every game, but the postseason always amplifies the effect. With such a small margin of error available, Minnesota’s three turnovers all but doomed any winning chances for the visitor. Webb had to be perfect with the football for this game to stay close.
–Jermichael Finley left in the third quarter and didn’t return. Early indications was only a cramping issue, but the Packers announced it as a hamstring injury. Jordy Nelson was kicked in the back of the leg and should be fine.
–The 49ers punched the Packers in the mouth at Lambeau Field back in September. With Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, however, San Francisco is both more dangerous and more vulnerable. The Packers will still need their best game next Saturday to punch their ticket to the NFC Championship Game.
Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.