The Green Bay Packers (11-5) squandered an opportunity to secure a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs, allowing the Minnesota Vikings (10-6) to clinch a postseason spot in a 37-34 loss Sunday at the Metrodome. The Packers will now host the Vikings in the NFC Wild Card round at Lambeau Field Saturday night.
It was over when….
Christian Ponder found Michael Jenkins for a 25-yard gain on 3rd-and-11 with 1:54 left in the fourth quarter. Adrian Peterson then cranked off runs of seven, four and 26 yards, draining the Packers’ remaining timeouts and setting up Blair Walsh’s 29-yard kick as time expired.
- WR Greg Jennings: The free-agent-to-be made himself back Sunday some of the money he lost earlier this season. Without Randall Cobb (ankle) available, Jennings caught eight passes for 120 yards and two scores. He lead the team in targets with 12 and made important play after important play, especially in the second half. With a big playoff game or two, Jennings can all but price himself out of Green Bay. Maybe he already has.
- QB Aaron Rodgers: After a slow, plodding start, Rodgers mostly lit the Vikings on fire. He finished Sunday with a line of 365 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The turning point for the passing offense was the departure of Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who left late in the first half with a hand injury. Rodgers proceeded to toss three second-half touchdowns. The Packers can feel confident in the passing game if Winfield can’t go Saturday.
- RB DuJuan Harris: While Ryan Grant got the start, Harris was the running back who deserved to be on the field Sunday. The 5-8 dynamo made the most of his 16 touches, gaining 87 total yards and providing a decisive, punishing option in the running game. There’s no doubt that he’s earned himself a role in next week’s playoff game.
- TE Jermichael Finley: The Jermichael Finley that everyone expected to see for the last two seasons has showed up over the past month. Finley’s numbers (eight catches, 72 yards) Sunday would have been better had a delay of game penalty in the first quarter negated a nice pitch-and-catch down the seam. A big reason for Finley’s improved production has been the introduction of the quasi-tight-end screen, in which Finley runs a simple out and the receivers on his side of the formation block down field. Time will tell if that look will continue to work in the postseason.
Minnesota’s 37 points represent the second most the Packers have surrendered this season, while Green Bay’s 34 were the third most scored by the Packers this season…Christian Ponder finished Sunday with a line of 234 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. His passer rating was 120.2 and QBR 94.6 (out of 100)…Peterson finished nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. He rushed for 199, cracking 2,000 for just the seventh time in NFL history…In two games against the Packers, Peterson rushed for 409 total yards…Jarius Wright’s 65-yard catch is the longest reception the Packers have allowed since Week 4 against New Orleans (Morgan, 80 yards)…Minnesota’s Everson Griffen recorded three sacks…A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones combined for just nine tackles. Each missed at least one tackle, but the official count will likely be higher…Green Bay’s three leading tacklers were all in the secondary (Morgan Burnett, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields)…Rodgers lost his fourth fumble of the season. From 2010-11, Rodgers lost just one…The 444 total yards were the most the Packers have allowed since Week 5 against the Colts.
–One bright spot has to be Mason Crosby, who connected on two field goals. His makes included a 51-yarder and a game-tying kick in the fourth quarter. He has now made four straight kicks entering the playoffs.
–The Packers can’t expect to play that poorly out of the gates—falling behind 13-0—and win a playoff game, whether it’s at home or on the road. Minnesota had a better game plan and wanted it more early.
–Keep a close eye on the availability of Winfield (hand) this week. When he went out, the Packers relentlessly attacked his replacements. Marcus Sherells and Josh Robinson are matchups Green Bay can and will exploit if Winfield can’t play Saturday.
–James Jones’ touchdown in the second half was an officiating mess, and Mike McCarthy lucked out in a big way that the replay was already buzzed in when one official saw his emotional tossing of the red flag. But in the end, the correct call was made, and that’s all anyone can really ask for.
–The missed tackling at the second level has to be cleaned up by Saturday. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Today was a nightmare. A cold night game won’t make tackling Peterson any easier at Lambeau Field.