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Rodgers, Packers lead Vikings 38-17 in 4th quarter

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)

Aaron Rodgers threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns to help the Green Bay Packers take a 38-17 lead over the Minnesota Vikings early in the fourth quarter on Sunday night.

Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes and Jordy Nelson had 113 yards receiving for the Packers. Micah Hyde returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter.

Eddie Lacy's 1-yard plunge capped a 15-play drive to open the second half and lifted the Packers to a 31-17 lead. James Starks added a 25-yard touchdown run at the beginning of the final period.

Rodgers and the Packers put on a clinic in precision against the woeful Vikings defense, scoring four touchdowns and one field goal on their five full possessions in the first three quarters. Two of Rodgers' incompletions were throwaways, and the only action punter Tim Masthay got was chasing Cordarrelle Patterson on the opening kickoff.

Patterson set an NFL record with a 109-yard return on the opening kickoff for Minnesota, and Adrian Peterson rushed for 57 yards on 12 carries, including an 8-yard touchdown run with 4 seconds to go in the first half to keep the Vikings in it.

Christian Ponder was 9 for 13 for 95 yards in his return to the starting lineup for Minnesota, but he looked flustered and skittish in the pocket in the first two quarters.

And Rodgers was on the money from the start. The first touchdown came with Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson draped all over Nelson in the back of the end zone, but Rodgers lofted the ball over Nelson's head for an 11-yard score.

The second one came on a lightning-quick, three-step drop that zipped right over the head of Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway and into Nelson's arms right in stride. He caught it and raced 76 yards for a 17-10 lead in the second quarter.

Ponder, who was filling in for the injured Josh Freeman after losing his starting job three weeks ago, struggled to match the precision. But the Vikings got into scoring position after a pass interference call against Tramon Williams on former Packer Greg Jennings.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave took a gamble with a running play from the 8-yard line with the clock ticking down, but Peterson bounced off two Packers defenders and bulled over Morgan Burnett to finish his scoring run.

Patterson nearly stepped out of the back of the end zone while fielding the opening kickoff, then flew straight up the gut and went untouched to light up the dome. Hyde was the only Packer to have a chance at bringing down Patterson, but he missed him, and the speedy rookie easily got the corner on Masthay to go the distance.

Three players had 108-yard returns, the most recent being Baltimore's Jacoby Jones against Dallas last season. It also tied the record for longest play in NFL history, matching the 109-yard touchdown return of a missed field goal by Antonio Cromartie for San Diego against the Vikings in the Metrodome in 2007.

Patterson's second kick return for a TD fired up the home crowd, but did little to rattle Rodgers. The cool-headed quarterback drove Green Bay right down the field, completing 6 of 7 passes, including a perfectly thrown pass to Nelson in the back of the end zone.

He came into this game missing his three best receivers because of injury - Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley.

And yet the Packers were so confident in Rodgers that they ran the ball on third-and-1 from the Vikings 35 in the second quarter. Eddie Lacy was stuffed, but they just went for it on fourth down and Rodgers hit John Kuhn in the flat to move the chains.

They had a fourth-and-3 at the Minnesota 42 on their first possession of the third quarter and Rodgers hit Nelson on a back-shoulder comeback against rookie Xavier Rhodes for eight yards.

The precision and ease of execution was nothing new for Rodgers, especially against Minnesota.

In 12 career games against the Vikings, Rodgers has completed 70.7 percent of his passes for a 116.4 quarterback rating, the best mark against one opponent since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970. With Rodgers leading the way, the Packers have turned this once-heated rivalry into an entirely one-sided affair. They have won six of their last seven against the Vikings, including a 24-10 victory in the playoffs last year.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Tagged: James Jones, Packers, Vikings, Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Tim Masthay

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