Peterson shut down as Vikes fall 24-10 to Packers

Adrian Peterson couldn’t find the space Green Bay gave him

before. The Minnesota defense had no remedy for Aaron Rodgers.

Christian Ponder stood on the sideline in a hooded sweatshirt.

Joe Webb was the only hope the Vikings had left, and in his

first start of the season he was simply overmatched against the

fired-up Packers.

Peterson was held to 99 yards on 22 carries, after gaining 199

and 210 in his first two games against Green Bay, and Webb stumbled

badly in place of Ponder as the Packers rolled to a 24-10 victory

over the Vikings in an NFC wild-card game Saturday night.

”Just a learning experience,” Webb said, adding: ”Work on it

in the offseason. Build on it for next season.”

Ponder was inactive because of a right elbow injury, suffered

when the teams played each other last Sunday. His participation in

practice this week was limited and Webb took many of the turns with

the first-team offense. But Webb said he didn’t plan on playing

until this weekend, when Ponder still didn’t have the full range of

motion in his tight, swollen elbow.

”It wouldn’t have been smart to put him at risk,” coach Leslie

Frazier said. He added: ”You just hope the guy you have in that

backup role can get it done, and we came up short tonight.”

Webb, who hadn’t thrown a pass in a game since the preseason in

August, was sacked three times and well off target for most of the

night. His only highlight was a 50-yard touchdown pass to Michael

Jenkins late in the fourth quarter, but it was far too late for the

Vikings (10-7).

”He was up and down at times,” Peterson said. ”We all know

that there’s going to be adversity throughout the game. We’ve just

got to bounce back mentally. A couple times I’d say something to

him, and he responded well and looked focused.”

Webb finished 11 for 30 for 180 yards and became the first

quarterback in 20 years to start a playoff game without starting

any games during that regular season since Frank Reich did so for

Buffalo, according to STATS. Reich led the Bills to their famous

comeback victory over Houston that year.

But there was no chance of any of that in this one.

Webb tripped over Clay Matthews for an easy sack early in the

second quarter, and he was called for intentional grounding while

being swarmed behind the line of scrimmage on the next play.

The Vikings had the Packers stopped for a field goal on

fourth-and-4 early in the third quarter, but Jasper Brinkley was

called for 12 men on the field when he couldn’t make it to the

sideline in time. Frazier said there was an extra defensive end on

the field-goal block team, and Brinkley has the job of leaving the

field in those situations. The penalty gave the Packers just enough

yards to keep going, and Rodgers found Kuhn open on the next play.

The fullback barged into the end zone by barreling over Jamarca

Sanford at the goal line for a 24-3 lead.

The last time the Vikings were in a playoff game, they

infamously were called for 12 men on the field, too, on offense

that time in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game in New

Orleans to push them out of field-goal range. Brett Favre threw an

interception, and they lost to the Saints in overtime.

On the next possession, Webb fumbled at the Green Bay 45 during

another sack by Matthews, who recovered. Then, on the ensuing drive

for Minnesota, Webb’s deep pass was intercepted by Sam Shields at

the Packers 8. Then the next time the Vikings got the ball back,

Marcus Sherels fumbled the punt, giving the Packers the ball

again.

”I think we needed a higher sense of urgency and realize we

don’t know when we’re going to come back,” defensive end Jared

Allen said. ”It took us three years after the NFC championship

game to get back, so you don’t know when you’re going to have that

option, you don’t have that opportunity.”

This was the third game in six weeks between the Packers (12-5)

and the Vikings, and second in six days. This time, the Packers

finally figured out how to slow down the NFL’s rushing leader in

Peterson, who fell 9 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s

all-time single-season record.

Rodgers showed just how dangerous the Packers can be when

they’re at full strength. John Kuhn scored two touchdowns, DuJuan

Harris added another and Rodgers connected with an NFL

playoff-record 10 receivers while throwing for 274 yards, widening

the passing gap between these division rivals. Webb ran seven times

for 68 yards, but he was hesitant at times to take off,

particularly in the first half.

”You still need to be able to complete passes,” Frazier said,

adding: ”We just couldn’t make some things happen down the field

that we needed to make happen.”

The Vikings made plenty happen this season, after finishing 3-13

last year and 6-10 in 2010. After losing 23-14 at Lambeau Field,

when Ponder threw two interceptions inside the Green Bay 20-yard

line, they reeled off four straight victories to make the playoffs.

But in the quiet of the visitor’s locker room, nobody was ready to

acknowledge the season as a success. Losing the last game always

hurts, especially to a team’s biggest rival.

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