Although the heroics of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson weren’t enough to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, they did help to eliminate the Chicago Bears from the playoffs.
It’s not everyday a team puts up 34 points and still deserves to lose. Today was one of those days. From start to finish, the Green Bay Packers (12-4) played without evincing the slightest shred of respect for the Minnesota Vikings (10-6). They must have thought they already had the first-round bye in the bag, because they were undisciplined in every phase of the game. No team plays perfectly in any game, but there is never an excuse for making stupid mistakes, of which the Packers made many.
Game Ball: Offense
He did it all today — everything except break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was his usual amazing self, rushing 34 times for 199 yards and a touchdown, averaging an incredible 5.8 yards per carry, catching a pass for another touchdown, and generally carrying the offense on his back. He finished with 2,097 rushing yards the second most all time and a mere nine short of the record. The fact that Peterson will not be in line for MVP consideration is a travesty, in my opinion.
Despite the loss, there are plenty of honorable mentions to go around on the Packers’ side.
Running back DuJuan Harris, recently promoted from the practice squad, who truly came to play today. Although he never had an opportunity to punch the ball into the end zone, he battled hard on every play, finishing with 70 yards on 14 carries, averaging a very respectable 5.0 yards per carry. Had the Packers been able to get that kind of production out of him earlier in the season, they might have won a couple extra games.
Wide receiver Greg Jennings had his best game of the season, catching eight passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Jordy Nelson and James Jones caught a touchdown apiece. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had his sixth 300-yard game on the season and threw four touchdown passes.
Game Ball: Defense
It’s difficult to hand out defensive game balls on a day in which 71 total points were scored, so we’ll give them to the winning team.
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen was in the Packers’ backfield all day, sacking quarterback Aaron Rodgers three times.
Honorable mention goes to defensive ends Brian Robison and Jared Allen, who collaborated force and recover a fumble on a sack of Rodgers.
There is plenty of blame to go around for this loss, which we’ll go into in more detail in the game wrap-up. For now we’ll be content to brand Packers cornerback Tramon Williams the Goat of the game for the inexcusable illegal use of hands penalties he incurred at the Green Bay 12-yard line on a third-and-12 play in which the defense had stopped running back Toby Gerhart for a five-yard gain. The unnecessary infraction extended the Vikings’ drive and set them up for a three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Jenkins.
Packers defensive end Jerel Worthy left the game late in the fourth quarter and did not return.
It’s hard to know what conclusions to draw from this game. The Vikings were obviously motivated to get Adrian Peterson the rushing record, and they very nearly succeeded. For their part, the Packers also had a chance at history — becoming the first team to sweep their division two years in a row — not to mention an opportunity to secure a first-round playoff bye, but they didn’t seem particularly interested.
The upshot is that the stage has been set for a rematch at Lambeau Field next week. Will the Packers come out angry and take care of business against their division rival? Or will the Vikings be on fire and steamroll through the Green Bay defense en route to the divisional round?
Hopefully, the Packers go home embarrassed of their performance and fixes the problems in practice. Otherwise they’re going to find themselves one and done for the second season in a row. The Vikings are surely not going to be feeling intimidated coming into this game, particularly since Green Bay’s home playoff record has hardly been stellar in recent years.
There’s no reason for the Packers to give up on their season. They did a lot of great things today and put up 34 points. But they had better develop some respect for their divisional rival — and fast — if they want to have any chance of advancing to the next round.