Eric Goska column: Packers rate better at QB in this rivalry

Nov. 30, 2012
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers eludes the grasp of Minnesota's Jared Allen during their Nov. 14, 2011 game at Lambeau Field. File/Press-Gazette

Making a difference

Seasons in which Green Bay’s passer rating was 42 or more points better than that of the Vikings in the rivalry.

Diff.YearTeam (rating)
+91.01961GB (126.8); MIN (35.8)
+90.52011GB (146.2); MIN (55.7)
+65.61962GB (124.9); MIN (59.3)
+62.22010GB (111.6); MIN (49.4)
+52.21963GB (116.2); MIN (64.0)
+51.31967GB (84.5); MIN (33.2)
+42.32007GB (111.9); MIN (69.6)

Of the seven seasons listed above, 1967 was the only one in which the Packers did not earn a sweep. In 1967, Green Bay and Minnesota split, each team winning on its home field.


When it came to quarterback play, the Green Bay Packers absolutely schooled the Vikings in 1961, the year Minnesota began play in the NFL.

A half-century later, Green Bay again decisively outperformed its rival.

Since Mike McCarthy became Packers coach in 2006, his team has earned the better passer rating in the series between the NFC North neighbors five of six times. Only the Brett Favre-led-outfit that recorded a sweep of the Packers in 2009 emerged with a better rating.

Last year, it wasn’t close. Aaron Rodgers came within 12 points of perfection, while Christian Ponder conjured up memories of Joe Kapp.

Fifty years ago, the expansion Vikings closed out October with back-to-back games against the defending Western Conference champion Packers, and the results weren’t pretty. With rookie quarterback Fran Tarkenton and veteran George Shaw at the throttle, Minnesota fell 33-7 at Metropolitan Stadium and 28-10 at Milwaukee County Stadium.

The line on Shaw and Tarkenton was dreary: 29 completions in 59 attempts for 317 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. Their combined rating of 35.8 reflected that.

Bart Starr, with an assist from running backs Tom Moore and Paul Hornung, fared much better. The three combined for 29 completions in 45 attempts, 547 yards, four touchdowns and one pick for a rating of 126.8.

The difference between the ratings of the Packers and Vikings was 91 points.

Such a discrepancy is understandable knowing the fate of the two teams. Green Bay went 11-3 and dominated the Giants 37-0 in the championship game. Minnesota finished 3-11 and last in the seven-team Western Conference.

How to explain what transpired last season? Rookie vs. veteran in the midst of a career year about covers it.

Christian Ponder was the Vikings’ first-round draft choice in 2011. After not playing in Minnesota’s first five regular-season games a year ago, he debuted against the Bears in mid-October.

On Oct. 23, 2011, Ponder made his first NFL start. He completed 13 of 32 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions (59.2 rating) in a 33-27 loss to Green Bay.

In the rematch at Lambeau Field, he was 16-of-34 for 190 yards with an interception. The Vikings again lost (45-7) and Ponder’s rating of 52.3 was his poorest of the season (minimum 15 attempts).

Rodgers, meanwhile, cruised. He had passer ratings of 146.5 and 140.3 and threw seven touchdown passes against no interceptions. His combined rating for the two games was 146.9, 11.4 points short of the maximum 158.3.

The difference between the ratings of the Packers (146.2) and the Vikings (55.7) was 90.5 points, just a fraction shy of the major divide of 50 years ago.

With McCarthy at the helm, Green Bay has won nine of 12 meetings. His team has outdueled the Vikings in passer rating by 9.1 points (2006), 42.3 (2007), 39.8 (2008) and 62.3 (2010).

In 2009, a purple-clad Favre put Minnesota (133.7) ahead of Green Bay (109.4) by 24.3 points.

McCarthy has had two primary starters — Favre and Rodgers — and they’ve excelled. For all his success against Chicago, Favre (as a Packer) had a better career rating against the Vikings (86.3) than the Bears (84.9). Rodgers (116.5) is the highest-rated passer in the history of the Green Bay-Minnesota rivalry.

The Vikings have started seven quarterbacks against Green Bay since 2006, some best forgotten: Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Gus Frerotte, Favre and Ponder. Favre was the only one to compile a rating of better than 85 points in any game. Ponder (55.7) is the third-lowest-rated Vikings passer (minimum 50 attempts) in the series behind Jackson (49.7) and Kapp (43.0).

Kapp, known for his wobbly passes and competitive fire, was Minnesota’s starter in the late 1960s.

For as one-sided as the Packers have been against the Vikings, don’t expect a repeat of last year. Ponder has improved and Rodgers, though he again leads the league in passer rating, has come back to earth.

Regular-season series

Overall: Packers lead 53-47-1.

At Lambeau Field: Green Bay leads 19-16-1.

Starting QBs

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (48-25 overall; 5-3 vs. Minnesota).

Vikings: Christian Ponder (8-13; 0-2 vs. Green Bay).

Once a Viking, now a Packer

Linebacker Robert Francois signed as a nondrafted free agent with the Vikings in May 2009 and was waived that August.

Once a Packer, now a Viking

There are no former Packers on the Vikings’ roster.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of “Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness,” a statistical history of the Packers. Email him at

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