Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson tries to sack Minnesota Vikings quarterback Joe Webb in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
This was not to be a Jason Garrett kind of evening, or a Frank Reich kind of comeback.
Joe Webb had the opportunity to make history on a frosty Saturday night in Lambeau, as the Minnesota Vikings’ second-chair quarterback became just the fourth in the Super Bowl era to start a playoff game without starting a regular-season game.
But ol’ Joe was not even ordinary. He wasn’t even awful, for that would be too kind.
He overthrew it (a lot), he underthrew it (often), and through it all gave Mark Sanchez a run for Worst Play By A Quarterback This Season when he sacked himself, unwittingly tripping over Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who lay flat on the ground, for a 9-yard loss.
Webb simply had no clue, which led to the Vikings having no hope, which resulted in the Green Bay Packers cruising to a 24-10 NFC wild-card victory and winning a trip to San Francisco next Saturday night in the divisional round.
Vikings starter Christian Ponder, who caused the Packers a fair share of problems last week, couldn’t answer the bell due to a lame elbow and was a late scratch. Coming off a week where he finished with a career-high 120.2 passer rating and 3 TDs in a 37-34 must win over the Packers, it was like the Vikings getting into their car only to realize their Garmin had been stolen.
Before kickoff all we knew of Webb was he hadn’t thrown a pass this season. By the end of the night, we all knew he couldn’t throw.
With no quarterback to worry about it allowed the Packers to concentrate on curing their migraine headache, known best as Adrian Peterson.
After twice embarrassing the Packers with games of 210 and 199 yards he accounted for just 99 on 22 carries Saturday, which was a victory on every count.
As for Cobweb Webb, he was a robust 3-of-12 for 22 yards in the first half and finished 11-of-30 for 180 yards, 103 of which came in garbage time, when it became apparent he was most effective.
But while Webb stole the headlines, he did not steal the show.
Given the circumstances it would be easy to discount this win as a gimme for the Packers. But they would be an error.
They played exactly how they were supposed to against a team that was desperate to find any ray of hope, any reason to believe they could find a way to win.
Garrett and the Cowboys did it to the Packers in 1994, when the third-stringer threw for 311 yards and produced a 42-31 victory on Thanksgiving Day. And Reich did it to the Houston Oilers in 1992, when the second-stringer rallied the Buffalo Bills from a 35-6 deficit to a 41-38 overtime playoff win.
Teams who lack the necessary mental toughness have been their own worst enemies in the past when the odds were heavily stacked in their favor.
But the Packers, after giving up a quick three points, never allowed the Vikings up for air thereafter. Even more key, they forced three turnovers on the night.
“Our defense played great,’’ said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “They played on a championship level tonight, and that’s what you need in the playoffs.’’
Offensively, Rodgers was Rodgers. He wasn’t great top to bottom, but the offense didn’t turn the ball over and he led a dynamic five-play, 62-yard, TD drive in the final two minutes of the first half that put the Packers in a comfort zone with a 17-3 halftime lead.
“I think a lot of times, two-minute drives are often keyed by a good first play on the drive,’’ he said. “We had a completion to Jordy (Nelson) in the 18-to-20 range (actually 22 yards) and that kind of got things going for us and we just kind of moved the ball from there.’’
Then after a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the second half that put the Packers out front 24-3, the offense did all it had to do.
This was not a dynamic performance by the Packers, but it was efficient and effective. And in a NFC playoff tournament where every team has its warts, it’s the kind that can carry the Packers exactly where they want to go.
Mike Woods: 920-993-1000, ext. 232; or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @PCMikeW