The Packers are 10-0 in home playoff games in which they held a first-half lead for at least 30 offensive plays (snaps by them and their opponent).
Plays Opponent Date
58 49ers Jan. 4, 1997
48 Lions Dec. 31, 1994
45 Cowboys Dec. 31, 1967
44 Buccaneers Jan. 4, 1998
43 Falcons Dec. 31, 1995
42 Cardinals Jan. 8, 1983
39 Browns Jan. 2, 1966
36 Vikings Jan. 5, 2012
34 49ers Jan. 13, 2002
32 Giants Dec. 31, 1961
Early on, the Packers-Vikings matchup at Lambeau Field resembled the more recent playoff games that have taken place there, those in which Green Bay has lost more often than it has won.
But by late in the first quarter, the Packers grabbed the upper hand and held firm, closing out in a manner more reminiscent of the days when the team didn’t lose in the postseason in Green Bay.
Shaking off yet another opening scoring drive by their opponent, the Packers overcame their own futile first possession to put away the Vikings 24-10 Saturday night. The victory sends them on to San Francisco, where they’ll face the 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Time was, the Packers didn’t lose in Green Bay. The team won 11 straight playoff games at Lambeau Field between 1961 and 2002.
During that run, the team usually grabbed the lead early and didn’t back down. In nine of those victories, Green Bay was ahead on the scoreboard for at least 30 offensive plays: that is, snaps by both teams.
Only twice did opponents score on their opening drive. The Browns’ Frank Ryan hit Gary Collins for a touchdown on Jan. 2, 1966, and Neil O’Donoghue of the Cardinals kicked an 18-yard field goal on Jan. 8, 1983.
Ten years ago, Atlanta smashed that aura of invincibility. Quarterback Michael Vick ran through and passed over the Packers as the Falcons advanced with a stunning 27-7 victory.
Vick also directed a scoring drive the first time Atlanta had the ball. Putting up a score from the get-go has been the modus operandi of every playoff opponent to visit the Frozen Tundra since.
Atlanta (2002), Minnesota (2005), and Seattle (2008) cashed in for TDs. The Seahawks (2004) and the Giants of 2008 and last year got field goals.
Saturday night, the Vikings came out running. With Christian Ponder inactive and his replacement, Joe Webb, not having thrown a pass during the regular season, Minnesota opened with eight straight running plays. Adrian Peterson carried six times and Webb ran twice.
It was the first time since the 1944 NFL Championship Game that a Green Bay playoff opponent started so run heavy. In that game, the Giants called 10 straight running plays before allowing former Packer Arnie Herber to throw a pass.
Called upon to throw his first pass, Webb misfired. Blair Walsh followed with a 33-yard field goal and the Vikings led 3-0 with nine minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Given their first opportunity, the Packers did what they have done in nine of their last 11 home playoff games: they punted. Aaron Rodgers completed a 7-yard pass to Randall Cobb, DuJuan Harris gained two, and the running back then dropped a short throw on third down.
Ten years ago, Green Bay failed to pick up a first down in their initial advance against the Falcons. That game was essentially over by halftime with Atlanta out front 24-0.
Not so in this latest meeting with the Vikings. Given a second chance, Rodgers and the Packers headed goalward.
So effective was Green Bay’s offense, that only once did it face third down. That was erased after defensive tackle Kevin Williams lined up in the neutral zone.
With Rodgers completing three passes for 38 yards and Harris paving the way on the ground, the offense carried 82 yards in 11 plays. Harris capped the effort with a 9-yard run that became a touchdown after Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the ruling on the field.
Green Bay never trailed again. Thirty-six more plays were run before the Packers headed to halftime up 17-3.
Holding a first-half lead for that length of time at home is old school. It’s an effective approach worth taking on the road.