Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden tackles Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in the third quarter of Saturday night's game at Lambeau Field. Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media
Not in their house. Not against a backup quarterback. Not with their season on the line.
The Green Bay Packers were simply not going to let Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings beat them Saturday night before the fourth-largest crowd in Lambeau Field history.
They have worked too hard, and endured too much this season to allow this opportunity to slip away.
The Packers pummeled the Vikings 24-10 in a game that for all intents and purposes was over 90 minutes prior to kickoff when the Vikings announced that starting quarterback Christian Ponder wouldn’t play with a sore elbow.
The Vikings were forced to trot out career backup Joe Webb, who hadn’t thrown a pass all season, and it left them in a quandary with just Peterson as a bona fide weapon.
Even though Peterson has done his best Superman imitation for much of the season and is hands down the greatest running back in the NFL, he couldn’t do it alone.
The Packers wouldn’t allow it. Peterson had torn through their defense twice during the regular season for a total of 409 rushing yards. But on this 29-degree night in Green Bay the Packers held him to just 99 yards on 22 carries, which is modest by Peterson’s standards.
“I think it goes beyond pride,” said Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. “But ultimately, especially with the two 200-yard games he put together against us, there was absolutely something to prove.”
With Webb throwing errant passes all over the yard, the Vikings had no aerial attack to complement Peterson.
The result was a dominating defensive performance by the Packers. The Vikings were held to 97 total yards and three points in the first half.
When the Packers assumed a 24-3 lead early in the third quarter, the Vikings were finished.
“That’s the type of football we want to play and I think today was a great step, especially with a great running back,” said Matthews. “That scheme that wanted to kind of punch us right in the face, I think we responded, set our jaws and really kept them in check.”
It was a far cry from last Sunday’s regular-season finale at the Metrodome, when the Vikings lit up the Packers for 444 total yards in a 37-34 victory.
This time around, the Vikings didn’t find the end zone until garbage time in the waning minutes of the game.
The Packers tackled better and kept Peterson bottled up, but there was something else at work among the defensive players.
“It’s a pride thing too,” said defensive lineman Ryan Pickett of limiting Peterson’s impact. “As a defense we don’t want to see that. We don’t want to see a guy rush for 200 yards three times on you. It can’t happen.”
The Packers’ ability to slug it out with the Vikings and win handily should prepare them well for the rugged San Francisco 49ers in a divisional playoff game next Saturday.
“They come out with their offensive line, they try to pound people,” said Pickett of the 49ers. “I think we’re up for the test. It’s a good matchup because we’re a big physical group.”
The 49ers came to Lambeau in Week 1 and beat the Packers into submission 30-22 in a game that wasn’t that close.
But the Packers believe they’re a better team than they were four months ago.
“It’s going to be a fight,” said linebacker Erik Walden.
It’s a fight the Packers feel they’re prepared to win.
“You realize that nothing is guaranteed,” said Matthews. “Nothing is given to you. You need to go out and earn it.”
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