There’s just nothing better than a playoff win, huh?
That’s exactly what the Green Bay Packers delivered Saturday night, soundly defeating the Minnesota Vikings 24-10 in a wild-card round contest at Lambeau Field. The Packers now head on the road for the divisional round, where they will face the San Francisco 49ers next Saturday night at 7 p.m. Lambeau Time.
Here are my takeaways from the playoff victory:
- If you were like me, you had your doubts as to whether or not the Green Bay defense could slow down Adrian Peterson. After all, the Packers already had two recent chances to do so and had failed each time. This time around, however, the defense came to play. Green Bay held Peterson to an extremely quiet 99 yards on 22 attempts (he’d averaged 204.5 yards per game in his first two meetings with the Packers this season).
- The big key to the much-improved showing can be found on the edges. Namely, the Packers SET edges this time. Green Bay didn’t allow Peterson to bounce his runs outside, forcing him to stick between the tackles. Peterson is great, no question, but it’s hard for any back to do much damage if their only real play is to continuously try to slam through the forest of big bodies in the trenches.
- Much of the credit for this goes to Erik Walden, Clay Matthews, Dezmon Moses and Charles Woodson.
- Great to see Woodson back and making a difference. He isn’t the player he was in his prime – or even his amazing 2009 season – but he brings an intangible element to this defense. You feel safer with Woodson in there. And with fresher legs from all the time missed due to injury, he’ll have a lot in his tank for this playoff stretch. That could prove huge for this team.
- Yes, Joe Webb is terrible. But no, Christian Ponder’s presence wouldn’t have made that much of a difference. This defense was ready for a fight and it didn’t matter who was under center for the Vikes.
- If teams want to continually play both safeties high and take away the longer stuff from Green Bay’s offense, the Packers are proving they’re just fine with that. Aaron Rodgers completed eight passes to his backs Saturday night for a total of 84 yards. By taking that approach, particularly early in the game, the Packers were eventually able to open up the longer stuff as time went on. What’s that – stubborn Mike McCarthy is adapting and changing his offensive approach a little bit? Yes, folks, that seems to be the case. And it’s happening at the most crucial time.
- He’s still a little stubborn, though, especially when it comes to giving John Kuhn the ball in short-yardage spots. Kuhn scored on one of those attempts Saturday night (he’d failed on his first two shots), but even if he didn’t, those plays aren’t going away. It appears we’re just going to have to live with it.
- DuJuan Harris – 100 total yards (47 rushing, 53 receiving) and a touchdown Saturday night. What a find this kid has been. It’s too much to say he’s the engine of this offense, obviously, but he’s becoming a big-time component. He brings a shiftiness and intensity this corps of runners hasn’t had in awhile.
- Going 22-of-33 for 274 yards, one score and no picks seems very “ho-hum” for Rodgers, but it was anything but. He made some of the toughest throws you’ll see a QB make yet again in this one. Even if the numbers don’t always reflect it, he sure seems dialed in.
- Speaking of dialed in, Greg Jennings appears to have regained his groove. Like Woodson, it’s just a different unit with him in there making things happen. He likely won’t be around for 2013, but Jennings can help this team do great things for the next (hopefully) few weeks.
- Really great work from the offensive line, all around. A lot of weeks this season, one or two players are just off and it’s really affected things at times. But here, all five played well.
- Even watching on TV, the crowd sure seemed loud. Great work, everyone who went to the game. And thank you for keeping the stands largely free of that disgusting purple.
- Now, it’s a trip out west for the Pack. Obviously, still sort of digesting (read: enjoying the hell out of) Saturday night’s win, but here are a few early thoughts:
- On Twitter as the game ended, I made the analogy of the Packers being Batman and the Niners being Bane (nerd alert!) and I really believe that holds up. The Niners definitely punished the hell out of Green Bay the first time around, as it was clear the Packers were just not able to keep up with San Fran’s physicality. That, obviously, was in week one, a lifetime ago by NFL standards. Has enough changed for Green Bay though?
- The Vikings, at least offensively, are sort of a poor man’s Niners. Strong-armed, running QB. Physical run game. So in a sense, Saturday was good preparation for Green Bay. And if the Packers play defense the way they did Saturday, that’ll go a long way in giving them a shot to pull out the win. Yes, the Niners have much better players, but the concepts of what Green Bay will need to do won’t be a ton different.
- On defense, the Niners are light-years ahead of Minnesota so that’ll be a completely different – and tougher – challenge. The offensive line, in particular, will face its toughest battle yet. But if they can hold up and the Packers can make things happen with this new-found short-passing game, those big plays downfield will again open up. With this receiving corps now totally healthy, there’s no team that can contain that group for four quarters.
- I can almost guarantee you that’s going to be the best game of next weekend. Something tells me it’s going to be much closer this time.
- Hang on to your butts, folks. This is what January is all about.