No matter how good a football team you may be — and the Green Bay Packers are very good — you simply cannot spot your opponent 13 points, especially in their building.
The Minnesota Vikings, with their trademark horns blaring throughout the Hubert Horatio Humphrey Metrodome, accepted the unexpected largesse with open arms.
Both teams had a lot to play for.
But the Vikings clearly had much more.
The Pack would’ve locked up the second seed.
The Vikes, on the other hand, were playing for their playoff lives.
And there was the single-season rushing record for Adrian Peterson to add a little icing to that cake.
AP did not disappoint the Nordic faithful in the energy expended to achieve the goal.
Peterson racked up 210 yards in the first meeting at Lambeau Field on December 2.
With Peterson torching the defense for 199 yards and Christian Ponder eliminating the mistakes he made the first go-around, the Vikings slid into the second season with a 37-34 win.
Blair Walsh’s 29-yard field goal as time expired propelled them to the win.
When AP was carried off the field by a teammate after his 20-yard burst made it little more than an extra point attempt, he must have thought it was enough to eclipse Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 mark in 1984.
Pam Oliver delivered the bad news, bursting Peterson’s bubble.
“It’s good to play another week,” Peterson said, still reeling from falling nine yards short.
“We got the ‘W’ that’s the main thing. I was focused on the win.”
The news was doubly bad for the Pack, who not only booted away the second seed, they will be seeing purple — again — when the playoffs begin next weekend.
Ponder, Peterson and company will square off at Lambeau Field for the third time in five weeks.
This is not unlike 2009 when the Packers played the Arizona Cardinals to finish the year and start the playoffs.
That did not go well for Green Bay as you recall.
It was another inauspicious beginning for the Green Bay Packers.
The habit of spotting the other team double-digit point leads on the road or at home will not cut it come playoff time.
The first quarter was all Vikings with a 54-yard Blair Walsh field goal and a seven-yard rushing TD by AP.
The Packers rode a great punt return by the ‘next man up’ on Special Teams in the person of Jeremy Ross to get their first points.
The nice drive finished with a three-yard Aaron Rodgers pass to Greg Jennings that took six seconds to develop.
Ross was pinch-hitting for Randall Cobb on punts and kicks.
Cobb, the all-purpose single season record holder, sat out to nurse an ankle he tweaked in the romp last week over Tennessee.
As more of the injured Packers make their way back to the field, the depth chart looks it has gained a little weight over the holidays just like everybody else.
Minnesota, riding the now-more accurate arm of Ponder, got that score right back.
A-Rod, with no time outs and 1:07 left in the half, got Green Bay into field goal range.
Mason Crosby delivered the 51-yarder with leg to spare.
Jennings did the majority of the work on the opening drive and was wide open in the corner of the end zone as the Packers got to within three, 20-17, with 11:56 left in the third.
Whether it was the last regular season for Jennings or not rests in the hands of GM Ted Thompson.
But everyone is sure glad he dons the Green & Gold for the Super Bowl run.
The Packers were about to take their first lead when the ball was dislodged as Rodgers stepped up and out of the pocket.
Minnosota recovered and Peterson did the rest, finishing off the drive with a two-yard touchdown catch.
It was 27-17, advantage Vikes, with 4:00 left in the third qu
Challenge flags, fumbles and knee touches all became part of the Pack’s next drive.
The completion of game, a long bomb to the returning Jordy Nelson, put Green Bay in first and goal territory.
Enter James Jones.
His 14th score of the season was a stretch by Jones, barely touching the plane before his knee.
Head coach Mike McCarthy threw the challenge flag as the official in the booth called for a replay which ruled it a fumble.
Nelson scooped up the flag and tried to cover it up, but the Packers were charged with a 15-yard penalty on a rule that defies all logic and will likely be changed in the off-season.
Minnesota kept up its charge and regained the lead, largely on a long Ponder pass to Jarius Wright.
Michael Jenkins somehow gathered in Ponder’s touchdown toss as it went through M.D. Jennings’ hands.
The deficit was 34-27 with 7:54 to play.
The gut-check that was the next drive by the Packers was their best of the year.
Jennings, Nelson and Jermichael Finley willed A-Rod’s passes into their hands time and time again.
An interference penalty gave Green Bay a first and goal on the Minnesota three and Rodgers went right back to Nelson for the score on the next play.
The Packers will now regroup and, short of some criminal act, figure out a way to limit Peterson’s effectiveness next time out.
B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews did have some success, believe it or not.
When Peterson gets to the outside, he turns a two-yard gain into 20, 30 and more.
He has done that so often against Green Bay during his career you can make a highlight reel for his Hall of Fame induction ceremony solely with clips against the Packers.
The trump card the Packers have is Rodgers, who had four touchdown passes and showed an enormous amount of grit in a very hostile environment.
Clearly, they cannot give them a head start if they want to hold up the Lombardi Trophy for a fifth time.
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