Joe Webb 'just couldn't make things some happen' in surprise start
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Joe Webb finally got his chance on Saturday. The results couldn't have been further from what he or the Minnesota Vikings hoped.
Starting in place of injured quarterback Christian Ponder, Webb completed only 11 of 30 passes (36.7%) for 180 yards and committed two turnovers in the Vikings' 24-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers in an NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field.
"Practice, working scout team -- it's a whole lot different than going live contact on game day," Webb said. "But that's part of our job. It's got to be next man up."
Webb took most of the reps in practice during the week but didn't know he was starting until about 3 hours before game time, when Ponder went through a brief throwing session that showed his sore throwing arm wouldn't allow him to play.
Coach Leslie Frazier informed Webb he'd get first start in more than two years and his only meaningful action of his third NFL season. He's the first quarterback in league history to start a playoff game without throwing a regular-season pass.
On Friday, Ponder "improved enough to where you think, 'OK, maybe,'" Frazier said. "Then (Saturday), we took him out -- just wouldn't have been smart to put him at risk and we made the decision to go with Joe."
It appeared to have the Packers on their heels in the early going as Webb -- the athletic sixth-round pick out of UAB in 2010 the Vikings drafted as a receiver -- led an opening drive that began with eight consecutive running plays.
"We had the mindset of thinking Christian Ponder was going to be the quarterback, and that was all we knew of until a couple minutes before going out for pregame," said Packers safety Morgan Burnett, whose hit on Ponder six days earlier caused the bruise to his triceps and elbow that sidelined him on Saturday.
"It's part of the game of football. You have to be prepared for whatever happens, and you can't put too much thought into it. You just have to go out and play and execute."
Coordinator Bill Musgrave called three read-option plays on the opening series, with Webb keeping one for a 17-yard gain and Adrian Peterson taking two others for gains of 11 and 5. Blair Walsh capped the 10-play, 53-yard drive with a field goal to make it 3-0.
"We kind of prepared for a little bit of both (quarterbacks)," Frazier said. "As we were going through the week and realizing the possibility on a short week that Christian might not make it, so we better make sure we have something in the package in case it does become Joe. So, Bill and our offensive staff did a good job of including what we would call Joe-type plays."
For the next four series, though -- all ending in punts -- the Vikings ran their normal offense and Webb looked hopelessly lost at times. He took two sacks, nearly threw an interception trying to avoid another and was just 3-of-12 passing for 22 yards at halftime.
"It was successful. It was working," Webb said of the read option. "I wouldn't say it wasn't working. But that's Coach Musgrave's decision. If he wanted to go another route, then I was all for it."
By the time the Vikings got the ball again in third quarter, the Packers led 24-3 and things only got worse from there.
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews sacked and stripped Webb on fourth-and-3 to half one drive at the Green Bay 38. Webb ended the next one by throwing an interception to Sam Shields on a deep double move by Devin Aromashodu along the Vikings sideline.
"We mixed some of those read options along the way," Frazier said. "But at some point, you'd like to be able to complete some passes. You're right -- early on, we did have them a little bit off-balance. But we had some opportunities in the passing game. We just couldn't connect."
They finally did in the fourth quarter, when a blown coverage left Michael Jenkins wide open for a 50-yard touchdown. Webb added completions of 30 yards to Jenkins and 23 yards to Kyle Rudolph against the Packers' prevent defense on the final drive.
Prior to those desperation drives, Webb was 7-of-24 for 119 yards. The Vikings finished with only six first downs through the air.
"I started to adjust to the flow of the game later as the game was going on," Webb said. "Really started to get the rhythm. So, once you start building your rhythm, then you can really make some plays. It was just a learning experience.
"I'm glad it happened. I'll work out in the offseason, build on it to the next season."
Webb's only previous action this season came late in a blowout win on Oct. 7 against Tennessee. He knelt down once and handed off twice.
Asked if he thinks the Vikings would have game planned differently knowing he'd be in the lineup, Webb said, "I'm not sure. Can't go back in the past. I'm pretty sure they probably would have did some things different, because me and Christian, we have different talent assets. But you can't go back in the past."
Webb's passer rating was 54.9 even after those gains while the decision was sealed.
"There were some times I thought we had some guys open," Frazier said. "Joe might get flushed or didn't get his feet set, might not follow through like he needed to. We'd end up with some incompletions or the quarterback getting hurried. Just couldn't make some things happen down the field that we needed to make happen."