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Updated: January 6th, 2013 1:13am
Notebook: Packers QB does good job of handling Vikings' pass rush

Notebook: Packers QB does good job of handling Vikings' pass rush

by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As far as Aaron Rodgers' performances go, his play in the Green Bay Packers' 24-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday night in an NFC wild-card game was rather ho-hum.

Rodgers completed 23 of 33 passes for 274 yards with a touchdown and had a 104.9 passer rating. That came six days after Rodgers hit on 28 of 40 passes for 365 yards with four touchdowns and had a 131.8 rating in a loss at the Metrodome.

Obviously, however, Rodgers will take Saturday night's outing, given that it resulted in a victory. So will his coach, Mike McCarthy.

"I thought he played very well," McCarthy said. "Aaron's very composed. He did a great job in the no-huddle. We had some things go awry in the second half, but I thought he played a typical Aaron Rodgers game. Very steady."

Rodgers ran the Packers' no-huddle scheme to near perfection at times, hitting on passes to a receiver corps that include Greg Jennings (four catches for 61 yards), James Jones (four for 51) and Jordy Nelson (three for 51).

Rodgers was sacked three times after being sacked five times last Sunday by the Vikings.

"The ball came out a lot quicker," said defensive end Jared Allen, who had one of the Vikings' sacks. "He just got the ball out. We still sacked him three times and had him running all over the place. It was check-down football.

"They were leaking a back out, checking down and keeping the chains moving. It was just their play-calling, Aaron getting the ball out and them being conscious of what we were trying to do up front. They didn't allow us to get into a steady groove of pass rushing."

Slowing Peterson

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 210 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings' loss at Lambeau Field on Dec. 2 and then went for 199 yards and a touchdown last Sunday at the Metrodome against the Packers.

On Saturday night, he was "held" to 99 yards on 22 carries. That was 12 fewer carries than he had six days earlier.

"It comes down to the things that we talked about during the course of the week here and no different that we talked about as a football team," McCarthy said. "It was important for us to play with leverage, play with discipline, trust the guy next to you and, obviously, rally to the football.

"Adrian Peterson does a great job of extending runs, very similar to what Aaron Rodgers does in the passing game with his ability to extend pass plays. They're two very similar players. I thought our defense was extremely disciplined and played with great effort. I thought we owned the line of scrimmage and that was a big factor tonight."

Peterson gave credit to a Packers defense that did a far better job of wrapping him up.

"They played more patient defense," he said. "They stayed on the backside to take away the cutback and they played slower instead of being really aggressive and over pursuing plays. With that, they were able to bottle up the run game."

Peterson also said it made a difference the Packers had veteran safety Charles Woodson back after a lengthy absence that was caused by a broken collarbone.

"Woodson is a great player," Peterson said. "He saved a touchdown in the fourth quarter by tackling me because I was definitely going the distance. He is a difference-maker."

Too much pain

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison dropped out of Saturday's game in the third quarter after the pain in his sprained right shoulder became too much.

"It didn't hold up very well," he said. "I made it about midway through the third quarter and almost felt useless. It was painful. It was rough."

Robison suffered a Grade 3 sprain in the shoulder on Dec. 16 at St. Louis. He returned to the lineup two weeks later against the Packers and finished that game despite the pain.

"It was one of those deals where I want to be out there as much as possible," Robison said. "But at the same time, I felt like I was doing more harm than good."

That hurts

Rookie safety Harrison Smith gave the Vikings a brief scare when he fell to the turf and grabbed his left knee after making a third quarter tackle on a run by DuJuan Harris.

The injury looked serious at first but walked off the field under his own power. He returned in teh fourth quarter.

"I didn't really know exactly what happened," Smith said. "Just my leg kind of all cramped up."

Turning it over I

Joe Webb's 5-yard completion to Jarius Wright at the Green Bay 38-yard line set up a fourth-and-3 in the third quarter.

The Vikings, trailing by 21 points, decided to go for it.

Webb, working from the shotgun, dropped back to pass but was sacked and stripped of the football by linebacker Clay Matthews, who also recovered the ball at his own 41.

On the Vikings' next series, Webb threw a deep pass for Devin Aromashodu on first down from the Packers 46-yard line that was picked off by cornerback Sam Shields at the Green Bay 8.

Turning it over II

Marcus Sherels had turned into a reliable punt returner for the Vikings this season but he had one bad mistake in the fourth quarter Saturday.

Sherels muffed a punt by the Packers' Tim Masthay and Dezman Moses recovered at the Vikings 39.

"I've got to catch it at all times. That's my number one job," Sherels said. "I just kind of misread it and muffed it. ...

"It's very frustrating. You feel like you let your team down. Everyone's telling me to bounce back."

The Packers went three-and-out on the drive and Sherels made a fair catch of Masthay's next punt at his own 9-yard line.

Big mistake

Packers kicker Mason Crosby was set to attempt a 33-yard field goal on fourth-and-4 in the third quarter when Jasper Brinkley began sprinting to the sideline in an attempt to get off the field at the last second.

He didn't make it.

The Vikings were called for having 12 men on the field, giving the Packers a first down at the Vikings 9-yard line. Rodgers then connected with fullback John Kuhn for a touchdown to give the Packers a 24-3 lead.

Brinkley counts the players on the field and is designated as the guy to run off if he sees one too many.

"We needed to get one of our defensive ends off the field," Frazier said. "We had two defensive ends on the field that played the same position. But one of them needed to come off the field. Jasper's the guy who counts to make sure we don't have 12. So, if he knows we have 12, he's got to be the guy to run off the field

Said Brinkley: "It was very frustrating. That could have been the difference in the game."

The penalty came after Smith had broken up a Rodgers pass for tight end Jermichael Finley that would have been a touchdown on third-and-4 from the Vikings 14.

Big stand

Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings for a 32-yard gain on a fourth-and-5 play from the Vikings 34-yard line in the second quarter.

That put the ball at the Vikings 2 and gave Green Bay a chance to take a 14-3 lead. But it didn't happen.

Fullback John Kuhn gained 1 yard on first down, Finley dropped a Rodgers pass in the end zone and then Kuhn was wrapped up by Fred Evans for no gain at the Vikings 1.

McCarthy then elected to have Crosby kick a 20-yard field goal to give the Packers a seven-point lead.

On the big gain to Jennings, cornerback Chris Cook missed a tackle that enabled Jennings to get free.

"Jennings is a good player," Cook said. "I should have hit him up top instead of going for his legs but he's a shifty guy. I went low and he broke the tackle. I should have made the play, but life of a corner -- you win some, you lose some."

Successful challenge

McCarthy threw a flag illegally last Sunday after what was initially ruled a fumble at the goal line by James Jones and then overturned and called a touchdown.

The Vikings felt the play should not have been looked at because McCarthy threw the challenge flag and thus could have wiped out the automatic review. However, referee Mike Carey said the challenge process already had been started before McCarthy made his mistake.

On Saturday night, McCarhty went through the proper steps to challenge a first-quarter ruling that running back DuJuan Harris was down at the Vikings 1-yard line after an 8-yard gain.

The quarter came to an end with the Packers facing a second-and-goal, but during the break McCarthy looked at the replay on the scoreboard several times and challenged that Harris was down before he reached the goal line.

Referee Scott Green overturned the call and called it a touchdown, which put about 30 seconds back on the clock and put the game back in the first quarter.

Winfield plays in pain

A.J. Jefferson replaced Antoine Winfield as the left cornerback to open the game in the Vikings' base defense. Winfield played in the nickel but was wearing a cast on his broken right hand.

Winfield broke the hand in the Vikings' victory at Houston in Week 16 at Houston and attempted to play last weekend against the Packers. He lasted until late in the first half but had to pull himself because of pain in the hand.

Winfield played that game with a protective padding in his glove. On Saturday, Winfield wore a cast. He confirmed he had trouble trying to jam wide receivers with his right hand.

"The way my hand was in the cast it wouldn't bend all the way back," Winfield said. "My hand placement was kind of off."

Winfield said he has been told he will not need surgery and that the injury will heal on its own.

Jefferson did not remain in the base or nickel defense the entire game. He was replaced by rookie corner Josh Robinson at the left corner in the fourth quarter.

Decision time

Fourteen players who finished the season on the Vikings' 53-man roster or injured reserve are unsigned for 2013.

That includes 10 players who can become unrestricted free agents: fullback Jerome Felton; receivers Devin Aromashodu and Jerome Simpson; offensive linemen Phil Loadholt, Joe Berger and Geoff Schwartz, linebackers Brinkley, Erin Henderson and Marvin Mitchell; and safety Jamarca Sanford.

Offensive lineman Troy Kropog and Jefferson can be restricted free agents. Sherels and Andrew Sendejo can be exclusive rights free agents.

Quick hits

• Vikings backup defensive end Everson Griffen's third-quarter sack of Rodgers was his fourth in the past two games.

• The Vikings' loss means they will pick between 21 and 24 in the first round of the NFL draft in April.

Tom Pelissero contributed

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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