Packers' big 3rd quarter sinks Vikings, sends Ponder to loss in debut
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed his first 13 passes and the undefeated Green Bay Packers scored 20 unanswered third-quarter points Sunday en route to a 33-27 victory over the arch-rival Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome.
Christian Ponder, making his first NFL start for the Vikings in place of the benched Donovan McNabb, had his team ahead by four points at the half but looked a bit more like a rookie in the second half as he threw two third-quarter passes that were intercepted by Packers cornerback Charles Woodson.
Ponder did rebound in the fourth quarter to throw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins to pull the Vikings within six.
Ponder finished 13 of 32 for 219 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Peterson had a season-high 175 yards rushing on 24 carries.
Rodgers was 24 of 30 for 335 yards with three touchdowns. as the defending Super Bowl champion Packers improved to 7-0. The Vikings fell to 1-6 in the NFC North.
The Packers grabbed hold of the game to open the third quarter.
Green Bay began its first drive of the half at its own 20. On second-and-9, Rodgers gave a pump fake that froze safety Husain Abdullah and then brought him up.
This enabled wide receiver Greg Jennings to break away wide open - he had been released by left corner Asher Allen - and Jennings caught Rodgers' pass in stride at the Vikings 45-yard line and jogged toward the end zone for a 79-yard score.
The Vikings next drive ended in three plays and Chris Kluwe's punt was taken by Randall Cobb at his own 26 and returned 42 yards to the Vikings 32. On second-and-11 from the Vikings 33, Rodgers found James Jones for a 27-yard gain over the middle.
That put the ball at the Vikings 6 and two plays later Rodgers rolled right and found tight end Jermichael Finley in the corner of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown that gave the Packers a 27-17 lead. Finley beat linebacker E.J. Henderson the play.
Green Bay increased its lead to 13 points with 3:18 left in the quarter when Mason Crosby made a 24-yard field goal after the Packers drive stalled at the Vikings 6. The series was set up by an interception by cornerback Charles Woodson of a Ponder pass at the Vikings 45. Woodson had another pick before the third quarter was over.
Ponder's first half was far better.
He made his mark immediately after the Packers won the toss and elected to defer to open the game. The Vikings opened the game from their own 27-yard line.
On his first play from scrimmage, Ponder faked play-action to Peterson, then rolled to his left and let go with deep pass for a wide open Michael Jenkins.
Jenkins, who was starting in place of the inactive Bernard Berrian, had gotten behind Packers cornerback Tramon Williams and caught the ball at the Green Bay 35-yard line. Jenkins raced down the sideline as safety Charlie Peprah came over and tripped him up at the 1-yard line.
Jenkins tumbled into the end zone for what was initially ruled a touchdown, but the review showed he was down before he scored. After Peterson lost a yard on a carry, Ponder got his first NFL touchdown pass when he hit tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the corner of the end zone.
The Packers came right back and tied it on their first offensive drive with Rodgers hitting fullback John Kuhn on a pass from the Vikings 2-yard line.
That drive began at the Packers 9, but Rodgers was able to complete passes of 11, 14, 26, 16 and 7 yards on a nine-play, 91-yard drive that took more than five minutes.
The Vikings got a tremendous break last in the first quarter after going three-and-out and getting to their own 11. Cobb motioned for a fair catch at midfield on Chris Kluwe's punt but he muffed the ball and Toby Gerhart recovered at the 50-yard line.
Peterson had a run of 11 yards on the first play, Ponder completed a 15-yard pass to Jenkins and Peterson took a pitch 10 yards to the Packers 1 on first down. Peterson then scored to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead.
Crosby made field goals of 39 and 45 yards before the quarter was over, including one that came as the half ended, but the Pakers trailed 17-13 because Ryan Longwell connected on a 52-yard field goal.
Rodgers completed his first 13 passes before throwing an incompletion in the second quarter on a ball that Cobb was wide open on and dropped in Vikings territory.
For the third time in four home games, the Vikings went into the locker room at halftime feeling good about themselves but then failed to hold a lead.
The difference on Sunday was that instead of leading by 17 points as they did against Tampa Bay at halftime or 20 points as they did against Detroit, the Vikings only led by four.
Green Bay made quick work of eliminating that lead with Rodgers' quick strike to Jennings. That changed the entire tempo of what had been a suprisingly a close game.
• 9: Consecutive games in which Jared Allen has a sack, a Vikings record. Allen has 10-plus sacks in five consecutive seasons and six times in his eight seasons.
• 49: Career rushing attempts by Percy Harvin, a record for a Vikings wide receiver. The record had been 47 entering this season.
• 58: Length of Crosby's field goal with 18 seconds left in the third quarter. It was the longest field goal in Packers' history.
• 72: Yards Ponder got on his completion to Jenkins on the Vikings' first play from scrimmage. That is the longest pass completion by a rookie in Vikings history, surpassing the 71-yard touchdown pass Fran Tarkenton threw on Nov. 26, 1961 against San Francisco.
• 63,946: Announced attendance at the Metrodome. Not surprisingly, a good portion of the crowd was made up of Packers fans.
• Harvin was out as the second half opened after he aggravated a rib injury.
• Right guard Anthony Herrera suffered an injury to his left knee late in the first half and was replaced by Brandon Fusco. Herrera, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament last season against the Packers at the Metrodome, was fitted with a brace for his knee and returned. However, he was forced to leave again in the fourth quarter.
• Cornerback Antoine Winfield missed his third game in a row Sunday because of a neck strain. The veteran was replaced as the starter on the right side by Asher Allen because Chris Cook was in jail after being arrested Saturday on two domestic assault charges. Cook is scheduled to have a court hearing Monday morning.
• Safety Jamarca Sanford and center John Sullivan both missed the game because of concussions. Sanford was replaced as the starting strong safety by Tyrell Johnson and Sullivan was replaced by Joe Berger.
• Game umpire Butch Hannah went to the locker room in the second half because of an undisclosed injury.
Odds and ends
• Berrian, who was not on the injury report last week, was inactive for the second time in three games on Sunday. Berrian caught a season-high five passes for 54 yards last Sunday against Chicago.
• Former Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor at halftime of Sunday's game. Doleman is the 15th player to go into the Ring of Honor.
• Cornerback Brandon Burton, safety Mistral Raymond and Fusco were active for the Vikings. Burton had been active for one game this season but Raymond and Fusco were active for the first time. All three players were selected in last April's NFL draft.
Green Bay: John Kuhn 2-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers, 8:34. Mason Crosby kick. Drive: 9-91-5:24. Green Bay 7, Vikings 7
Vikings: Adrian Peterson 1-yard run, 11:43. Longwell kick. Drive: 7-50-2:39. Vikings 14, Green Bay 7
Green Bay: Crosby 39-yard field goal, 4:55. Drive: 11-59-6:48. Vikings 14, Green Bay 10
Vikings: Longwell 52-yard field goal, 0:55. Drive: 11-46-0:55. Vikings 17, Green Bay 10
Green Bay: Crosby 45-yard field goal, 0:00. Drive: 7-53-0:55. Vikings 17, Green Bay 13
Green Bay: Greg Jennings 79-yard pass from Rodgers, 14:09. Crosby kick. Drive: 2-80-0:51. Green Bay 20, Vikings 17
Green Bay: Jermichael Finley 2-yard pass from Rodgers, 10:29. Crosby kick. Drive: 4-32-2:19. Green Bay 27, Vikings 17
Green Bay: Crosby 24-yard field goal, 3:18. Drive: 8-39-4:44. Green Bay 30, Vikings 17
Green Bay: Crosby 58-yard field goal, 0:18. Drive: 4-minus-5-1:59. Green Bay 33, Vikings 17
Vikings: Longwell 46-yard field goal, 13:48. Drive: 5-52-1:30. Green Bay 33, Vikings 20
Vikings: Jenkins 24-yard pass from Ponder, 7:49. Longwell kick. Drive: 10-93-4:41. Green Bay 33, Vikings 27
The Vikings will face the Carolina Panthers at noon next Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in their final game before the bye.
The Vikings have faced the Panthers nine times and hold a 5-4 edge in the series. However, the Vikings have lost both the games they have played in Carolina.
That includes a 38-13 loss in 2005 in the game in which Daunte Culpepper suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Vikings lost 26-7 at Carolina in 2009.