By Joseph Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings play their first postseason game under Leslie Frazier Saturday against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
What better way for second-year quarterback Christian Ponder to get his first playoff start than against the Vikings’ biggest rival, at one of the most revered stadiums in the league, and in below-freezing temperatures.
He had, arguably, his worst game as an NFL quarterback at Lambeau earlier this season, throwing two interceptions that negated potential scoring drives. The Vikings lost by nine points. This time the Vikings need to do five things to have a more successful outcome.
Ponder plays his best football against the league’s top teams (San Francisco 49ers, Houston Texans and Packers) when he gets into a rhythm early.
Also, the Vikings have done a good job of knocking their opponents on their heels and not letting them get comfortable. The Vikings scored first in nine of their 10 wins.
The third thing that a quick start will do is take the Lambeau crowd out of the game. The quieter it is the colder it will be on the Packer sideline.
Peterson, Peterson and more Peterson
There isn’t much to say here other than 409 yards against the Packers this season. Adrian Peterson had nearly half of those yards after contact.
The MVP candidate broke a lot of tackles and gained a lot of yards after contact. The Vikings offensive line and fullback have done a very good job of giving him room and limiting the number of tacklers he needs to run through at the line of scrimmage.
The last thing defensive backs want to see is Peterson coming at them with a full head of steam.
Pressure from the defensive line
The Vikings can and need to get pressure on Aaron Rodgers without blitzing too often. Everson Griffen and Brian Robison combined for four sacks rushing off the left defensive edge in Week 17. Jared Allen also got to Rodgers off the right edge.
Their ability to put pressure on Rodgers and keep him in the pocket without a blitzer allows the Vikings to drop seven players into coverage.
Rodgers is very good at getting rid of the ball quickly and usually does not give blitzers a chance to get to him. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the league at finding a blitzer and throwing right behind him.
Simply keep the Packers offense on the sideline and they can’t hurt you. The Packers have the more explosive offense in the game. Long drives, even if not scoring drives, put the Vikings in very good position to play again next weekend.
Win the special teams battle
The Vikings have a big advantage at kicker. However, it goes a lot deeper than that. Packers returnman Randall Cobb is healthy and expected to play.
The Vikings have done a very good job of limiting returns this season. In the Week 17 Vikings victory over the Packers, it was a long kick return and punt return that got the Packers back in the game. The Vikings have to force the Packers to go a long way to score.
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Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.