It probably went a week longer than even the biggest Vikings diehard could honestly have predicted, and it was relevant a good month-plus longer than expected, but the Minnesota Vikings saw their season end Saturday in Green Bay.
It probably didn't help much that Christian Ponder didn't play for Minnesota. I'm guessing that Bill Musgrave's inexplicable decision to have Joe Webb stand in the pocket and try to throw the ball didn't do the team any favors, either.
Also, give credit where it is due. The Packers were more physical, tougher at both lines of scrimmage, and showed why they were the better team for the preponderance of the season.
While we're dishing out credit, let's give some to the Vikings. First off, Leslie Frazier earned himself a contract extension (hopefully) with a seven-win improvement this season. Also, Adrian Peterson should be the NFL MVP after a 2,000-plus yard season that ended just nine yards short of the all-time single-season record. Ponder led this team to the playoffs with an outstanding performance against Green Bay (120.2 rating in that game was a career high for the QB).
Oh, and when the chips were down Saturday, and it was clear Ponder's elbow/arm injury was not going to permit him to throw the ball, Frazier and trainer Eric Sugarman made the kind of adult decision that Mike Shanahan -- perception-wise a much better NFL coach than Frazier -- failed to make with Robert Griffin III on Sunday.
They told Ponder to put on a hoody and watch the game. It significantly hurt the team's chance to win, but it did show that Ponder's health and well-being were more important.
(And they had the good sense to recognize that the injury severely hampered Ponder's ability to throw, something that meant it was stupid to have him play. If only Shanahan knew such logic.)
The Vikings did right in that decision, and the team played hard to try to stay in it with Green Bay. But Webb is suited for the option, not straight-drop passing. The Vikings probably asked him to do too much of the latter and not enough of the former, and Webb just couldn't hold up.
It highlights the need for Minnesota to acquire an NFL quarterback to back up Ponder, instead of having a gimmicky one-trick pony in Webb there.
For Green Bay, it was hardly a virtuoso performance. However, the Packers were good when they had to be, and the defense got the job done. They have some zone-read plays on tape now to look at and figure out how to defend it better. That's important, because San Francisco will run it plenty with Colin Kaepernick, and the Packers didn't do a great job of slowing Webb down when he ran.
Aaron Rodgers hit ten different receivers, didn't make any glaring mistakes, and knows his team has to get better in San Francisco. I expect QB1 to be ready, because he always finds weird ways to get pumped up, and San Francisco offers a homecoming against a team that passed on him in the draft in 2005.
He'll be pumped up for this, and his teammates will follow.