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Christian Ponder was the difference

Here's to the New Year and a deep run by the Packers in the postseason


Dan from Metamora, IL

Sir, please try to make me feel better about the prevent defense. Why do defensive coordinators go into this bend-don't-break defense when it's not what that got them the lead in the first place? I'm beside myself as to why Dom Capers went into prevent with the game on the line.

The Packers weren't in a prevent defense during the Vikings' game-winning drive. All three-man rush schemes aren't prevent defense. The Packers rushed three and dropped eight on the third-and-11 play, which is a logical approach to that down and distance, but they weren't playing a true prevent-style defense in the secondary. Somebody blew the coverage on Mike Jenkins that allowed him to get wide open along the sideline 25 yards downfield. A true prevent is meant to deny the 25-yard completion and allow the 11-yard gain. It appears Jenkins found a soft spot between two layers of coverage. Casey Hayward was underneath and flattened out. Sam Shields was over the top but elected to help double a receiver running up the seam. The scheme didn't allow that completion. Lack of execution of the scheme did. There were five defenders to that side of the field. It's inexplicable as to how a receiver could get so open between five men. That play and the second-and-27 Adrian Peterson converted with a 28-yard run were, in my opinion, the two biggest plays of the game for the Vikings.

Max from Lima, OH

I think the NFL should change the challenge rules and give each team two challenges per half. If they talk about getting the plays correct, why punish a team for not having a timeout to challenge. Your thoughts?

I have long been opposed to the challenge system. I think it should be eliminated from the replay review process. I don't understand the thinking that goes into making coaches responsible for the officiating of a game.

Charles from Statham, GA

As a fan of the sport, Sunday's game with the Vikings was an exciting contest between the boxer (Rodgers) and the slugger (Peterson). As a fan of the Packers for the last 50 years, the result of Sunday's game with the Vikings was a disappointment. What was more disappointing for me was the barrage of closed-minded, negative comments by Packers fans posted on the various articles written about the game. While I am grateful the sun did come up today, it would be so pleasing to see people be less hateful and more appreciative of what they have and are able to experience.

People deal with disappointment in different ways. I'm not a fan of vitriol because it comes off as a temper tantrum, but I acknowledge that it's the passion for football that causes fans to act in such ways that drives the game's popularity. The press box in the Metrodome is open-air, and fans can walk directly in front of the press box and talk to the reporters. In the moments immediately before kickoff, as I was typing something into our in-game chat, I heard somebody yell my name. I looked up and saw a Packers fan staring at me with a big smile on his face. He was giving me the "Go Packers" sign and he brought a big smile to my face because I could tell he was there to have fun. He was walking in a sea of purple but nobody was going to cause him not to smile and have a good time. He was wearing his game face, the right kind of game face for fans, which is a fun face. I wish every fan had his attitude.

Monica from Lewiston, ME

This was the first game of the season I wasn't able to watch. The numbers look great but we didn't get the W. What happened?

Christian Ponder played 78.3 ratings points better than he did when the Packers beat the Vikings on Dec. 2. He was the difference. Adrian Peterson was the star, but Ponder was the difference. He converted on third down, he avoided turnovers, and he completed a 65-yard pass on the first play after the Packers had tied the game at 27-27. Ponder gave the Vikings balance. He's the key because he's been the missing link. If he gets hot, the Vikings will be a difficult team to beat. I think we've underestimated them. Maybe that win over the 49ers, when the 49ers were widely considered to be the best team in the league, wasn't a fluke.

Tom from New York, NY

I know your mailbox will be filled with gloom and doom this morning. The number one question you will receive is how can the Packers defense stop Adrian Peterson next week? Tackle him, baby. If it weren't for the poor tackling yesterday, the Packers win. Your thoughts?

If we read the game story from each of the Vikings opponents' media this season, my guess is the comment "we need to tackle better" would be a common theme. Hey, the guy rushed for 2,097 yards, and everybody knew who was getting the ball. You can't do that without breaking a lot of tackles. He's the only running back I would compare to Jim Brown. I've never seen a back get into and out of defenders as quickly as Peterson does. His body is as tight as a spring. What was Brad Childress thinking? Be that as it may, the Packers would've won that game had they done a better job on third down against Ponder. He converted third-down plays in each of the Vikings' first three scoring drives. In my opinion, Ponder's ability to convert on third down was the difference in the game.

Ethan from Plant City, FL

Do you believe the cold weather and the natural playing surface will help Green Bay slow down Peterson at all?

Yes, I do. Things slow down in the cold and the Lambeau Field turf isn't nearly as hard and fast as the Metrodome Field Turf is. There's a flip side, however, to playing against a great back in cold weather: The hits are a little harder and hurt a little more in the cold. Playing in cold weather is a test of will. The cold can break a team's resolve. Football is a different game in the cold. I'm really looking forward to Saturday's game.

Robert from Saint Paul, MN

I feel like the Vikings have the momentum coming to Lambeau on Saturday. Any reason to be optimistic the outcome will be different?

I think the Metrodome was worth a touchdown or more for the Vikings, and I think Lambeau Field should be worth the same for the Packers. Home field advantage is distinct for these two teams. I expect Packers fans to give the Packers a huge advantage on Saturday.

Dan from Springville, UT

I thought the final three quarters of the game were fun to watch, and either team could have been the victor. But that first quarter it seemed like the Packers were just methodically going through the motions without emotion or fire of any kind, and the Vikings seemed to be playing the opposite. Why does it seem this Packers team needs to be playing with their backs against the wall in order to find that fire within?

I don't know about that, but the Metrodome is as hostile an environment as you're going to find in this league, and Aaron Rodgers was right on the money when he said you have to absorb the first surge. That's common when playing on the road. The home team often starts fast. I expect the same of the Packers this Saturday. What I'm sensing is that a lot of fans consider the Vikings' win on Sunday to have been a huge upset. It's almost as though fans are indignant about losing to the Vikings, and I just don't understand that thinking. That's a good football team that beat the Packers yesterday. Ponder is the wild card. If he's hot, the Vikings will be tough to beat. That loss didn't cool off the Packers one bit. They're a hot team heading into the playoffs, and they'll have home field advantage this Saturday, but I think it's time to give the Vikings the respect they deserve.

Ben from Watertown, WI

Vic, after each rough loss I always count on you to get my hopes back up for the next week.

There's no reason not to be optimistic. It was a great game. Aaron Rodgers is on fire. Greg Jennings looks like his old self. DuJuan Harris has come out of nowhere to give the Packers a true, second-level threat at running back. Mason Crosby is officially out of his slump. The Packers are getting healthy and the team's arrow is pointing up.

Kyle from Madison, WI

Without the Seattle "Fail Mary," the Packers would be a No. 2 seed right now. How big is that mistake looking right now?

OK, let's say that never happened. Let's say the Packers had the No. 2 seed clinched going into yesterday's game and they rested everybody and lost the game badly. Now they'd be looking at a bye this week. What would you be asking me today? Did the Packers lose their momentum by having the No. 2 seed clinched and resting everybody? I acknowledge that the Packers were a victim of injustice in Seattle, but it is what it is and there's only way to avenge it: Win!

Rick from Fountain Valley, CA

Why don't the Packers use a spy on Adrian Peterson?

A spy is what you might use on a running quarterback. A spy isn't going to stop Peterson, unless you have 11 of them.

Landon from Coeur d'Alene, ID

It's easy for you to love Peterson and be excited to watch him play. You aren't a real Packers fan, you are a Jaguar or Steeler, but not a Packer, therefore, this loss means squat to you. Why do you even write for the Packers? Give your job to an actual Packers fan.

Do you understand that I'm a sportswriter? Do you know what that means?

Michael from Madison, WI

I'm sure your mailbox is full of panic and despair, but let's talk about the positives. I'm confident that the change of scenery is worth at least three points.

It's worth 7-10.

Michael from New Britain, CT

What happened to the defense?

I'm not qualified to offer "expert" analysis. What I will say is this: It has been my experience that the best way to stop a great running back is to get to him before he gets to you. I think the Packers need to get some penetration up front. They need to get into the backfield and disrupt the play before it takes shape. In my opinion, they're getting stuck on blocks. If you're counting on the guys in the back to be run-stuffers, you got a big problem.

Travis from Bookings, SD

Vic, I'm surprised about the hostility of the posters on this site after the Vikings game, some even calling for Capers to be fired. I thought it was an extremely entertaining game against a highly motivated divisional opponent. Why can't everyone just lighten up?

If the Packers win on Saturday, everything will be warm and fuzzy on Sunday. The same people that demand consistency possess a range of emotions that go from locked and loaded to flowers and candy.

Glenn from Bakersfield, CA

Why did Ryan Grant only have two carries? Was he hurt?

DuJuan Harris gave the Packers a spark and Mike McCarthy went with the "hot hand."

Bill from Dayton, OH

Vic, is it OK for me to be angry with the team right now for letting this one slip through their fingers? How are they going to beat these guys next week? They still can't stop Peterson, and now Ponder looks like a completely different QB. I'm concerned about the next game, and the likely path they have to take assuming they do manage a victory next week. Do you have any words of encouragement?

It's New Year's Eve, the Packers are in the playoffs and will host a game this Saturday, and Aaron Rodgers is the team's quarterback. Everything is fine. When the ball drops tonight, I'll raise my short glass with two ice cubes in it, and I'll toast to a wonderfully exciting season, one of the best I've ever covered, and I'll look forward to a rich and rewarding postseason for fans that love the game and whose passion and loyalty is deserving of the 13 championships this franchise has won. Happy New Year's, everybody.

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