The day was December 2, 2012.
Minnesota Vikings fans probably don’t need a reminder of what happened that afternoon. In case you do, it was the last time the Vikings made a trip to Green Bay.
It was an ugly day for the Vikings.
Quarterback Christian Ponder threw two interceptions in the red zone and the Packers won 23-14. The lone bright spot of the day for Minnesota fans was MVP candidate Adrian Peterson, who ran for 210 yards and a touchdown in the losing effort. Saturday night, the Vikings will return to Lambeau Field for a postseason rematch, and a lot more is on the line this time around.
I just don’t see any way the outcome is any different than Dec. 2.
(Read more: Adrian Peterson, nine yards from a record)
First and foremost, it’s Lambeau Field. In January. There aren’t many places on the planet that are harder to get a victory if you’re the visiting team. So the Vikings have the odds against them already (forecast for tonight: wintry mix, low of 20 degrees).
If the elements aren’t enough, the Vikings will probably also have to overcome Christian Ponder. He played the game of his life a week ago, and if there’s anything I learned while watching Ponder at Florida State, it’s that he’s very capable of a letdown game after a brilliant performance.
Aside from the intangibles, let’s not forget how difficult it is for a football team to win consecutive games against the same foe. If that first win had come on the road, and the Vikings were coming home for the playoff game, I’d think there was a chance they could pull off back-to-back wins. But they got the easier win first, and now they’re walking into the toughest game of the season, and I’m not sure the young Vikes have any idea what they’re going to see.
So here’s how I see the game going Saturday night: Minnesota will come out slow, trying to feel out their opponent, and the Packers will attack. Like a spider monkey. Peterson will get plenty of rushing yards, probably as many as his 210-yard performance a month ago, but Green Bay will contain every other part of the offense. With Peterson averaging less than one touchdown per game, the Vikings have to find other ways to get into the end zone, and the passing game won’t be able to answer the call, even if the Packers’ secondary is bruised and beaten.
The Packers will slow Minnesota’s momentum and end their four-game winning streak. Then, we will take a week to prepare for a huge Packers-49ers showdown next Saturday night.
Tonight, the Lambeau mystique will rear its ugly head and the Vikings just don’t have the horses to stop it, even though Adrian Peterson will certainly try.