By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Christian Ponder could very well be starting a successful future with the Minnesota Vikings.
Aaron Rodgers and the unbeaten Green Bay Packers don't have to wait for anybody to grow. They're busy chasing their second championship.
Despite the disparate records, Rodgers found plenty of competition from Ponder in the fearless rookie's first start, but the Packers didn't flinch in a 33-27 victory over the Vikings on Sunday.
The Packers (7-0) maintained the NFL's only remaining perfect record this season, riding Rodgers for three touchdowns and 335 yards passing into their bye week.
"We know what kind of quarterback he is capable of being," wide receiver Greg Jennings said, "and we expect nothing less."
Rodgers completed his first 13 passes and finished 24 for 30 on another dominant afternoon against a depleted secondary. His passer rating of 146.5 was the second-best of his career.
"Aaron gives you great confidence as a play caller," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
As a receiver, too.
"You have to have some type of confidence in yourself, and we feel as a group and as a unit that we can beat our guy in front of us and get the job done," said Jennings, who had seven catches for 147 yards including a too-easy 79-yard catch and jog for a score early in the third quarter after a badly blown zone coverage by the Vikings.
The Packers trailed 14-7 and 17-13 at halftime, but they outscored the Vikings 20-0 in the third quarter.
"There's not a lot of panic in this team. We've been down a couple times at halftime. Just a lot of focus," Rodgers said.
Ponder was picked off on consecutive possesions by Charles Woodson and didn't complete a pass in the third, but the other three quarters were much better. Adrian Peterson helped him out by rushing 24 times for 175 yards and a touchdown, but James Starks put the game away with two big gains for first downs before the 2-minute warning and another one right after. Starks had 75 yards on 13 carries for the Packers.
Mason Crosby had four field goals for the Packers, including a franchise record 58-yarder.
"It's frustrating to come out against the defending champs and be that close and not to come up with the win," Peterson said. "Give credit to those guys. They made plays when they needed to, and we ended up on the wrong side of it."
Ponder went 13 for 32, but he never looked rattled and finished with 219 yards and two touchdowns and also ran four times for 31 yards. He followed a rare three-and-out by the Packers to find Michael Jenkins for a 24-yard score with 7:49 left to cut the lead to six points. Ponder had the ball back with plenty of time to win it before a couple of errant heaves effectively ended the comeback.
"There's a good crop of rookie quarterbacks out there we've already faced, and he's no different," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. "He made the passes when he needed to. At the same time, we took advantage of some of them, but he was able to make some plays and make life difficult for us. I'm sure we're going to see him for years to come."
Ponder pinned the loss on himself.
"The players around me played extremely well and kept me in it," he said. "I'm just really proud of the guys around me and very fortunate to have some great teammates."
Jared Allen had two of Minnesota's four sacks of Rodgers, and the Vikings (1-6) were able to pressure him enough to force the Packers into an uncharacteristic 2-for-8 third-down conversion rate. But that didn't make them feel any better afterward.
"Moral victories are like taking your sister to prom. What's good for being runner up? You're just the first loser," Allen said. "We can take positive plays, but we are in the business of winning."
The Vikings have struggled in the secondary at full strength, and they weren't even close to that. Safety Jamarca Sanford was recovering from a concussion. Antoine Winfield was still on the sideline with a stiff neck, and fellow cornerback Chris Cook -- their best player in pass coverage -- was not even at the stadium. He was in the county jail, for an alleged domestic assault.
The rest of the Vikings were in the building, but they're just not in Green Bay's league this year. This usually tight rivalry hasn't been this one-sided in decades. The Packers won for the eighth time in 11 meetings, and the common denominator is Rodgers.
He spread the ball around to just about every receiver and made a perfect throw to just about every spot on the field. He went 6 for 6 on his first drive, firing passes to six players during a ho-hum 91-yard march for the tying score.
The only three incompletions he threw in the first half? Two drops and a spike to stop the clock.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV 10-24-11 0345CDT