Adrian Peterson couldn't find the space Green Bay gave him before. The Minnesota defense had no remedy for Aaron Rodgers. Christian Ponder stood on the sideline in a hooded sweatshirt.
Joe Webb was the only hope the Vikings had left, and in his first start of the season he was simply overmatched against the fired-up Packers.
Peterson was held to 99 yards on 22 carries, after gaining 199 and 210 in his first two games against Green Bay, and Webb stumbled badly in place of Ponder as the Packers rolled to a 24-10 victory over the Vikings in an NFC wild-card game Saturday night.
"Just a learning experience,'' Webb said, adding: "Work on it in the offseason. Build on it for next season.''
Ponder was inactive because of a right elbow injury, suffered when the teams played each other last Sunday. His participation in practice this week was limited and Webb took many of the turns with the first-team offense. But Webb said he didn't plan on playing until this weekend, when Ponder still didn't have the full range of motion in his tight, swollen elbow.
"It wouldn't have been smart to put him at risk,'' coach Leslie Frazier said. He added: "You just hope the guy you have in that backup role can get it done, and we came up short tonight.''
Webb, who hadn't thrown a pass in a game since the preseason in August, was sacked three times and well off target for most of the night. His only highlight was a 50-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins late in the fourth quarter, but it was far too late for the Vikings (10-7).
"He was up and down at times,'' Peterson said. "We all know that there's going to be adversity throughout the game. We've just got to bounce back mentally. A couple times I'd say something to him, and he responded well and looked focused.''
Webb finished 11 for 30 for 180 yards and became the first quarterback in 20 years to start a playoff game without starting any games during that regular season since Frank Reich did so for Buffalo, according to STATS. Reich led the Bills to their famous comeback victory over Houston that year.
But there was no chance of any of that in this one.
Webb tripped over Clay Matthews for an easy sack early in the second quarter, and he was called for intentional grounding while being swarmed behind the line of scrimmage on the next play.
The Vikings had the Packers stopped for a field goal on fourth-and-4 early in the third quarter, but Jasper Brinkley was called for 12 men on the field when he couldn't make it to the sideline in time. Frazier said there was an extra defensive end on the field-goal block team, and Brinkley has the job of leaving the field in those situations.
The penalty gave the Packers just enough yards to keep going, and Rodgers found Kuhn open on the next play. The fullback barged into the end zone by barreling over Jamarca Sanford at the goal line for a 24-3 lead.
The last time the Vikings were in a playoff game, they infamously were called for 12 men on the field, too, on offense that time in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game in New Orleans to push them out of field-goal range. Brett Favre threw an interception, and they lost to the Saints in overtime.
On the next possession, Webb fumbled at the Green Bay 45 during another sack by Matthews, who recovered. Then, on the ensuing drive for Minnesota, Webb's deep pass was intercepted by Sam Shields at the Packers 8. Then the next time the Vikings got the ball back, Marcus Sherels fumbled the punt, giving the Packers the ball again.
"I think we needed a higher sense of urgency and realize we don't know when we're going to come back,'' defensive end Jared Allen said. "It took us three years after the NFC championship game to get back, so you don't know when you're going to have that option, you don't have that opportunity.''
This was the third game in six weeks between the Packers (12-5) and the Vikings, and second in six days. This time, the Packers finally figured out how to slow down the NFL's rushing leader in Peterson, who fell 9 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's all-time single-season record.
Rodgers showed just how dangerous the Packers can be when they're at full strength. John Kuhn scored two touchdowns, DuJuan Harris added another and Rodgers connected with an NFL playoff-record 10 receivers while throwing for 274 yards, widening the passing gap between these division rivals. Webb ran seven times for 68 yards, but he was hesitant at times to take off, particularly in the first half.
"You still need to be able to complete passes,'' Frazier said, adding: "We just couldn't make some things happen down the field that we needed to make happen.''
The Vikings made plenty happen this season, after finishing 3-13 last year and 6-10 in 2010. After losing 23-14 at Lambeau Field, when Ponder threw two interceptions inside the Green Bay 20-yard line, they reeled off four straight victories to make the playoffs. But in the quiet of the visitor's locker room, nobody was ready to acknowledge the season as a success. Losing the last game always hurts, especially to a team's biggest rival.