Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 1/3/13
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Adrian Peterson was the best player for the Minnesota Vikings all season. There is no debating that. But as great as the team's star running back was, he needed some help from quarterback Christian Ponder in order to get the Vikings into the playoffs. Throughout most of the season, Peterson didn't get that help. In his second NFL season, Ponder mostly struggled and, at many points, looked like the type of quarterback who wouldn't last long as a starter. But following a horrendous performance from Ponder in Green Bay on Dec. 2 that dropped Minnesota to a 6-6 record, he slowly started to get the hang of things. That rapid improvement was capped off with a victory over the Packers in Week 17 in which Ponder had a season-high three touchdown passes and did not throw an interception. "He played a lot better," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "He played a very efficient game. He did a nice job. We know he's a very mobile guy. He can make plays on the move and pulled the ball down and ran with it a couple times. You just have to be aware of that when you're playing against the Vikings." When Peterson only had 86 rushing yards in a Week 16 road win over the playoff-bound Houston Texans, that was the best evidence all season that Ponder is capable of carrying the offense. In that game, Ponder again did not have an interception and showed his running ability with seven rushes for 48 yards. "I'm not surprised by the way Christian Ponder played," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He played an excellent game against us. We've had two contests against us this year, and he clearly played better in the second one. He played very well." It would be very generous to list Ponder as being in the top-half of NFL quarterbacks. He finished the regular season ranked 21st in passer rating, 23rd in touchdown passes and 25th in passing yards. But when working with a running back like Peterson, whose MVP-caliber season has entered him into the discussion of being an all-time great at his position, Ponder just has to be serviceable and not make costly mistakes. Ponder failed to do that when the Vikings were last at Lambeau Field one month ago. Minnesota was very competitive in that game, and arguably the better team in most areas, but Ponder's two interceptions were too much for the Vikings to overcome. "If anything, we want (Ponder) in the mix," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "We want to take 28' (Peterson) out of the mix, and that's the gameplan. I think they handed him the ball a career high last week. (We'll be better off) if we can eliminate those carries and force Ponder to beat us." There was no Packers player all week who believed that the key to stopping Minnesota's offense was by stopping Ponder. Of course not. The logical answer is that the focus is on Peterson and that an unproven quarterback making his first postseason start needs to prove himself in a big game like what Saturday night's will be. But Green Bay showed in Week 13 that the Vikings can be defeated even when Peterson runs for 210 yards on 21 carries like he did. The difference in the Packers winning the first meeting and Minnesota winning the second game was an efficient performance from Ponder. "They made a few tweaks, adjustments to their offense the second time around, caught us by surprise in the run game and in the pass game," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "They did a better job of game-planning and executing. Now, we feel that we've seen everything, so we should come out and execute also." Even Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers noticed a different Ponder in the game last weekend in Minnesota. "He made some big-time throws," Rodgers said. Peterson is elite, and is good enough to make the Vikings a respectable team all by himself. But as Detroit Lions legendary running back Barry Sanders can attest, being a one-man show can only take a team so far. It will be up to Ponder to give Peterson enough help if the Vikings are going to have a chance to beat the Packers in the playoffs this weekend. Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Broncos DB on Brock Osweiler: ‘None of this is a surprise to us’

Jarius Wright: ‘Everybody’s embracing their role’ on Vikings

Rob Gronkowski seems to agree he's been targeted on P.I. calls

Harbaugh on kick-six: ‘Never seen anything like it in my life’

Report: Josh McCown’s season likely over

Antonio Cromartie: Beckham Jr. still has room to grow


NFL pulls officiating crew from SNF after error-filled game

Jason Garrett: Tony Romo has a lot of football left in him

Jerry West: It’s painful watching Kobe Bryant

Brett Favre compared Browns QB Austin Davis to Tom Brady

NCAA figures out how to invite 5-7 teams to bowls

Okafor reportedly will have security guard when he goes out

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

QUIZ: Name every NCAA football national champion since 1950

Browns lose to Ravens as only the Browns know how

NCAA figures out how to invite 5-7 teams to bowls

Ranking top Heisman Trophy candidates

Have the New Orleans Saints given up?

This weekend in NFL stupid, ft. Rex Ryan

Missouri won’t accept a bowl bid at 5-7

Durant blasts media on behalf of Kobe

Josh McCown laments how he got job back from Manziel

Paul George: Kobe Bryant was my Michael Jordan

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker