It would be tough to find a more winnable game for the Vikings in Green Bay. Adrian Peterson rushed for 210 yards for the Vikings and of the last 59 NFL games where teams have had backs go over 200 yards, they were 57-2. They're now 57-3.
The Packers put a huge dent in Minnesota's fading playoff chances, moving to 8-4 and putting the Vikings back to .500 at 6-6.
It's not an exaggeration to say that if the two quarterbacks had changed sides, the Vikings would have won this game by three touchdowns.
The Vikings lost this game because as great as Adrian Peterson was, quarterbacks decide NFL games. The difference between Rodgers and Ponder was far greater than Peterson's 210 yards.
There will be a deserved outcry at the pathetic state of the Vikings receiving corps, but they literally didn't need their receivers to win this game. They just needed Christian Ponder not to lose it, and he couldn't do that for them.
The Vikings almost became the first team to not complete a pass to a wide receiver in a decade, but Jerome Simpson caught two balls late in the fourth quarter to avoid that indignity. They'll have to settle for being the third team to lose with a back going over 200 yards.
The wolves will be coming for Ponder over the next week and his blocking will be worse than Aaron Rodgers'.
The 2012 season has certainly been a roller-coaster ride for Christian Ponder, with every glimpse of competence drowned out by three or four bone-headed decisions or throws.
The roller coaster flew clear off the tracks on Sunday against the Packers.
In a game where your eyeballs told you it was virtually impossible for the Vikings to lose, they did. Ponder needed to only be something approaching adequate for Minnesota to win. He wasn't. Not even close.
The numbers are simple: NFL teams had won 57 out of 59 games when they had a running back rush for over 200 yards. Those teams didn't have a quarterback throw two brutal interceptions deep in enemy territory. Those teams didn't have a quarterback complete just five passes until inside of four minutes left in the game.
It's not just that Ponder was terrible physically, but he was equally bad mentally. Peterson ripped off a 48-yard run to start the third quarter. A field goal would have given the Vikings a touchdown lead and added to the momentum that was clearly in their favor.
It was second down and six from the Packers' 8-yard line. Not a time to force something. Ponder, who has a horrible habit of dropping back 15 yards on rollouts, did just that and tried to force what had become a 20-yard throw to Michael Jenkins in the end zone.
Packers' ball on their own 20, momentum meter takes a huge swing the other way.
Cut to late in the third quarter, a crucial possession as the Packers jumped ahead 20-14. Peterson rips off another big run, this time 23 yards to the Packers 40-yard line.
Ponder horribly overthrew a wide-open Toby Gerhart down the right sideline, but Packers safety Tramone Williams took an incredibly stupid personal foul penalty that gave the Vikings a first down at the Packers' 25.
1st-and-10 and Ponder tried to force one in to Kyle Rudolph and Morgan Burnett picks it off. Game over. There was a quarter left, but this game was over because the Vikings weren't going to score another point with Ponder at quarterback.
There will be plenty of talk about the receiving corps. Adrian Peterson had three steps on his defender and would have had a huge gain and Ponder underthrew him by a good three yards. Toby Gerhart was all by himself for a huge gain deep in Green Bay territory and Ponder sailed one three feet over his head.
Maybe it's Adrian Peterson's fault.
Maybe Peterson needs to finish off that 48-yard burst to start the third quarter. Maybe he needs to finish off that 23-yard burst near the end of the third quarter.
Every time Peterson didn't score, it gave the Vikings another chance to throw the ball. That's not a good thing.
A historic day for Peterson, 210 yards rushing, including an 82-yard career long run, that extended his streak of 100-yard games to a team record six games. Peterson is having a career year and has put his name firmly in the conversation of best running backs to ever play the game.
The wide receivers didn't miss the bus this weak, but they might as well have. And as bad as the receivers were, Ponder was worse. Troy Aikman commented on Fox during the game that Joe Montana couldn't complete passes to the Vikings receivers. Firstly, yes he could have. Secondly, he wouldn't have needed to to win this game.
The throws to wide open Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart that would have been huge gains? Joe Montana would have completed them.
The Vikings defense held the Packers to 23 points. You'd take that coming in every single time.
In a game where your running back goes for 210 yards, you'd take that and know you'd won the game every single time.
The Vikings pressured Aaron Rodgers all day long, holding him to under 300 yards passing. They intercepted him and only allowed one touchdown pass.
Rodgers battled all day long and showed everyone watching why he's one of the best quarterbacks in the game right now. He made plays when he had to. He took advantage of opportunities when they were there for him.
Rodgers was held in check, but he was just a little bit better than the Vikings defense all day long. He converted on too many third downs. He burned the Vikings too many times on too many crucial downs.
The Vikings defense deserved a better fate. They didn't get it.
The Vikings special teams didn't play a huge part in Sunday's outcome against the Packers.
Chris Kluwe had a 47-yard average on five punts and his coverage team was very good. His one bad punt, a 38-yarder, gave the Packers a short field which they converted into a touchdown that proved to be the dagger for Minnesota.
Blair Walsh missed his only field goal attempt, a 42-yarder that would have gotten the Vikings to within a touchdown. Yes, it would have helped, but it would have helped like having wool socks on Noah's ark.
There's really no other grade to give a staff that had such a winnable game in its hands and didn't do one single thing to help win it.
Shame on them for blowing Peterson's historic running performance.
Shame on them for having one player who was keeping the other 52 from winning and continuing to give him chances to let them down. He did.
Joe Webb is not a viable starting quarterback in the NFL. He should have taken some snaps over the last month.
Perspective will tell us that the Vikings have taken strides forward from last year's 3-13 debacle. They have. But that's not an excuse to lose games you should win and this was certainly one of them.
Ponder isn't getting any better. They have a running back that is absolutely destroying defenses and calling all of the opposition's attention away from the passing attack and yet they can't complete passes.
The Packers were beat up, they couldn't tackle Peterson and they couldn't keep Rodgers from having to bail from the pocket on almost every down. Green Bay has to be wondering how the hell they won that game.
The Vikings coaches damn sure better be wondering how they lost it.