It is a phrase that I'm sure you've heard many times before, but the National Football League is a quarterback league, which is why the Green Bay Packers are advancing in the NFC Playoffs and the Minnesota Vikings are on their way home.
In the rubber match between two old school NFC North rivals, Rodgers and the Packers proved once and for all to be too much for the Vikings, as the Green Bay defense finally held its ground against all-world running back Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers made things look easy in a routine 24-10 victory in the NFC Wild Card Round at Lambeau Field Saturday night.
As is normally the case in the playoffs, the team with the better quarterback won. The team with the best player won.
Because as good as Peterson has been this season, he is simply not on par with Rodgers in terms of value and impact on the game.
That is not to say that Peterson is not an amazing talent because he is. Unfortunately, he is a running back, and in today's NFL, productive running backs are a dime a dozen, so even an elite runner like Peterson sees his value diminished.
You simply cannot win in the playoffs just because you have an elite running back. You need an elite quarterback, which the Vikings didn't have in Joe Webb and don't have in Christian Ponder, not yet anyway.
Sure, Webb struggled mightily in Ponder's absence, completing just 11-of-30 passes for 180 yards to go along with one touchdown and one interception. But the reality is that Ponder wouldn't have done much better. He is a game manager, just another average Joe (no pun intended).
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After all, in the Vikings' first trip to Lambeau Field back on December 2, Ponder threw for only 119 yards, while throwing one touchdown pass compared to two interceptions. His passer rating that day was 41.9. Saturday night, Webb's was 54.9.
Ponder certainly would have given the Vikings a better chance to win, sure, but it still would not have happened because Ponder is far from elite. In the playoffs, having the better quarterback is half the battle.
So regardless of what Peterson did or who was under center, the chances of Minnesota leaving Lambeau with a win was slim to none. Why, you ask? Because the Packers are blessed with a quarterback like Rodgers.
Now, Rodgers was not at his best Saturday night. Not even close. But he was as good as he needed to be, completing 23 of 33 passes for 274 yards and a touchdown. His passer was 104, and his QBR was 72. Just another ho-hum performance for the best player in football.
Peterson, on the other hand, was held to 107 total yards, including just 99 rushing yards on 22 carries. Green Bay's running back DaJuan Harris, a former undrafted free agent, was nearly as effective. Harris gained 100 total yards and found the end zone, proving again how much easier it is to find a productive runner than an elite passer.
The point is that no matter how great Peterson is, the Vikings will never be a serious threat to compete against the Packers until they have a quarterback that rivals Rodgers. Because while Peterson is the Vikings' best player, Ponder is their most important.
Case in point.
In the first meeting between these two teams, AP ran for 210 yards and a touchdown, yet Ponder was lousy and the Vikings lost 23-14. In the second game, Peterson ran for 199 yards, while Ponder threw for 234 yards and three scores in a 37-34 win. The difference in the two games was the passing of Ponder, not the running of AP.
Peterson is great and may very well end up being the greatest running back in NFL history. Yet, his impact on the franchise as a whole has been limited. In his six seasons, the Vikings have made the playoffs just three times and have won just one playoff game. And that one playoff win also had more to do with the play of then-quarterback Brett Favre then it did with that of Peterson.
Such is life in the NFL. A great running back is nice, but as Rodgers showed Saturday night, it's nothing compared to a great quarterback. That is why, if asked to choose between Rodgers and Peterson, the Packers, Vikings or any other NFL team, for that matter, would choose Rodgers every day of the week and twice on Sunday.