Green Bay, Wisconsin: Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers took full advantage of the depleted Minnesota Vikings on Saturday, cruising to a 24-10 victory in the first round of the NFL playoffs.
Rodgers connected with 10 different pass receivers — matching an NFL post-season record as he threw for 274 yards and one touchdown.
John Kuhn rushed for one touchdown and caught a scoring pass for Green Bay, who advanced to a second-round National Conference meeting with the San Francisco 49ers next weekend.
In Saturday’s American Conference contest, the Houston Texans defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 19-13 to book a meeting with the New England Patriots.
Already the underdogs, the Vikings went into their contest without starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who was inactive with a right elbow injury.
Ponder was hurt last Sunday in the Vikings’ 37-34 win over the Packers in the teams’ regular-season finale. He tested his arm in pre-game warm-ups but was declared inactive.
Backup Joe Webb, who had taken just three snaps all season, got the start in place of Ponder. He threw a 50-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but was sacked three times and never got the offense clicking.
“They kind of threw him in the fire,” Packers linebacker Dezman Moses said. “It’s tough when it’s the last minute, you’re thrown in, you have to start and it’s the playoffs.”
Star Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson — who gained more than 400 total yards against the Packers in two regular-season games — was held to 99 yards.
In Houston Arian Foster rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown as the Texans ousted the Bengals in the first round, for the second time in as many seasons.
Foster added eight catches for 34 yards and became the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in the first three post-season games of his career.
Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, who missed last season’s 31-10 playoff win over Cincinnati with a foot injury, completed 29-of-38 passes for 261 yards with one interception, in the first post-season start of his career.
“I’m excited about what we did today,” said Schaub, whose team opened the season 11-1 but lost three of their last four regular-season games.
“To do it in front of our home crowd after the way things have gone the last month, to right the ship and come up with a victory.”
Houston’s defence played a key role, holding Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to just 127 passing yards with one interception.
“When you get into the playoffs, you win to stay in,” said Texans defender Danieal Manning. “It’s a great feeling. We did what we were supposed to do.”
Houston’s defence forced Cincinnati to go 0-for-9 on third down. Standout defensive performers included cornerback Jonathan Joseph, who intercepted Dalton, and JJ Watt — who had a sack, two tackles for loss of yards, two quarterback hits and two deflections of passes.
“It’s fun to be part of this defence,” Watt said, but added that the Texans have every intention of building on the opening-round victory.
“It’s a playoff game win. That’s tough to accomplish in this league. But we have bigger things on our mind.”
The first round continues on Sunday, when Baltimore host Indianapolis in an AFC match-up and Seattle visit Washington in the NFC.