(Sports Network) - You might not know it after watching Green Bay dominate the
Minnesota Vikings, 24-10, in their NFC Wild Card game at Lambeau Field on
Saturday but Joe Webb is quite the athlete.
Search for Webb on YouTube and you might find him jumping over seven dummies
while training for the NFL combine in Atlanta or his incredible 54-inch
standing box jump.
Of course little of that translates to an NFL football field, especially when
the game plan devised by your coaches for you doesn't try to take advantage of
your strengths as a player.
In hindsight Green Bay actually beat Minnesota when Packers safety Morgan
Burnett violently slammed second-year Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder
into the turf in the second quarter during a Week 17 Minnesota win.
Ponder was limited in practice all week and listed on the Vikings' injury
report as having an elbow problem but it was actually a deep bruise in his
triceps which limited the second-year pro's flexibility and hurt his velocity,
so much so that a player who took all but three snaps in the regular season
had to tap out in favor of Webb.
"It's just a deep contusion in the triceps and basically like a deep thigh
bruise but in my throwing arm," Ponder said after watching his team fall to
the Packers. "A little bit of pain but I can play with pain. The biggest thing
is the lost flexibility. I couldn't get the ball in the position to where I
could throw it normally and lost a lot of power and everything. It just
wouldn't have been wise to play."
Ponder's injury spawned two distinct feelings among the Minnesota faithful,
who aren't exactly sure if he's the long-term answer at the game's most
His absence certainly showed that Ponder is indeed a better option than Webb,
an elite athlete who lacks the accuracy and overall arm strength to be an NFL
quarterback. However, Ponder certainly angered another segment of the
franchise's fans by not playing through the injury in what would have been his
first playoff game.
"It just wouldn't have been smart to put him at risk," Vikings coach Leslie
Frazier said. "It wasn't the right thing to do."
Webb, who knelt down once and handed off twice against Tennessee back on Oct.
7 but hadn't thrown a pass in an NFL game since 2011, was, to be kind, erratic
through the air against the Packers.
The former sixth-round draft pick in 2010, who played quarterback at Alabama-
Birmingham but was drafted as a wide receiver before being moved back to
signal-caller, completed just 11-of-30 passes for 180 yards with a TD and an
interception. He also ran the ball seven times for 68 yards.
It was the first time since Buffalo's Frank Reich in 1993 a quarterback had
started a playoff game after not starting during the regular season and, on
the Vikings first drive of the night, Webb flashed some of the skills that
had the Packers spooked. He took a few designed runs and read-option plays for
significant gains while Adrian Peterson also did his part and Minnesota
eventually cashed in with a Blair Walsh field goal.
From that point forward Vikings offensive coordinator Bull Musgrave
inexplicably asked the best athlete on the field to play pocket passer versus
perhaps the top pure thrower in all of football, Aaron Rodgers.
Let the head-scratching begin.
Truthfully, though, it's not all that confusing.
The book on Musgrave says he prepares well and gets repetitive during the guts
of a game. It's no coincidence the Vikings scored on the first possession in
each of the team's final five games. Musgrave, a former NFL quarterback
himself, is very inventive with formations and can usually out-script the
opposition early but an over-reliance on the same plays makes things tough on
whoever the signal-caller may be.
The Vikings only hope on Saturday was to take advantage of Webb's unique gifts
but after the first possession, Musgrave called the same game he would have if
Ponder was under center.
On Minnesota's first 11 offensive plays, Musgrave scripted 10 runs that gained
66 yards, with Webb accounting for 33 on three carries. The rest of the first
half saw the Vikings run the ball six times during 19 tries with none designed
After that, the game was essentially over.
Despite being put in an untenable position and looking bad in the process, the
classy Webb refused to point fingers.
"We tried to hit them with some different plays, tried to switch it up,"
Webb said. "Coach Musgrave had a good game plan. It was a learning
experience for the coaches as well as the players."
When asked what changed after the first drive Webb deferred.
"It was successful. It was working," Webb said of the read-option. "I wouldn't
say it wasn't working. But that's coach Musgrave's decision. If he wanted to
go another route, then I was all for it."
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier offered a more detailed explanation.
"We mixed some of those read-options in along the way, but at some point
you'd like to be able to complete some passes. "Early on, we did have them a
little bit off-balance, but we had some opportunities in the passing game and
just didn't connect."
And Frazier was being fair -- there was certainly plays left on the field.
Webb had Jerome Simpson behind the Green Bay defense on one occasion and
overthrew his receiver by about 10 yards. At times, the UAB product was high
and at others he rankled the entire worm population in Green Bay by throwing
it in the dirt.
All that was missing by the fourth quarter was Bob Uecker making the call as
Webb missed another receiver by five feet.
"Just a bit outside."
Let's face it, the Vikings chances of winning at Lambeau Field with a backup
quarterback were slim.
Musgrave and Frazier, however, quickly turned slim into none.
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