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Pack will go as far as Rodgers takes them

QB going to San Fran on top of his game

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Come on home, Aaron Rodgers.

All Rodgers did for the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night in a 24-10 wild-card round win against the Minnesota Vikings was provide yet another reminder that no matter how good your running back is, no matter what happened in previous games -- even as recently as six days ago -- when it comes to the NFL playoffs, a team is only as good as its quarterback.

Amid the focus Saturday on Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder's injured triceps and elbow, and with the dismal passing performance by backup Joe Webb, Rodgers methodically and efficiently earned the first home playoff win of his career, and with it, a divisional-round date next week against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park.

It will mark the first time Rodgers plays a meaningful NFL game in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he played in college at the University of California. Rodgers' hometown of Chico is less than 200 miles away. And then there is the ever present draft-day-snub story line that will follow Rodgers every time he plays the 49ers for the rest of his career.

Rodgers frequently downplays the quarterback-vs.-quarterback matchups, but with Webb playing opposite Rodgers on Saturday night at Lambeau Field, it hardly seemed fair. The Packers will face another quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in his first post-season start next week.

"I feel like we have the best quarterback in the league, let alone the NFC," Green Bay receiver James Jones said. "It always falls back on him, and we're only going to go as far as his right arm takes us."

The Packers realized the quarterback switch from the NBC broadcast of the AFC wild-card playoff game that was airing on televisions in the locker room. Green Bay players and coaches were aware Ponder had been listed as questionable but few expected him to actually sit out.

The switch didn't alter Green Bay's defensive game plan, defensive back Charles Woodson said. If anything, it allowed Green Bay to focus even more on running back Adrian Peterson, who had rushed for 409 yards in the Packers two previous games, including 199 last week in the regular-season finale.

"We understand that it's all about Adrian Peterson," Woodson said. "If you stop him, you have a good chance of beating that team. No Percy Harvin. We're not worried about a quarterback change."

Saturday's win made for a confident Packers team that heads to San Francisco to play a team that looks significantly different than when the two teams played at Lambeau Field on Sept. 9. San Francisco won that game 30-22, in a game quarterbacked by Alex Smith (the player the 49ers drafted No. 1 in 2005 instead of Rodgers) and not Kaepernick, an athletic, big-armed QB Green Bay players said Saturday reminds them a bit of Webb.

"We're always trying to look ahead, and it was a great warm-up for what we're probably going to experience out there with Kaepernick, so thanks to the Vikings for giving our defence a good look," Packers receiver Greg Jennings said.

-- USA Today

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 7, 2013 C6

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