GREEN BAY, Wis. — It was over by halftime. It was over when the Green Bay Packers scored twice in the first quarter. It was over when the Minnesota Vikings deactivated rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, thrusting Christian Ponder into the kind of game he isn’t equipped to handle.
It was over because the game was on Thursday and Bridgewater’s injured ankle didn’t have enough time to heal — which is no excuse for how the Vikings humiliated themselves and enraged their coach in a 42-10 trouncing that will go down as one of the worst games of this NFL season.
"It’s hard to find a silver lining after tonight," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said, ignoring the bright side that the Packers pulled quarterback Aaron Rodgers before he could hang 50 on national television.
It was over when the blunt force of Packers running back Eddie Lacy’s helmet left Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes on the ground gasping for air on the game’s second play from scrimmage.
It was over when Lacy delivered another big blow on the second series, running over safety Robert Blanton to finish a 29-yard run that set up the Packers’ first touchdown.
It was over on the third series when blown coverage freed Jordy Nelson for a 66-yard touchdown catch from Rodgers, who dismissed the Packers’ offense as "stagnant" on a night that was good enough to show up Ponder and the overmatched visitors.
"It was like when I was in high school and we got down 14 and we couldn’t come back, because we didn’t throw the ball," Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk told USA TODAY Sports.
It was over because, even without banished star Adrian Peterson, the Vikings’ only chance was to pound the ball on the ground and hope Ponder didn’t have to do too much.
It was over when Ponder was in a 14-0 hole and did have to do something — and what he did was throw two abominable interceptions, one returned 49 yards for a touchdown by Julius Peppers and the other setting up the Packers’ fourth touchdown with 4:51 to go in the half.
"Then it just kept going on from there," said Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion, the former Viking. "I knew it was one of those long days for them, and I’m glad I wasn’t over on the other side with them."
It was over when the Vikings finally crossed midfield on their eighth drive — and one of Peterson’s understudies, Matt Asiata, coughed up the ball.
It was over when Zimmer dressed down players at halftime, then watched the offense punt twice and the defense give up two more touchdowns, both on runs by Lacy and one of them leaving poor Blanton without a helmet.
"You can’t let any team in the league run the ball like that," Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said.
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It was over when the Vikings finally scored in the fourth quarter on a Ponder scramble to the end zone and added a field goal after Rodgers’ replacement, Matt Flynn, showed why he, too, is a backup with a horrible interception.
It was over when the Packers sacked Ponder for the sixth time on the Vikings’ final series, as the first-round pick turned third-stringer tried awkwardly to escape a pocket that perpetually seemed to be closing even when it wasn’t.
"He’s made some plays like that," Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said of Ponder, "but you’ve got to be able to get through all your reads, and you’ve got some pretty good receivers out there who you’ve got to get the ball to. That’s what they want to get done and they’re searching for it."
It was over because the Packers are the better team with the better quarterback, even if Bridgewater were healthy, though they’ll have to prove it when they face him — barring another injury — in the rematch Nov. 23 at TCF Bank Stadium.
It was over because, for all the criticism of the Packers’ defense, the Vikings’ is worse right now.
"If we don’t learn how to stop the run," Zimmer said, "if we don’t learn to quit doing dumb things like jumping offsides on third down, having penalties, learn how to pass protect, it doesn’t matter who you play or when you play."
It was over, mercifully, in 3 hours, 2 minutes in front of what remained from a rain-soaked crowd of 78,054 at Lambeau Field after the smart folks bailed to beat traffic or head back to the bars.
It was over, mercifully, for a Vikings team that has a long way to go to catch its division rival — even if perhaps not quite so far as this mess indicated.
"After playing like that, you don’t have much to say," Ponder said. "It was embarrassing."
Follow Tom Pelissero on Twitter @TomPelissero.Tags: game, player, show, sports, today