Black & Blue Review: Week 10

Randy Moss has burned the Packers over the years, but it doesn't look like he'll be able to suit up Sunday, when the rivals meet at Lambeau Field for the division lead.

Minnesota Vikings (5-3)
Coach Mike Tice hasn't had a good week explaining his decision not to use a timeout to take a shot into the end zone near the end of the first half of Monday night's 31-28 loss at Indianapolis.

At issue was the final offensive play of the second quarter. The play began with 21 seconds left in the half. Running back Moe Williams caught a 13-yard pass and was tackled at the Colts' 5-yard line with eight seconds left. Tice waited until two seconds were left before taking the Vikings' final timeout.

Morten Andersen kicked a 23-yard field goal and the Vikings trailed 14-6. The field goal capped an 87-yard drive that kept Peyton Manning off the field for more than five minutes.

When Tice was asked Tuesday why he did not take the timeout immediately and take a shot at the end zone, he cited - among other reasons - a league rule that calls for a 10-second runoff had the Vikings committed a pre-snap penalty.

However, an NFL spokesman later confirmed the rule only applies when the clock is running.

Tice admitted he made a mistake interpreting the rule, but said he still wouldn't have taken a shot into the end zone. He said there wasn't enough time to guarantee at least a field goal, and also cited the Colts' style of defense that packs multiple defenders in the end zone.

"If you try to go for a touchdown there, you're being greedy," Tice said. "That's just the way I see it. It's too risky."

Tice has been criticized heavily for not taking the timeout. He said even his wife called him after the game and asked, "What were you thinking?"

Tice suggested that the Monday Night Football television crew created the controversy, especially the comments made by play-by-play man Al Michaels.

"It doesn't really faze me what Al Michaels might say, or somebody that hasn't coached a game," Tice said. "We all form opinions based on TV commentators because we think they have all the answers. I disagree with that situation."

Tice said the ruckus has overshadowed the fact the Vikings put together an 87-yard drive and scored points right before the half. Of course, he should realize that's not good enough when you lost by three points.

-- LB Raonall Smith will miss his second consecutive game because of two recent concussions. The Vikings sent him to a brain-injury specialist on Wednesday.

-- WR Randy Moss (strained right hamstring) was held out of practice again and officially was ruled out of Sunday's game on Thursday. Coach Mike Tice ruled Moss out earlier in the week, saying it was better for the players to know early in the week that they will be without Moss.

-- RB Mewelde Moore (sprained left ankle) did not practice Thursday and remains questionable.

-- WR Marcus Robinson (foot) practiced again Thursday and was taken off the injury report.

-- LT Bryant McKinnie gave up two sacks to Colts DE Dwight Freeney on Monday night. "I don't think he performed as well last week," coach Mike Tice said. "But I thought the two games previous he had his best two games as a pro."

Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss missed another day of practice Thursday and remains doubtful, but the Packers are staying steadfast in their belief that their tormentor will play Sunday when the two rivals meet at Lambeau Field.

"I'm not buying that," safety Darren Sharper said. "I've been around this league long enough. A lot of guys find a remedy Saturday evening or Sunday morning and find a way to get out there and play.

"I won't be surprised if an hour before kickoff he trots out there on the field. We're prepared for him to play. If he doesn't, so be it."

Moss has killed the Packers over the years, scoring 11 touchdowns. In 12 games, he has 64 catches for 1,213 yards, a 19.0-yard average.

But Moss pulled a hamstring Oct. 17, played only 11 snaps in the next two games and then out Monday night against the Colts.

Because they don't know for sure whether Moss will play, the Packers have to prepare for two different offenses. In previous meetings, they paid special attention to Moss, devoting Sharper as a second defender to protect against long passes.

--S Darren Sharper returned to practice Thursday but remained questionable with a knee injury. "If it continues to progress the way it did Monday to Wednesday, there's definitely a good shot," he said.

--NT Grady Jackson has had to play in a knee brace since returning two weeks ago. "I don't like that brace," he said. "I don't like it at all. You can't move. It slows you down. It's not the same."

--G Marco Rivera is probable with an ankle injury but is practicing and good to go. "I'm probably about 85%," he said. "I feel pretty good."

--T Mark Tauscher was added to the injury report Thursday as probable with a shoulder injury. He was withheld from practice.

--CB Chris Johnson, moved from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster Wednesday, still isn't fully recovered from knee problems and a stress fracture. "He still has a ways to go," coach Mike Sherman said. ":As a fifth corner he can help us if we had an injury."

The Lions have a chance to make progress - or at least make waves - in the NFL North and the AFC South divisions over the next three weeks.

They will play back-to-back road games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings, followed by the Thanksgiving Day game at Ford Field against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Jaguars and Colts are presently tied for first place in the AFC South with 5-3 record; the Vikings lead the NFC North with a 5-3 record also.

"It's a great stretch," coach Steve Mariucci said. "Take our second-place team against their first-place teams. You bring your 11, we'll bring ours and let's play."

After a fast 3-1 start, the Lions have slumped to a 4-4 record at midseason and Mariucci is taking steps to try to pump some life into the running game, which ranks last in the NFL.

After rotating three backs - Kevin Jones, Artose Pinner and Shawn Bryson - in the offensive backfield through the first eight games, Mariucci has indicated the Lions will give Jones a bigger share of the work load.

It remains to be seen how many more carries Jones will get than the 12 carries per game he averaged in the five games in which he was healthy.

The Lions have not been effective or efficient running the ball. If they do not get the desired results rushing early in the game, there has been speculation Mariucci might lean more heavily on quarterback Joey Harrington and the air game.

--RB Kevin Jones, who has battled injury problems and a three-back rotation to get playing time, is expected to get the majority of carries when the Lions play Sunday at Jacksonville. Jones has gained just 227 yards on 69 rushing attempts in the first half of the season. The Lions are hoping he will get into a rhythm if he gets more than 12-15 carries per game.

--QB Joey Harrington has had to carry the majority of the Lions' lukewarm offense in the first half of the season and he might have to do that again Sunday if the renewed focus on the running game doesn't pay dividends in Jacksonville. Harrington has completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns with five interceptions and a passer rating of 87.9.

--WR Roy Williams has been practicing more this week than he has in the past two weeks. Williams, the Lions' leading receiver with 27 catches for 395 yards and five TDs, has been limited by a sprained left ankle he suffered more than a month ago. He missed two games completely but is now trying to play over it.

--WR Az-Zahir Hakim, who has done the best job of picking up the slack for Charles Rogers (out for the season with a broken collarbone), did not practice at all Wednesday or Thursday because of back, knee and ankle injuries he suffered in the Lions loss to Washington but he has indicated he expects to play Sunday at Jacksonville.

--LB Donte' Curry, who had arthroscopic knee surgery nearly a month ago, began practicing this week and was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on Thursday. Although Curry plays sparingly with the defense, he is one of the Lions' best special teams players and might play Sunday at Jacksonville.

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