Focus turns to Culpepper

With Randy Moss out for Sunday's NFC North first-place showdown, the focus of the Packers' attention officially changes to Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

Even without Moss last week and for most of the preceding 2 1/2 games, Culpepper is posting the finest season of his budding career. He leads the league with a ridiculous 115.0 passer rating and is second behind only the Colts' Peyton Manning with 21 touchdowns and 2,349 yards.

"You can't worry if Randy Moss is playing or isn't playing," nose tackle Grady Jackson said earlier in the week, adding, "If you don't stop Daunte, it's going to be tough. He's the key to that offense."

For a Packers secondary that has struggled to stay with the opposing teams' receivers this season, facing Culpepper could be a nightmare. His completion percentage is nearly 72 percent, meaning when he's got a guy open he's going to hit him.

While having Moss in the lineup certainly helped, the other wide receivers have more than held their own this season. Nate Burleson has a team-high 32 catches. Marcus Robinson, signed during the off-season to be a deep threat opposite Moss, has 28 catches and six touchdowns. Tight end Jermaine Wiggins has taken advantage of favorable matchups against linebackers to grab 29 balls. Running backs Mewelde Moore and Onterrio Smith have combined for 44 catches. Kelly Campbell has 14 catches for a team-high 16.5 yards per grab.

"Randy is a great player — we love him and want him out on the field," Culpepper said. "But when he's not out there, we've got to worry about just making plays and doing what it takes to win. I'm not going to say it's any easier or any tougher. Football is all about adjustments.

"With Randy out, it's a great opportunity for guys like Kelly Campbell, Nate Burleson and Marcus Robinson to step up and make a name for themselves."

So far, they have not done that in Moss's absence. After setting a league record by topping the 300-yard mark in 37 consecutive games, the Vikings were held below that threshold by the pitiful Colts defense on Monday. In fact, before Moss's injury, Culpepper was on pace to smash Dan Marino's league record for touchdown passes and yards in a season.

If all else fails, Culpepper can lower his shoulders and make like a bulldozer. What separates Culpepper from most of the other quarterbacks in the league is his ability to make plays out of the pocket. At 260 pounds, Culpepper is a handful to bring down. Making matters worse, he's got the speed of a running back.

"He's played good in past years but now he's playing lights out," said Packers safety Darren Sharper. "The thing about him is he's hurting people with his arm but he's also killing them with his feet."

Packer Report Top Stories