Sidelines: Defense collapses

Packers run out of gas against Vikings

The words came slowly and painfully. A sullen Aaron Kampman sat with a blank look on his face as reporters quickly gathered around his locker following Green Bay's deflating 20-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Monday night.

Despite five sacks and a defensive scheme that seemed to have the Vikings reeling in the first half, the Packer defense had no answers for Mewelde Moore and the Viking rushing attack in the second half. They also gave up some big plays at the most inopportune times. The result was another painful loss to Purple neighbors across the western border - a fact that certainly didn't sit well with Kampman.

"It's frustrating," Kampman began. "It's a bitter pill to swallow but it is what it is and you can't really do anything about this loss. It's done. We'll try to go get a win against Philly."

It should have been different for Kampman on this night as he registered his first career multiple-sack game with two sacks for 14 yards. Kampman has now had three sacks in his last two games but that did nothing to soothe his mood. "All we can do is move forward. The alternative is out of the question so we've got to get ready for our next game. We have a short week coming up and we have a Philly team who is going through some things as well. We have to get ready to play them."

Still, this game will stick in Kampman's craw for a while. The Vikings obviously made some adjustments when they came out after the intermission, using Moore, in particular, to gash the Packers for a team total of 160 yards on 37 carries for a 4.3-yard average. Moore accounted for 122 of those yards on 22 carries for an even more eye-popping average of 5.5 yards. His output would have been even greater had not the Vikings been called for holding on another 25-yard scamper.

But Kampman couldn't say exactly what the Vikings were doing differently in the second half. "They had good things going with the run game," he acknowledged. "They had some tough backs. I don't know. I've got to watch the film, you know? It was a frustrating loss. I have to see what they did to exploit us. I give them the credit. They did make the plays but I'm sure we're going to see some things that we're going to wish we had done better."

Defensive tackle Colin Cole seconded that emotion. "It's very disheartening," said Cole. "I came out of the tunnel in the second half and I knew we were going to win that ballgame. It's not about a lack of effort. They came out and game planned us. They knew what they wanted to attack and they were able to do it. I can't put my finger on what they did differently but I know that they went into the halftime and made some adjustments. They were able to scheme us and were able to get guys on our second level. I'm not sure exactly what was happening but they were able to find those cutback lanes and made some yards off it."

At several points in the second half, the Packer defense looked tired, especially after one third quarter Viking drive that consumed 13 plays, 88 yards and 8 minutes 33 seconds on the clock. Eight of those plays came on the ground with Moore, Michael Bennett and Ciatrick Fason pounding into the middle of the Packer line or bouncing outside for big chunks of yardage.

"Regardless of whether we're gassed, we've got to perform," said Kampman. "It was a cool night so we had lots of energy. The fact of the matter is, they won the ballgame and we've got to move on. All we can do is forget it but try to learn from it. I've said that way too many times this year but that's the only option you have.? Green Bay also had some problems with the pass. Although Viking quarterback Brad Johnson didn't exactly set the world on fire (18 of 30 for 196 yards, no touchdowns and one interception), he did complete enough passes at crucial times to keep the Packer defense off balance. Tight end Jermain Wiggins was his favorite target as they hooked up on seven passes for 67 yards.

Defensive back Jason Horton had a rough evening, first getting flagged for pass interference in the third quarter on Minnesota's second touchdown drive and then getting caught in the wrong coverage on Koren Robinson's 35-yard reception to set up Paul Edinger's winning field goal at the end of the game.

"We just didn't react good enough in the second half to their big plays," said Horton.

Of Robinson's big play in particular, Horton acknowledged that it was "blown coverage and miscommunication. It was our responsibility as a group. We had some miscommunication and they got a big play off it. Honestly, maybe I should have had the call. I thought I had the call but it was the wrong call."

Asked if he was supposed to stay with Robinson on man coverage, Horton nodded his head and said, "Yes. I was just playing zone and he (Johnson) hit (Robinson) right in the spot. I've got to give them credit."

So where does Green Bay go from here? How do they pick up the pieces after another bitter setback?

"It's not getting any easier but I don't see anybody folding, running outside or leaving us,? said Cole. "Everybody wants to play and everybody wants to win. We all still have that goal in mind."

Unfortunately for the Packers, time has officially run out to achieve any kind of winning season. Even a .500 season is a long, long shot at best.


Editor's Note: Tom Andrews began covering the Packers in 1974 as a reporter for Milwaukee radio stations WZUU and WOKY. He has been a contributing writer to Packer Report since 1999 and his articles have also appeared in the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, Packer Profiles, Packer Tracker and Sports Collectors Digest among other publications. Andrews is also president of Andrews Media Ventures, a Milwaukee area media and communications consultancy. Email him at toma@andrewsmediaventures.com.


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