Putting it on the line

Packers hold their own in what were supposed to be line mismatches. Packer Report's W. Keith Roerdink reports from Lambeau Field.

If games are won and lost in the trenches, this game looked like a mismatch — at least on paper.

Packers starting center Scott Wells was out of the lineup with a lower back injury, right guard Jason Spitz was sliding over to replace him and backup tackle Tony Moll got the start at Spitz's usual spot.

Across from them was 650 pounds worth of Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Lined up wide next to Kevin Williams was the Vikings' newest addition, NFL reigning sack leader Jared Allen. If you recall, Allen promised to start the season right by putting his helmet into the spine of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as if Rodgers didn't have enough to worry about.

Then there was the Packers' defensive line. Nose tackle Ryan Pickett, the team's best run stuffer last season, didn't play, let alone practice, all summer. Defensive tackle Johnny Jolly was playing his first regular-season game since Nov. 18, when a shoulder injury ended his season. And with the trade of Corey Williams and the never-ending injuries to last year's first-round pick, Justin Harrell, the only backup tackles were Colin Cole and Cullen Jenkins, the starting right end who moves inside during passing situations.

 Given their lackluster performance stopping the opponents' ground game during the preseason, you figured Minnesota uber-back Adrian Peterson, last year's NFL offensive rookie of the year and single-game rushing record holder, might run for two bills on them.

But a funny thing happened during Week 1 of the Vikings' march toward Super Bowl XLIII. Well, funny if you're not a Vikings fan. They lost to Green Bay 24-19 to kick of the season and Aaron Rodgers era.

Minnesota's vaunted defensive line gave up 139 rushing yards, including 92 by Packers running back Ryan Grant, who ripped off a 57-yarder in the second half, and 35 by Rodgers, highlighted by a 21-yard scramble. Oh, and in his first start, Rodgers' spine remained intact and helmet-free, as he wasn't sacked a single time. Better yet, he had the time to hit on 18-of-22 passes for 178 yards and a score, along with scoring on a quarterback sneak.

"We're an offensive line that's trying to gel. We're still young, but we feel like we're coming into our own," said left guard Daryn Colledge, whom Rodgers dove behind on the sneak. "We've got a long way to go. It wasn't the prettiest game in the world, but we had some drives where we did some pretty positive things. Anytime you can do that against one of the premier defenses in the league, you've got to feel good about it."

It definitely wasn't pretty early. Left tackle Chad Clifton, who stonewalled Allen for most of four quarters, had a rough start with two holding penalties and an illegal-formation penalty in the first quarter. Colledge had a false start and Moll got flagged 10 yards for tripping. But when they found their composure, they found their rhythm.

 The offensive line would only draw three more infractions the rest of the game, but two more were on Moll for being illegally downfield on plays in which he thought Rodgers was going to tuck and run. One of those plays resulted in a 68-yard touchdown to Donald Driver — a play that looked nearly identical to the 90-yarder Driver caught in the NFC championship game last January — that was called back.

"We had a run called and (Rodgers) has a free option to throw out to a receiver if he's open," Moll said. "'Drive' knows it's not that big of a deal. They'll be more to come."

Of course, that's a much easier statement to make after you win.

And while the Packers' defensive front four got grated for 61 first-quarter yards by Peterson, they hunkered down for the final three quarters and held him to just 42. Given Peterson's freakish ability, 103 yards on the night qualifies as holding him in check. Better yet, Green Bay did it without stacking the line, which meant Vikings quarterback Tavaris Jackson was going to be forced into making enough plays to win the game. He didn't. Or more specifically, he couldn't.

"We just feel like they were doing all that talking. There's a lot of hype with them coming into the season and what they're going to do and they're going to win the NFC and win this and win that," Jenkins said. "But everybody overlooked us and didn't want to give us any credit. We just come in and do our job and we got the win."

You'll have to excuse the Packers if they don't concede the NFC North Division crown to the Vikings just yet.

W. Keith Roerdink began covering the Packers as an intern with WBAY Channel 2 in Green Bay in 1992, Favre's first year with the Packers. He interned with the Packers Public Relations Department in 1993 and 1994 and has covered the team for the Packer Report since 1995. E-mail him at karoer@msn.com.

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