Packers played short-handed against Vikings

The Packers were essentially down to three defensive linemen against the Vikings and still found ways to pressure Brett Favre into three interceptions.

That the Packers held on for a 28-24 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night and climbed back into a first-place tie with the Chicago Bears in the NFC North was nothing short of amazing.

Green Bay's decimated defense, which clinched the outcome by keeping Brett Favre and the Vikings' offense out of the end zone in a frenetic march down the field in the last six minutes, played most of the game with only three available linemen.

Starting right end Cullen Jenkins couldn't play after suffering a calf strain during an on-field warmup about an hour before the game. By then, the game inactives had been submitted, so Jenkins was on the 45-man roster.

Head coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged Monday that the defensive game plan had to be substantially altered in the 11th hour, and even more so when starting left end Ryan Pickett had to drop out after only seven plays because a lingering right ankle sprain.

"It took us out of base," McCarthy said. "We went into an exclusive sub-defense game."

That left the Packers with nose tackle B.J. Raji surrounded by replacement ends C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn for the bulk of the game. Raji and Wynn are second-year players, and Wilson is a rookie.

All three players were productive in extensive playing time. Raji was on the field for all but a handful of the Vikings' 66 plays.

"I think that's clearly one of the highlights of our win (Sunday)," McCarthy said. "I can't say enough about (defensive line coach) Mike Trgovac and that young defensive line group.

"B.J. has played a lot of football for us this year, and I can't say enough about C.J. and Jarius. I thought they got better as the game went on. I thought (Wilson and Wynn) grew up a lot in the game."

Wilson, a seventh-round draft pick out of East Carolina, tied for second on the team Sunday with eight tackles and had a big pressure on Favre that resulted in an interception and 32-yard touchdown return by linebacker Desmond Bishop in the third quarter for the Packers' final points.

"Luckily, I got some pressure on him," Wilson said. "I didn't even know we got an interception until the end. I heard the crowd go loud, and I was like, 'What's that noise for?' It was a good play, and I'm just happy to make that."

Wynn sacked Favre in the final drive of the game. It was the Packers' only sack of Favre after he went sackless in the Vikings' two wins over Green Bay last season.

As fatigue set in among the three linemen late in the game, defensive coordinator Dom Capers compensated by lining up rookie linebacker Frank Zombo at end for a few plays.

The Packers will need some reinforcements on the line this week as they get ready to play at the New York Jets on Sunday.

Rookie end Mike Neal will have season-ending surgery Tuesday for a shoulder injury he sustained three games ago.

McCarthy, meanwhile, didn't have a positive outlook Monday for Jenkins' availability this week.

"I am concerned," McCarthy said. "Just the way it happened, it's definitely something to be concerned about. We'll just wait and see how he comes through it. If I had to give him a status, he would be questionable for this week."

NOTES

  • Monday's announcement by head coach Mike McCarthy that linebacker Brady Poppinga and rookie defensive end Mike Neal are slated to have season-ending surgeries will bring the Packers' total to eight players on injured reserve since the start of the season.

    Of the six players the Packers previously lost to IR this season, four are on defense: linebacker Nick Barnett, rookie safety Morgan Burnett, defensive end Justin Harrell and safety Derrick Martin. Running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley also are out.

  • With two roster spots to be filled in the near future, the logical move would be for the Packers to add the veteran tandem of cornerback Al Harris and safety Atari Bigby, who are on the physically unable to perform list.

    Harris and Bigby started practicing last week after sitting out the required first six weeks of the season. The team has a three-week window during which they can activate the players from PUP, release them or keep them on PUP for the rest of the season.

  • Fourth-year linebacker Desmond Bishop's first career interception is a keepsake.

    Bishop, who has started the last three games in place of Barnett, picked off an errant pass from quarterback Brett Favre and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown to put Green Bay ahead 28-17 in the third quarter of its 28-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night.

    "That's a play that's going to go down in my history," Bishop said. "It's just an honor to get a pick on Brett Favre and take it the house. He's a legend, a future Hall of Famer, and to do that, it's huge."

    "It was just kind of typical Favre, trying to squeeze something in, but it wasn't there, and I just took advantage of it," Bishop said.


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