Holler: Packers have a reason to chirp

The Packers have been talking about an undefeated season. While it's premature and probably the wrong people talking most, there is good reason for them to be feeling good. Plus, get the full Saturday injury report.

During locker room sessions this week, Packers players have begun discussing the potential of a perfect season. Seven teams (Detroit twice) may have something to say about this, but the indication is clear that the champs are getting a little full of themselves – and it isn't being lost on the Vikings.

The funny thing about the Packers' confidence (arrogance?) is that most of the talking has come from the defense – starting with Charles Woodson and being echoed by lesser talents – which, if you were to put a scale on the offense and defense, it would be tantamount to being a fat kid on a teeter-totter.

There has been somewhat of a backlash to the statements, given that the Packers have the 30th-ranked defense. They have been lit up with regularity on the defensive side of the ball. But, for Vikings fans with a memory, they will recall that the 1998 Vikings defense gave up a lot of yards and, to a lesser extent, so did the 2009 Vikings. Such criticism explains one of the main inequities in the NFL's system of ranking offenses and defenses. It's based strictly on yardage, which doesn't equate to success.

According to the numbers, the Packers have the 30th ranked defense. The only defenses that are worse? One makes sense (Indianapolis – they truly are bad). One doesn't (the 5-3 Patriots). Much like great offensive juggernauts of the past, including the 1998 Vikings, the 1999 Rams, the 2004 Colts, the 2007 Patriots and the 2009 Saints, they were teams centered around high-octane offenses. They were all wildly successful – only the '98 Vikings didn't make the Super Bowl and, of those that made it, only the 18-0 Patriots of 2007 didn't hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

The problem with the Packers defense isn't so much what opponents are doing to them. It's what their own offense is doing to them. In interviews with John Randle and Ed McDaniel, both shared the same sentiment about their recollections of the 1998 season. While they remembered winning, one mutual memory is how quickly they would have to go back out on the field.

An example? The 1998 Vikings proved themselves on a Monday night at Lambeau Field by handing Brett Favre and the Packers a humbling defeat in which Randy Moss & Co. ran roughshod over them. They cemented themselves as the favorites by disemboweling the Cowboys in Texas Stadium on Thanksgiving Day. In that game, Dallas held the ball for more than 15 of the game's first 17 minutes, yet trailed 14-6. That was how the '98 Vikings rolled.

"They were amazing with the big plays," McDaniel said. "We'd make a stop on defense and get to the sideline and before we knew it, the crowd went crazy and we had to grab our helmets and get back out there. We were exhausted. I can remember some of us telling Randall (Cunningham), ‘Can you take a few minutes to score.' When we were rolling, that's how it went."

In many respects, the same thing is happening to the Packers defense. Aaron Rodgers is on the type of roll that propelled guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees into the all-time NFL record book for prolific individual seasons. It gets to be a sickness. Manning was the one chasing down Dan Marino's touchdown record and, when it was clear the record was within reach, what would be 1-yard rushing touchdowns became play-action passes to get to the record. The same was true when Brady took the title away from Manning. Passing became such a pronounced part of the offense that big plays were so prevalent that drives routinely lasted less than a couple of minutes – good or bad.

The 2011 Packers find themselves in a similar situation. The offense sets a pace that is so fast the other team has little option but to keep up with them or be left behind. The Packers defense was criticized for allowing the San Diego Chargers to make a run at them last week, but that was only because the Packers were so far ahead that the Chargers had no choice but to pass and try onside kicks to get within striking distance.

While Woodson shouldn't be the one to discuss the potential for a 16-0 season – the defense is clearly the ugly sister of the two when compared to the Packers offense – he has a right to chirp. The Packers are the last undefeated team and much of the misery the defense has gone through hasn't been because they've been systematically shredded. It's been because their offense is so potent that they get sent back out on the field while still catching their breath from the last drive. It's the byproduct of pass-happy offenses – ones that have been rewarded with championship rings often in recent years.

SATURDAY NOTES

  • Bill Musgrave's comment that he wants to get running back Toby Gerhart is admirable, but, when you've got Adrian Peterson in a lather in the stable, you ride Secretariat. If Gerhart's role actually increases in the coming weeks, it will because A.P. is getting 30 carries and the Vikings plan to run 40 times.



  • Unlike the rest of the league, which released their final injury reports Friday, because the Vikings and Packers play on Monday, their final reports didn't come out until Saturday. For the Vikings, there were no surprises. G Anthony Herrera (knee) and CB Chris Cook (not injured) are out, and CB Antoine Winfield (neck) and RT Phil Loadholt (illness) are probable.

  • For the Packers, T Chad Clifton (hamstring), DE Mike Neal (knee) and LB Frank Zombo (hamstring) are out. S Morgan Burnett (hand), LB Clay Matthews (knee) and G Josh Sitton (knee) are probable.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.



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  • Bill Musgrave's comment that he wants to get running back Toby Gerhart is admirable, but, when you've got Adrian Peterson in a lather in the stable, you ride Secretariat. If Gerhart's role actually increases in the coming weeks, it will because A.P. is getting 30 carries and the Vikings plan to run 40 times.
  • Unlike the rest of the league, which released their final injury reports Friday, because the Vikings and Packers play on Monday, their final reports didn't come out until Saturday. For the Vikings, there were no surprises. G Anthony Herrera (knee) and CB Chris Cook (not injured) are out, and CB Antoine Winfield (neck) and RT Phil Loadholt (illness) are probable.
  • For the Packers, T Chad Clifton (hamstring), DE Mike Neal (knee) and LB Frank Zombo (hamstring) are out. S Morgan Burnett (hand), LB Clay Matthews (knee) and G Josh Sitton (knee) are probable.
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