Grading The Game: Packers

A win on the road in the opening game of the season against the defending division champs isn't easy, but when it happens the winner usually gets high marks in almost every facet of the game.

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Quarterback Daunte Culpepper had three touchdown passes to three different receivers, no interceptions and a 102.6 quarterback. On at least three occasions he impressed the coaches by throwing the ball away. He never did that last season, which is one reason he had 23 interceptions. Randy Moss caught nine passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. D'Wayne Bates and running back John Avery also caught touchdown passes. It was Avery's first TD since 1998.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- For one game at least, the Vikings showed they don't need Michael Bennett to be the best running team in the NFL. Bennett is out until at least midseason because of a fractured foot. He was a Pro Bowler last season as the Vikings led the NFL in rushing. The Vikings still ran for 154 yards on 36 carries (4.3). Moe Williams, a career third-down specialist, was solid with 80 yards on 22 carries. Culpepper ran for 50 yards on nine carries, but lost two fumbles. Doug Chapman bounced back earlier than expected from a high-ankle sprain. He had only nine yards on four carries, but was able to give Williams a rest and caught an 8-yard screen pass in which he bulled the last yard for a key first down late in the third quarter.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- Considering how bad the Vikings were last season in this area, they probably deserve an A-plus. They intercepted Brett Favre four times, twice by strong safety Corey Chavous and one each by free safety Brian Russell and cornerback Brian Williams. New cornerbacks Denard Walker and Ken Irvin were superb in coverage. The team also displayed depth unseen last season. Chavous (sprained knee), Walker (mild concussion) and Williams (leg cramps) all left the game for short periods, but backups Eric Kelly and cornerback and Willie Offord at safety filled in nicely. Irvin also played more than was expected coming off a dislocated right big toe. The Vikings get a B only because they faded down the stretch against Favre. Favre passed for 173 yards, one touchdown and generated two other TD drives in the final 24 minutes to make it a close game.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Vikings' front seven are much more physical this season. Rookie left end Kevin Williams, backup lineman Billy Lyon and weak-side linebacker Chris Claiborne made the Vikings much stronger against the run. The Packers rushed for only 62 yards on 19 carries for a 3.3-yard average. The only negative is Ahman Green scored two touchdowns rushing. A surprise player Sunday was Kenny Mixon. The 271-pound right end, who is known more for his pass rushing, held his own against the run. He had six tackles, five solo. Claiborne led the way with nine tackles and a sack.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Again, compared to the start of last season, when Doug Brien couldn't even make a PAT, the Vikings probably deserve an A. In his first regular-season NFL game, young kicker Aaron Elling made all three of his field goals, tying an opening-day team record for most field goals accomplished three times by Fred Cox in the 1960s and 1970s. Elling also made all three PATs. Except for a 46-yard kickoff return, the coverage units were much improved over last season. The Packers averaged only 6.5 yards per punt return. The only surprise, in a negative way, was rookie punter Eddie Johnson. After an excellent preseason, Johnson had two 37-yard punts and a net average of 30.5 yards.

COACHING: A -- This easily was the greatest victory in the brief head coaching career of Mike Tice. The players were wound up for revenge against the Packers, but they played under control and forced five turnovers for the first time since 1998. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan crafted a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive that set the tone to open the game. The first play was a 15-yard pass to Randy Moss and the second was a 15-yard reverse by receiver Kelly Campbell.


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