Grading The Game: Packers

The Vikings lost by only three points, but when a team has a chance to put a stranglehold on the division halfway through the season and doesn't, bad grades are the result.

PASSING OFFENSE: C — Randy Moss caught two passes for 53 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown, on the Vikings' first possession. But then he disappeared as the Packers applied more double- and triple-team coverage. Daunte Culpepper attempted only one more pass to Moss in the first half. It fell incomplete. After his 43-yard touchdown, Moss caught only four passes for 44 yards. The most disappointing throw came on third-and-three from the Green Bay 20 late in the third period. Culpepper, scrambling to his right threw wide of Moss in the corner of the end zone. Moss was visibly upset. He had a cornerback one-on-one, but the ball was thrown out of bounds, keeping Moss from making the type of jump-ball TD receptions he was making regularly earlier in the season. Culpepper was sacked only twice, but was under heavy pressure for most of the game. Another disappointment: Speedster Kelly Campbell, who is averaging 27.7 yards on nine receptions, was held without a catch in his return from a calf injury.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C — Pro Bowl running back Michael Bennett played 13 snaps in his first game since fracturing his left foot during the offseason. He carried the ball eight times for 43 yards (5.4), including a 13-yard run in which he hit a clogged hole in the middle of the line, bounced quickly to his left and displayed the speed that sets him apart from most running backs. Moe Williams averaged 5.3 yards on 12 carries. The Vikings ran for 125 yards on 25 carries (5.0). Rookie Onterrio Smith, who started two of the past three games, didn't carry the ball.

PASS DEFENSE: D — Two weeks ago, Broncos third-string quarterback Danny Kanell exposed a weakness in the Vikings' defense. He replaced an injured Steve Beuerlein and used screen passes and quick hits on the perimeter to rally the Broncos to 10 fourth-quarter points in a 28-20 Broncos loss. The Giants used a similar passing attack last week as Kerry Collins threw for 375 yards in a 29-17 victory at the Metrodome. While the Packers relied primarily on its running game to beat the Vikings, quarterback Brett Favre, playing despite a fractured right thumb, threw many screens. Running back Ahman Green caught a team-high five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Javon Walker caught two touchdowns, including one in which he reached back into triple coverage to snare an 18-yard laser at the goal line from Favre on third-and-11.

RUSH DEFENSE: F — The Packers averaged 7.7 yards rushing, piling up 261 yards on 34 carries. Green took a pitch right for 18 yards on the first play. On the third play, he took a pitch left for 27 yards. The Vikings' perimeter defense has been exposed, and teams are feasting on it. Green ran for 137 yards on 21 carries (6.5), most of it coming on quick tosses and sweeps. Receiver Donald Driver set up a field goal on the second drive of the game with a 45-yard gain on an end around. Outside linebackers Chris Claiborne and Henri Crockett need to play better on the corners.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C — Kicker Aaron Elling tied the game at 20-20 with third-quarter field goals of 37 and 47 yards. Punter Eddie Johnson had one of his best games, averaging 45 yards on four punts with two punts inside the 20. He would have had a third, but Brian Williams failed to catch a punt inside the 5-yard line for the second consecutive week. The kickoff return unit continues to disappoint. Rookie running back Onterrio Smith was excited about the opportunity to return kicks. He replaced Doug Chapman, who averaged 12.8 yards on four returns against the Giants. Chapman had replaced John Avery, who was placed on injured reserve because of a knee injury. Smith returned seven kickoffs, but averaged only 19.4 yards. Keenan Howry showed some nice moves on punt returns, averaging 11.5 yards on two returns.

COACHING: D — The Vikings' defense was exposed in the 29-17 loss to the Giants. The perimeter is soft and vulnerable to toss sweeps, end-arounds and a quick-rhythm passing attack. So what happened a week later against the Packers? The defense was even worse on the perimeter. Defensive coordinator George O'Leary needs to find answers in a hurry. Offensively, the Vikings allowed Randy Moss to be taken out of the game after a quick start for the second consecutive week. Overall, coach Mike Tice must scramble this week without panicking. The Vikings still own a two-game lead in the NFC North and are tied with Dallas, Carolina and Seattle for the best record in the NFC. They travel to San Diego (1-7) this week and Oakland (2-6) the following week. Granted, trips to the West Coast aren't easy, but there's no reason the Vikings can't be 8-2 heading when the return home to play Detroit on Nov. 23.

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