Grading The Game: Packers

Only one phase of the Vikings' game rated a grade better than average. Even with that, they had an opportunity to win in Lambeau Field, but their early struggles dug them a deep hole.


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus — QB Daunte Culpepper threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns and had a 117.9 passer rating. But the passing game sputtered in the first half as the Vikings fell behind 24-10. WR Nate Burleson, who caught 11 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown, dropped what would have been a 22-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter. The Vikings settled for a field goal. Culpepper also was sacked four times. Although the offense was revived in a 14-point fourth quarter, it still missed WR Randy Moss, who was sidelined for the second consecutive game because of a strained right hamstring.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D — The Vikings ran the ball only 16 times, including two reverses by receivers, and were forced to ditch the run because the Packers kept scoring touchdowns. Michael Bennett started and showed a good burst for the first time this season, on an 11-yard run. He and Onterrio Smith tied with a team-high 21 yards rushing on five carries (4.4). But Culpepper was the most effective runner with 19 yards on three carries.

PASS DEFENSE: D — Brett Favre had one of his easiest games against the rival Vikings. He threw three of his four touchdowns in the first half, including a 50-yarder to Javon Walker that started the scoring. The Vikings couldn't stop the run and didn't come close to sacking Favre. With a running game and time to throw, Favre nearly can't be stopped. The Vikings did manage to force the Packers to go three-and-out on two consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, stopping Favre passes short on third down both times. That enabled the Vikings to score two touchdowns and tie the score at 31-31.

RUSH DEFENSE: D — After rushing for 261 yards in the last meeting last season at the Metrodome, the Packers ran for 206 on 35 carries (5.9) on Sunday. Ahman Green had 145 yards on 21 carries (6.9), including a ridiculously easy 35-yarder followed by a 17-yard sweep that led to a touchdown, giving the Packers a 21-10 lead late in the second quarter. The Vikings' linebackers were nowhere to be found on either of Green's runs in that three-play scoring romp. The run defense was considerably better in the second half. LB E.J. Henderson and DT Spencer Johnson stuffed FB Nick Luchey for no gain on fourth-and-one from the Vikings' 15 midway through the third quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F — New kickoff specialist Jose Cortez was a flop in his first game as a replacement for Aaron Elling, who is out for the season because of a broken right ankle. Cortez's short kickoffs led to returns of 55 and 37 yards by Robert Ferguson. The latter, which went to the Green Bay 46 with 1:11 left in the game, set up Ryan Longwell's game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired. The Vikings believe a fumble by Ferguson on the critical return was recovered by CB Derek Ross and then stolen by Packers TE Ben Steele, a former Viking, at the bottom of a pile of players. The officials ruled Steele recovered the ball. Vikings P Darren Bennett had another horrendous game, averaging 35.2 yards on five punts. Burleson had one punt return for minus-1 yards. And Kelly Campbell returned five kickoffs for a 19.6-yard average.

COACHING: D — Coach Mike Tice can argue all he wants that the current three-game losing streak isn't the same as last year's historic collapse. But if it looks the same, smells the same ... it is the same. So far. Yes, the Vikings have lost on last-second field goals at Indianapolis and Green Bay, as opposed to being blown out at San Diego and Oakland, as they were last year. But the bottom line is this team is reeling big-time, and Tice is struggling to keep it from imploding. The Vikings badly need WR Randy Moss to return from his hamstring injury. With games at home against Detroit and Jacksonville the next two weeks, the Vikings aren't done yet. But until they win, last year's 3-7 slide after a 6-0 start will be shoved in their face on a daily basis. Offensively, the Vikings scored on their first possession, which is a rarity, but then they went into a funk before pouring it on in the fourth quarter. Defensively, Ted Cottrell's group had no clue how to stop the Packers' cutback runs in the first half. Cottrell made some good adjustments in at halftime, but ultimately the run defense and lack of pressure on Favre was too much to overcome.



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