The Vikings have been trying to find their way on offense without wide receiver Randy Moss. That could be coming, but they are still desperately searching for answers to the defensive personnel problems.
After scaling back their high-powered offense in the first three games without a healthy Randy Moss
, the Vikings finally decided last week they couldn't wait any longer for Moss' strained right hamstring to heal. So they went back to their down-the-field attack, with WR Nate Burleson
and TE Jermaine Wiggins
trying to fill the role of Moss.
The Vikings lost 34-31 on a last-second field goal. But the offense showed some growth from the other games without Moss.
In the first three games with Moss hobbled or out completely, the Vikings had five pass plays of 20 or more yards. Against the Packers, they had six.
"We base a lot of what we do on our ability to be explosive," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan
said. "The last couple of weeks, we hadn't been as explosive throwing the football. But we were able to basically say that we're going to stretch the field (against the Packers). We weren't going to hit them all, but that has got to be what opens up other things for us."
MLB Rod Davis, a rookie fifth-round draft pick, will get some reps with the first-team defense this week. Coach Mike Tice is trying to send a message to starter E.J. Henderson, who has struggled getting teammates lined up correctly and working through blocks.
LB-FS Willie Offord might have an increased role in the defense this week. He will take some reps with the first-team base defense at free safety and as the nickel weak-side linebacker. The Vikings aren't satisfied with starting FS Brian Russell's awareness. They've also been searching for answers at the nickel linebacker positions all season.
DE Kenny Mixon lined up on the wrong side on a key 17-yard run by Packers RB Ahman Green on Sunday. The Packers scored on a 17-yard pass from Brett Favre to Bubba Franks to take a 21-10 lead on the next play.
SS Corey Chavous was blamed publicly for allowing Packers TE Bubba Franks to get wide open for a 17-yard touchdown catch that gave Green Bay a 21-10 lead. The real culprit was MLB E.J. Henderson, who was supposed to cover Franks.
TE Jermaine Wiggins received one of his highest individual grades of the season from the coaching staff. He caught passes of 22, 21 and 20 yards against the Packers.
The Vikings' 54 victories against the Lions are their most against any NFL team. Coach Mike Tice is 4-0 against the Lions. His first victory as an NFL head coach came against the Lions at home in 2002.
WR Nate Burleson and TE Jermaine Wiggins combined for 17 catches, 235 yards and two touchdowns in the 34-31 loss to the Packers. "If you were to ask our quarterback who his go-to guys are, he'd tell you everybody," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "But if you watch the game, you can see he's looking for No. 81 (Burleson) and No. 85 (Wiggins)."
In seven games against the Lions, QB Daunte Culpepper has completed 131 of 196 passes for 1,581 yards, nine touchdowns and six interceptions, for a 93.9 passer rating. He also has run for 267 yards and six touchdowns on 43 attempts (4.2). Culpepper, however, doesn't have the best of memories against the Lions. He broke four small bones in his lower back during a victory at Ford Field early last season.
A short week that started with a Monday night game at Indianapolis and ended with a trip to Green Bay took its toll on the Vikings coaching staff. Coach Mike Tice slept in his office for the first time. Offensive line coach Steve Loney slept in his car. Worse yet, the Vikings went 0-2 in a six-day span. "It's a tough road," Tice said.
CB Brian Williams tied a Vikings record with three interceptions in last season's victory over the Lions at the Metrodome. He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Rookie free agent DT Spencer Johnson had seven tackles against the Packers in only his second game. He was inactive for the first seven games of the season. His seven tackles are more than the season highs of starting DT Chris Hovan (four) and starting DE Kenechi Udeze (six). And both of them were first-round draft picks. "I feel like I did pretty good, considering the fact that we lost," Johnson said.
LB Chris Claiborne loves playing the team that drafted him in the first round in 1999. In his first game against the Lions since joining the Vikings via free agency, Claiborne had nine tackles, a forced fumble and a pass defensed in a win at Ford Field last season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have a long way to go, and our schedule in the second half of the season is very favorable." — Coach Mike Tice, after the Packers loss, talking after the team's final seven games, four of which are against NFC North teams.