Who's Hot, Who's Not, Who's Hurt

The Vikings and Packers are preparing for Christmas Eve's game with the division at stake. Get the notes on who is playing well, who's not, who's coming back from injury and who's not.


--Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, whose reputation took a beating nationally after last week's ill-fated reverse option call crippled the Vikings' chances of beating Seattle, joked with Lions coach Steve Mariucci on the field before the game. "I asked him if he wanted to buy a spot in my clinic on reverse passes," Linehan said. "I told him I got one going real cheap." The Vikings opened the game with a fake end-around to Randy Moss before throwing an incompletion to RB Michael Bennett. It was Moss who threw the interception off the reverse option against Seattle.

  • By the end of the Lions game, the Vikings' offensive line had only two players who began the season as starters — LG Chris Liwienski and RG Dave Dixon. "Our offensive line got beat up pretty good by that defensive front," coach Mike Tice said. "That's a good group there. They got the better of us." LT Bryant McKinnie experienced back spasms Sunday. He left the game in the second quarter, returned briefly in the third and then left for good. C Matt Birk missed his fourth game because of surgery to repair a hernia. RT Adam Goldberg is the fourth starter at right tackle this season.

  • Players and coaches jumped around as if they had won the Super Bowl when Lions long snapper Don Muhlbach botched the extra-point snap to seal the Vikings' 28-27 victory with eight seconds left. During the jubilation, Tice had a front tooth knocked loose when DE Lance Johnstone tried to give him a hug. Johnstone's shoulder pad slammed into Tice's mouth. Tice didn't seem to mind. "Say whatever you want," he said, wiggling his tooth. "We're 8-6 right now and enjoying the heck out of it."

  • CB Antoine Winfield nearly played Sunday against the Lions. The Vikings desperately wanted to play him, but his high left ankle sprain didn't pass a pregame workout with head trainer Chuck Barta. Winfield, who has missed the last two games, is expected to play against the Packers on Friday.

  • QB Daunte Culpepper threw three touchdown passes against Detroit to tie Randall Cunningham's 1998 team record of 34 in a season. Culpepper's 404 yards passing also gave him a career-high 4,133. The team record of 4,264 was set by Warren Moon in 1994.

  • Five of S Corey Chavous' 17 career interceptions and both of his touchdowns have come against the Lions. He has intercepted Lions QB Joey Harrington's passes four times, including once on Sunday.

  • Four of CB Brian Williams' eight career interceptions and his one touchdown have come against Lions QB Joey Harrington. Williams intercepted one Harrington pass on Sunday.

  • C Matt Birk, who has missed the last four games because of surgery to repair a hernia, returns to practice this week. Barring a setback, Birk will start against the Packers.


    --Without WR Robert Ferguson, the Packers won't have much time to adjust for the Minnesota game. They make regular use of four-wide receiver sets, but his absence leaves them with only three on the roster: Javon Walker, Donald Driver and Antonio Chatman.

    It's possible coach Mike Sherman will use tight end Ben Steele or running back Tony Fisher as No. 4.

  • CB Al Harris had a terrible game trying to cover Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith. He was beaten for touchdown passes of 31 and 16 yards and was out of position on a 26-yard sideline completion. Smith also dropped what would have been a 27-yard touchdown behind Harris.

    "I might have played the worst game of my professional career," Harris said. "It really, really hurts. I didn't play well at all."

  • S Darren Sharper returned a double fumble 15 yards for a touchdown, the sixth of his career. "Something told me I didn't hear the whistle," he said. "I don't know, instinct or whatever. I just went and got the football."

  • S Michael Hawthorne was impressed with Jaguars RB Fred Taylor, who cruised for 165 yards in 22 carries. "They can do anything with Fred Taylor," he said. "He can run, he can catch, he can pass. What can't he do? It showed it tonight. He's a great back."

  • S Mark Roman missed four tackles, including two on a pair of runs by Fred Taylor totaling 83 yards. The Packers keep starting Roman even though he has played dreadfully for more than a month. The No. 3 safety is Bhawoh Jue, a converted cornerback.

  • G Marco Rivera gave up a sack to LB Daryl Smith on a stunt. It was the first full sack given up by Rivera in 66 games.

  • RB Ahman Green appeared to be off to the races for a 57-yard touchdown in the third quarter. However, 31-year-old CB Dewayne Washington, a former Viking, dragged him down from behind to hold the gain to 27. "It didn't feel like he was running fast," Washington said.

  • K Ryan Longwell missed a field goal from 31, ending his streak of consecutive field goals made at 45 inside the 40. "In this weather, it's all or nothing," he said. "You either hit perfect or you don't."

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