After a number of injuries and another poor performance, the Vikings are looking for leadership. Find out who is stepping up their play. On the Packers' side, more players are hot than not, and that could be bad news for the Vikings.
RG Dave Dixon, who normally is shy around the media, was waving reporters over to his locker following the 21-18 loss at Washington.
"Come here," Dixon said. "Did you know (defensive tackle Shaun) Rogers from Detroit got a raise (recently)? If he got a raise, what's (Vikings defensive tackle) Kevin Williams worth?"
Williams, a Pro Bowl player in his second season, had two sacks, an interception, a pass deflection and a forced fumble that the Vikings recovered. Williams broke Keith Millard's team record for most sacks by a player in his first two seasons. Williams had 22.5, including 12 this season. Keith Millard held the previous mark of 21.5.
Vikings coach Mike Tice stayed in the locker room with his team for about 30 minutes after Sunday's loss at Washington, and they watched the end of the Carolina-New Orleans game together. Tice emerged shortly after the Saints beat the Panthers 21-18 to put the Vikings in the playoffs. Tice said he was going to enjoy the fact the Vikings made the playoffs, but he also wore the frustration of a coach whose team is 3-7 in its past 10 games. "This team has been driving me crazy, to be honest with you," Tice said.
The Vikings were subdued in their celebration after making the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Some players focused on the Vikings' 5-1 start and how that earned them the right to make the playoffs despite a 3-7 finish and 8-8 season record. "We're not going to go out and do cartwheels and do something stupid like open up a bottle of champagne," Tice said.
SS Corey Chavous will almost certainly miss the playoffs because of a fractured left elbow. Chavous has missed only three games in his seven-year career. He will be replaced by backup S Willie Offord, who has started six NFL games but none since 2002.
CB Rushen Jones probably will serve as the backup safety against the Packers.
QB Daunte Culpepper finished the regular season with the most combined yards for a quarterback in NFL history. His total of 5,123 (4,717 passing, 406 rushing) broke Dan Marino's record of 5,077 yards in 1984. "I would rather have the record for most victories by a quarterback," Culpepper said.
CB Terrance Shaw has a rib injury that could sideline him for Sunday's game at Green Bay. Shaw has started the last four games in place of Antoine Winfield. Winfield has been hobbled by a high left ankle sprain, but he is expected to start against the Packers. If Shaw can't play the nickel back, Jones or CB Ralph Brown probably will. Brown has missed the last three games because of a fractured eye socket.
WR Kelly Campbell has a separated shoulder. He is questionable for Sunday's game at Green Bay.
Defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt was benched Sunday by coach Mike Sherman but didn't take it personally. In fact, Hunt apparently didn't get the message.
Sherman said after the 31-14 victory in Chicago that Hunt didn't play well enough the week before in Minnesota to warrant a start. It was a first for Sherman regarding Hunt, who had one sack in the first 15 games and was frequently ripped by scouts for being an underachiever.
On Sunday, Sherman gave the start at three-technique tackle to Cullen Jenkins, a second-year free agent from Central Michigan who has been a fixture almost all season at tackle in the dime defense.
Hunt said he found out Saturday that he wasn't starting but said it wasn't a punishment.
"Just resting for next week," Hunt said. "I'm not injured at all. They just decided to do it."
Jenkins played 45 snaps against the Bears whereas Hunt played 35. Each had a sack, and Hunt also had two knockdowns.
"It looked like he made a few plays out there," Sherman said. "Hopefully that got him going again."
At 310, Hunt is 20 pounds heavier than Jenkins and more stout against the run. However, Jenkins is a better pass rusher and gives better chase on plays away from him.
DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila registered a career-high four sacks Sunday. All came against LT Marc Columbo, who was clearly overmatched. None of them were cheap, either.
"We had a locker set up for Reggie White with his jersey hanging there, helmet and everything as if he was going to play," KGB said. "Coach Sherman kept saying, ‘Play the way he would have played the game.' I tried. He inspired our team, our whole organization."
White died Dec. 26 in Charlotte.
WR Javon Walker finished with 1,382 receiving yards, the fifth-best total in club history.
QB Doug Pederson, who went on injured reserve Oct. 7 with a back injury, still would like to play even though he will be 37 on Jan. 31.
"My back feels great," he said. "Right now, whether it be here or somewhere else, I'd like to continue to play. I think I've got a couple more good years left to contribute somewhere."
S Darren Sharper returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown. Still, it left the Packers with eight this season. That's a club record for interception futility, breaking the previous mark of 11, set in 1976.
LB Nick Barnett led the Packers in tackles with 160. That's the fifth most in club history.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They were giving them away, like a bank giving away toasters." — NT Colin Cole on the Packers' nine sacks