The Vikings took what Vikings coach Mike Tice called a training camp approach to practice this week. They returned to pads for a week of hard hitting. His theory was that there was nothing left to save the players for and that the Vikings were playing their best football of the season coming right out of training camp.
"I think you worry so much sometimes about keeping guys fresh, and it tends to make you lose the edge," Tice said last week. "The players can get fresh when we get finished with this run. If it turns out that somebody gets hurt, then somebody gets hurt. That's just the way it goes."
The Vikings did suffer a number of injuries, but they played their best defense of the season. It limited Brett Favre to 216 yards passes, pressured him into four interceptions and limited the Green Bay rushing attack to 105 yards total.
Antoine Winfield, returning to his starting cornerback spot after suffering a high ankle sprain, led the team with 11 tackles, followed by linebacker E.J. Henderson and safety Willie Offord with eight.
Winfield, Brian Williams, Brian Russell and Ralph Brown each had interceptions.
Bring on the second week of training camp.
PHYSICALITY TAKES ITS TOLL
Each team suffered a number of key injuries in the second quarter. The Vikings lost running back Moe Williams to a sprained right ankle after catching a third-down pass midway through the second quarter and having defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila land on the back of Williams' leg while making the tackle.
The Packers lost running back Najeh Davenport to a shoulder injury when he was hit by Willie Offord on the previous possession. Earlier in the drive, Green Bay wide receiver Javon Walker left the field in obvious pain with a shin injury to his left leg. He returned to the game on the Packers' next possession but was unable to continue in the second half.
In the third quarter, Green Bay's right tackle Chad Clifton, left the game with a left ankle injury, causing the Packers to shuffle their lineup on the front line.
Randy Moss was also limited with a sprained ankle in the second half, and Brian Williams left the game in the fourth quarter with leg cramps.
It was a return to the lineup for two of those Vikings after a tough week. Moe Williams had a walking boot on his right ankle on Wednesday as a precaution, and this latest setback may limit him next Sunday in Philadelphia.
Brian Williams was the latest Viking to leave practice Wednesday with flu symptoms.
Kelly Campbell practiced Thursday after suffering a separated shoulder against the Redskins, and he was active and had one catch for the Vikings in the fourth quarter in Green Bay. He did not return kicks.
Corey Chavous hoped to play early in the season, despite a broken radius in his elbow, but eventually succumbed to the reality that he wouldn't be able to play Sunday.
Chavous was replaced by Willie Offord at strong safety. Offord hadn't started a game since Oct. 20, 2002. He wasn't exposed often in pass defense and played a very solid game in run support.
BRINGING THE PRESSURE
In their Dec. 24 meeting, the Vikings double-teamed Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila on 37.1 percent of passes. They weren't able to double him as much in this game, especially early in the second half, because the Packers often brought the blitz in this game. Still, while the Packers had three sacks of Daunte Culpepper, Gbaja-Biamila was held to zero sacks and two tackles after registering four sacks in Chicago last weekend.
FIRST IN THIRD-DOWNS
The Vikings and Packers finished the regular season first and second in third-down conversions.
Randy Moss' episodes that have drawn heavy criticism typically come at the end of a season. But in 2001 Moss made the honest comment that he doesn't give full effort on every play. He was vilified by Merrill Hoge and Sean Salisbury.
His answer? In the next game Moss caught 10 passes for 171 yards and three TDs vs. the Giants. He has his opportunity this time around, too.
Now that Moss was the target of much consternation following him walking off the field with two seconds remaining in FedEx Field last Sunday, January 9, 2005, he responded with four catches for 70 yards and two touchdowns. However, this game wasn't without its incidents for Moss, either. After his second touchdown catch, he went to the goal post and imitated pulling down his pant in a mock mooning of the crowd.
Afterwards, Moss said he was just having fun with it and hoped he didn't get in trouble.
In his 13 previous games against the Packers, Moss had 66 receptions for 1,243 yards (18.8) and 12 touchdowns. Moss was held to two catches for 30 yards and a touchdown in the 34-31 loss to the Packers at the Metrodome on Christmas Eve.
After playing Jimmy Johnson's interview with Randy Moss, Fox's studio team of Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, James Brown and Johnson reacted. In the interview, Moss reiterated what he said on Mike Tice's radio show last week — that him walking off the field before a game was done could happen again.
"When will the light go on?" Bradshaw asked. "I don't think it ever will."
Johnson, the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins, was asked if he would want Moss on his football team.
"I would, but only if he'd try to change his attitude," Johnson said.
Brown said he doesn't get upset with Moss anymore because people know what they are getting with Moss and he isn't likely to change.
Between the two of them, Culpepper and Favre threw for 69 touchdowns this year. The Packers owned the NFL's No. 3-ranked offense for yards allowed while the Vikings finished No. 4.
Conversely, Green Bay is rated 25th on defense and the Vikings are 28th.
The Packers allowed more passing touchdowns than any team in the NFL this season.
Favre has only been sacked 14 times this year – tied for best in the NFL. Culpepper has been sacked 46 times – 25th in the league.
The Vikings got to Favre twice when Chris Claiborne and Darrion Scott each registered sacks. Culpepper was sacked three times.
REVISE THOSE RECORDS
Entering this weekend in NFL history, when teams have swept a regular-season series and then met again in the playoffs, the sweeping teams were 10-5 winning the third time. Both NFC games this weekend added to those figures on each side. The Rams made it 11 wins for the sweeping team and the Vikings made it six wins for the previously swept teams.
The Vikings were 2-20 in their last 22 outdoor road games dating to October 2000. Both victories came with the game-time temperature above 70 degrees. One of them was a 30-25 victory at Lambeau Field in last year's season opener. Update that record to make it 3-20 in their last 23 games — and 1-0 in the playoffs, the only statistic that really matters at this point.
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