Grading The Game: Packers

The Vikings turned around nearly 10 weeks of frustration with their wild-card win Sunday in Lambeau Field. They did it with strong contributions from nearly every unit.


PASSING OFFENSE:
A — QB Daunte Culpepper threw four touchdown passes to three different players, completed passes to eight different players and wasn't intercepted. He showed great field vision and judgment. Only one of his touchdown passes was to the receiver who was the first option on the play. WR Randy Moss bounced back from a week of controversy surrounding his decision to walk off the field early at Washington. He caught four passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. The last touchdown, a 34-yarder early in the fourth quarter, was embarrassing for Packers CB Al Harris. Culpepper signaled to Moss before the snap of the ball. Moss ran a 5-yard stop and go. Harris bit on the stop and looked to Culpepper. Moss then ran past him for the easy touchdown.

RUSHING OFFENSE:
C — The Vikings relied on Culpepper to carry most of the running game. He ran for a team-high 54 yards on six carries, including a 27-yarder. Onterrio Smith was held to 38 yards on 11 carries, but had a 17-yarder in the fourth quarter to help clinch the game. Michael Bennett had only 31 yards on nine carries (3.4).

PASS DEFENSE:
A — Sure, part of the Vikings' success had to do with one of those Brett Favre meltdowns. But the Vikings were in position to make each one of their four interceptions. Four different players intercepted passes: CBs Antoine Winfield, Brian Williams and Ralph Brown, and FS Brian Russell. Winfield had a team-high 11 tackles in his first start since suffering a high left ankle sprain at Chicago on Dec. 5. The Vikings blitzed more than they did in their two 34-31 losses to the Packers during the regular season. They had two sacks, including one by LB Chris Claiborne on the Packers' third snap of the game.

RUSH DEFENSE:
B — For the second consecutive Packers game, the Vikings' run defense was strong. RB Ahman Green ended up with 80 yards and a 4.0-yard average, but his longest run, and the team's longest run, was only 12 yards. The Packers had only 105 yards rushing and a 3.6-yard average. Without the running game, the Packers had to turn to Favre on one of his most miserable days ever.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
C — Average is pretty much great for the Vikings' special teams. The Packers averaged only 19.2 yards per kickoff return, which is amazing considering how poor the Vikings are on kick coverage. The Vikings' kickoff return team averaged only 17.8 per return. K Morten Andersen missed a 27-yard field goal attempt, booting the ball into the line after slipping with his plant foot. PR Nate Burleson averaged only 2.3 yards on three returns. But, overall, the special teams didn't do anything to embarrass themselves.

COACHING:
A — We aren't sure how they pulled it off, but the Vikings turned around 10 weeks of stumbling to play their best game of the season. They went into the game 2-20 on the road outdoors since October 2000. They also were facing a Packers organization that was 14-1 in home playoff games and 38-2 under Favre when the game-time temperature was below 34 (it was 26 on Sunday). Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell had his best game of the season. The Vikings used more blitzes than they did in the two losses to the Packers during the regular season. The defensive backs also knew exactly which pass routes to smother. Offensively, the Vikings were ahead 14-0 before the Packers had a first down. They were ahead 17-0 before the Packers had their second first down. Coach Mike Tice might have saved his job by pulling this major upset.





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