NOTEBOOK: Sharper Calls It

Former Packer Darren Sharper pretty well called what would happen Monday night at Lambeau Field, at least Brett Favre's approach late in the game. Plus, find out how the Vikings reversed the statistics on the Packers, how the kicker became a hero despite a bad trend and how the offensive line survived with more shuffling.

Safety Darren Sharper called it, but cornerback Brian Williams executed it.

Sharper, who played eight seasons with the Green Bay before signing with Minnesota in March, said last week that Brett Favre finds a receiver he's comfortable with an uses him as a security blanket late in games.

That's exactly what Favre started to do early in the fourth quarter Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings when the Packers needed to move the ball. Wide receiver Donald Driver had caught one pass in each of the Packers' first three series to open the second half, but in each of those drives Green Bay was forced off the field in short order.

On their fourth drive of the second half, which came early in the fourth quarter, Favre was obviously looking for Driver, and so were the Vikings. Favre started that drive with a pass intended for Driver that drew a 37-yard pass interference penalty on safety Corey Chavous. The Packers were in Vikings territory and looking to erase a 17-14 deficit. However, one play later, Favre went right back to Driver and Williams, appearing to be playing a zone defense, stepped in front of the receiver for a crucial interception that allowed the Vikings to retain the lead for one more possession.

"(Driver is) their go-to guy. We know that from the last game," Sharper said last week. "He's the one they're trying to get the football to, and we know that Driver is (Favre's) main guy and we're going to try to negate him getting Driver going early and also try to make him spread the ball around, which he can do. But don't give him just one target to go to if the situation calls for it when it's crunch time and he knows he has a guy that can get a third-down conversion or a big play.

"We have guys that can match up with Driver, and even though Driver is a good player, hopefully we can keep him from getting the 10-catch game that he had previously against Atlanta."

In fact, Sharper mentioned Williams covering Driver last week, and when it came to crunch time, Williams was the one squeezing the ball and preserving the Vikings' lead in the fourth quarter.

Driver finished the game with five catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns, the 58th straight game he has caught a pass. The last time he was held without a reception was on Dec. 30, 2001 … against Minnesota.

In their Oct. 23 meeting, the Vikings made a halftime adjustment on Driver, placing cornerback Fred Smoot on him exclusively and basically rendering Driver ineffective. Monday night, the Vikings were without Smoot, who is sidelined with a broken collarbone.

His absence put Williams into a starting role and moved Dovonte Edwards into the nickel back rotation. The lack of Smoot had positive and negative connections.

Late in the first half, Edwards got a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown, and his presence on the field was made possible because of Smoot being out.

But without Smoot on Driver, the Green Bay wide receiver did find a few openings. He scored both of Green Bay's touchdowns in the first half. The first came on a Cover 2 look from the Vikings, and Favre found the seam between the cornerback and Chavous for a 15-touchdown to Driver.

On the series following Edwards' interception return for a touchdown, Favre went back to Driver. This time, Winfield was covering and tried to undercut the route for the interception. When the pass went over Winfield and Driver caught it in stride, the wide receiver was on his way to a 53-yard touchdown.

Once again, the Vikings clamped down on Driver in the second half, when he had only 16 yards on three catches and was the intended target on Williams' big fourth-quarter interception.

STATISTICAL WINNERS

Entering the game, the Packers led the Vikings in nearly every statistical category despite a 2-7 record. Green Bay ranked higher in total offense, total defense, third-down offense, third-down defense and red-zone offense.

Two key categories where the Vikings did rank higher were in red-zone defense and turnovers.

As it turned out, the Vikings and Packers were even in the turnover department, but in the head-to-head matchup Minnesota was better in total offense, total defense, third-down offense and third-down defense. Each team converted one red-zone opportunity into a touchdown, but the Vikings had two other missed opportunities inside Green Bay's 20-yard line.

EARLY OUTDOOR JINX

Despite what is now three last-second, game-winning field goals from Paul Edinger this year, Viking Update pointed out last week that the first-year Viking was only 2-for-7 in outdoor games this season. Then we asked head coach Mike Tice if he had any concern about Edinger's consistency early in games.

"I am not worried about Paul. Paul's body language is as good as any kicker I have been around. He has a couple of things we have talked about. He is reaching for the ball a little bit. Maybe his alignment was a little off on a couple of those kicks. He is going to work on that stuff. I am not a kicking guru," Tice said. "I know that I like Paul a lot. I'm not concerned about it. He is hitting the pressure kicks. He has just got to do a little better job of hitting those kicks early in the game to get us going. Then I'm sure he is going to bust his butt to get that fixed. I am not going to sit there and hover over him and tell him what he has to do because I don't know what he has to do."

Edinger responded with a low kick on a 49-yard attempt at the end of the Vikings' game-opening drive that was the team's best chance at getting non-defensive points in the first half. But, as he has in the past, Edinger became a hero at the end of the game by kicking a 27-yard field goal with no time left for the three-point win despite being only 4-for-10 outdoors this season after a 2-for-3 performance at Lambeau Field.

HOMECOMING TRIO

Three Vikings returning to Wisconsin had mixed results.

Sharper was steady with three tackles from his safety position. Former Wisconsin Badger Michael Bennett was limited to only 10 yards on five carries, and former Badger Erasmus James had another strong outing with three tackles, a sack, a pass defensed and several quarterback pressures.

THE ROTATION

Minnesota's rotation on the offensive line went deeper than anticipated.

Center Melvin Fowler (strained oblique muscle) dressed but did not play. Cory Withrow started in his place.

Left guard Toniu Fonoti, making his first start as a Viking, was lost late in the third quarter with a strained groin. He was replaced by Anthony Herrera, a backup at both center and guard, who did a solid job.

The Vikings also replaced right tackle Mike Rosenthal with rookie Marcus Johnson in the first half.

While the makeshift offensive line yielded five sacks, it did settle down in the second half and helped pave the way to a 160-yard rushing effort – 122 of those yards attained by Mewelde Moore.

RESTRICTED FOR A REASON

The Vikings signed Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman to an offer sheet last March when he was a restricted free agent. The Packers matched the offer, and Kampman repaid the Vikings by having a prime-time performance.

In the first half, Kampman forced the Vikings to make a change at right tackle, as Minnesota pulled Rosenthal in favor of Marcus Johnson. But Kampman still got his.

Kampman finished the game with seven tackles, two sacks, a pass defensed and a forced fumble.

Defensive tackle Colin Cole, who spent time with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2003, also had a strong game for the Packers, registering four tackles and a sack.

DEACTIVATIONS

As promised, the Vikings not only demoted guard Chris Liwienski from the starting ranks, he was deactivated. WR Nate Burleson was also among the deactives, as were QB J.T. O'Sullivan, CB Fred Smoot, RB Adimchinobe Echemandu, TEs Jeff Dugan and Richard Angulo and DE Spencer Johnson.

The Packers deactivated WR Chad Lucas, QB Craig Nall, CB Mike Hawkins, LB Robert Thomas, OL Junius Coston and Chris White, and DL Donnell Washington and Corey Williams.



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