Vikings-Packers game plan

The Vikings have achieved balance on offense and explosiveness in both the running and passing game. The Packers, however, might have to use the passing game to open things up for the running game. Get the thoughts from both camps, as well as several in-depth matchups to watch.


The Vikings offense has started to achieve the type of balance that Brad Childress envisioned when he took over as coach in 2006.

Wide receiver Bernard Berrian, signed as a free agent this offseason, has provided the type of down-field threat the Vikings were hoping to get and has averaged 20.7 yards per catch.

This doesn't mean opposing defenses have stopped putting eight men in the box against running back Adrian Peterson, but at least quarterback Gus Frerotte has been able to make teams pay when they do decide to focus solely on the run.

The Vikings' main priority is to establish the run, and that certainly isn't going to stop against the Packers. Minnesota is averaging 134.5 yards per game, sixth in the NFL, and the Packers are 27th in the league against the run. Green Bay is giving up 146.4 yards per game on the ground.

Defensively, the Vikings are coming off a game in which they gave up 363 passing yards to Houston but were pleased because for the most part they contained Texans Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson (four receptions, 62 yards, one touchdown).

The Vikings claimed their plan was to give up passes underneath in exchange for stopping the big play. This meant Texans tight end Owen Daniels caught 11 passes for 133 yards.

The Packers, no doubt, will attempt to take advantage of this and have Aaron Rodgers get the ball to his receivers and hope for yards after the catch.

Green Bay's Ryan Grant rushed for 119 yards in a 34-0 victory over the Vikings last season and had 92 yards in the season opener. However, the Vikings run defense is among the best in the league and getting yards on the ground usually isn't all that easy.


Even with a full second half of the season to play, the Packers have a sense of urgency to win as they try to stay in the thick of a bunched-up NFC North race. The task won't be easy because they have to put up with the blaring environs of the Metrodome.

Whereas running the football with authority lends itself to sustained drives, the Packers seem inclined to take a different tack to chew up the clock and hush the home crowd. Getting things started on offense with the pass against a generous secondary would be the means to set up the run, not the other way around. At some point, the Packers want to pound the football with Ryan Grant, who has rushed for at least 90 yards in two previous meetings against the Vikings, who are yielding an NFC-low average of 69.6 yards per game on the ground.

On defense, Green Bay's top priority is to contain Grant's electric counterpart, Adrian Peterson, the No. 2 rusher in the league. His 103-yard effort and average of 5.4 yards per carry in the Sept. 8 opener at Green Bay was a portent of the Packers' struggles against the run this season.

The Packers will have the luxury of crowding the line because of the one-on-one coverage abilities of their cornerbacks, but Minnesota possesses the downfield capabilities it didn't have in the first meeting to keep Green Bay honest in the secondary.

Special-teams play could decide things. The Packers' Will Blackmon had a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown to spark Green Bay's win in the initial encounter. The Vikings' special-teams units have allowed five touchdowns.


Vikings RB Adrian Peterson vs. Packers run defense – Peterson has rushed for 100 yards in five of eight games this season and will be looking to add to that total against a team that is giving up 146.6 yards per game. The Packers will be hoping that middle linebacker Nick Barnett, among others, will be able to contain Peterson by pinching up toward the line and controlling the run. Peterson went for 103 yards in the Vikings' regular-season opener against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Vikings RT Ryan Cook vs. Packers DLE Aaron Kampman – Cook has had an up-and-down season and will get another test going against Kampman, a standout for the Packers. Kampman had one sack in the Packers' season-opening victory over the Vikings and has six on the season. He had 12 in 2007. The Vikings are likely to get Cook some help from either tight end Jim Kleinsasser or a running back.

Packers TE Donald Lee vs. Vikings LBs Chad Greenway and Ben LeberHouston Texans tight end Owen Daniels had 11 receptions for 133 yards last Sunday against the Vikings, which is something the Packers surely noticed. Lee is the Packers' top tight end and has 22 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Greenway and Leber will be largely responsible for covering Lee, and they need to do a better job this week.

Packers CB Al Harris vs. Vikings WR Bernard Berrian – Unlike previous meetings when the Packers' one-track focus on defense was to try to bottle up running back Adrian Peterson, they'll have to also account for Minnesota's newfound vertical passing attack with Gus Frerotte, not Tarvaris Jackson, at quarterback. Berrian is averaging at least one big play down field in the six games Frerotte has been the starter. Berrian wasn't a factor in the season opener at Green Bay on Sept. 8, catching just three passes from the ineffective Jackson for 38 yards. Harris had the primary one-on-one coverage on Berrian that night and probably will do the same Sunday, especially since Berrian rarely lines up in the slot where Charles Woodson lurks. Harris wasn't tested much by the Tennessee Titans last Sunday in his return from a four-game absence because of a lacerated spleen, so Berrian will provide a better gauge of where the Pro Bowl corner is with his coverage skills.

Packers receivers vs. Vikings secondary – Green Bay didn't go to the air too much against Minnesota in quarterback Aaron Rodgers' starting debut on opening day two months ago. Rodgers threw a season-low 22 times but was mighty effective with a season-best completion percentage of 81.8 for 178 yards and a touchdown in the Packers' five-point win. Since the Packers will be hard pressed to run the football with sufficient results against Minnesota's formidable front in the din of the Metrodome, Rodgers could be forced to throw early and often. The Vikings are vulnerable on the back end and will have to contend with not one, but two productive playmakers in Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. Jennings had a 56-yard reception in the first meeting. The extra attention paid to Jennings and Driver will create opportunities for situational receivers Jordy Nelson and Ruvell Martin, as well as tight end Donald Lee, to make an impact. Minnesota, though, has received a boost with the return of safety Madieu Williams from a neck injury that cost him the first seven games of the season.

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