Behind Enemy Lines: Questioning the Packers

The Packers have at least one concerning injury to overcome before Monday night's game, which could affect how successful Aaron Rodgers is. And how effective is that new 3-4 in Green Bay? Bill Huber of PackerReport.com and Tim Yotter of VikingUpdate.com get into the big game from the Packers' perspective.

Tim Yotter: Do you expect Chad Clifton to play, and what sort of difference could that make?

Bill Huber: I'm a little more dubious about his prospects after seeing him standing behind the offense in sweatpants on Thursday. It will be one of those things, is "X" percent of Clifton better than 100 percent of Daryn Colledge, who would be playing left tackle for a second consecutive game? Clearly, with Clifton's experience at the position and in playing in dome games, he'd be a tremendous asset. But at the same time, can a guy with a bum ankle move quickly enough against Jared Allen, especially on a fast track and in a game in which crowd noise already is a major problem for an offensive tackle? About the only thing that's for certain is coach Mike McCarthy says Clifton will have to practice to play. Clifton is a tough, proud veteran. I'd guess he'll play, but it's not much more than a coin-flip proposition at this point.

TY: On the field, Aaron Rodgers seems to be doing just fine. How has he handled the being the guy to play against Brett Favre after being the guy to replace him?

BH: Rodgers is from California, so that probably says all you need to know. Rodgers is Mr. Cool and didn't seem the slightest bit fazed by the swarm of cameras and tape recorders huddled around his locker on Thursday. Talk to his teammates, and they'll tell you his big test was in last year's opener against Minnesota. At that point, the fans really were divided about what happened to Favre and the heat really was on Rodgers to show the Packers didn't make a monumental blunder.

I'd be pretty surprised if he went out on Monday night and threw four interceptions through sheer stupidity and bravado. With that said and regardless of what Rodgers says publicly, deep down inside, you'd have to think he really, really wants to shine on this stage. He's never been in a situation like he's going to be in on Monday, so until you see how he's going to react, it's really just guesswork. Some players thrive in these situations. Some don't. I'll never forget watching Favre throw four interceptions in his first game against Mike Holmgren. Funny things happen when you've got a week to think about a game.


Ryan Grant takes on Antoine Winfield last season.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
TY: Ryan Grant was the last player to rush for more than 100 yards against the Vikings, back in 2007, but right now he's averaging only 3.7 yards per carry. Is that him or the offensive line?

BH: Mostly, I'd say the blame has to fall on the offensive line. It's not like he's been running into six defenders while he's had a massive hole off to his right or left. Then again, it's not like he's breaking tackles or stiff-arming them out of his way, either. What's disconcerting is that the Packers tried like crazy to get him involved last week against the lowly Rams and it didn't work. On first down alone, Grant carried the ball 17 times for 34 yards.

But for whatever reason, Grant has been about as successful as any back against the Vikings' mighty run defense. He rushed for 92 yards (7.7 average) in Week 1 last year and 75 yards (4.7 average) in Week 9. And there's the 119-yard output that you referenced from 2007. The Packers desperately need Grant to produce on Monday. Two yards a carry on first down means second-and-long, and that's asking for trouble in a dome game against the Vikings' accomplished pass rushers. They Packers don't need 100 yards out of Grant. They just need Grant to produce enough so the Vikings' aren't getting a free run at Rodgers.

TY: With seven interceptions already, it would seem the secondary is playing well. How is the 3-4 defense overall?

BH: Overall, it's been fine. The defense absolutely dominated Chicago in Week 1 by acing 3-4 Defense 101. The 3-4 is all about blitzing, but you can't do any of that if you're not stopping the run. So, against the Bears, they bottled up Matt Forte, blitzed the heck out of Jay Cutler and picked him off four times. Against Cincinnati, the Packers couldn't stop Cedric Benson and, therefore, couldn't blitz Carson Palmer.

So, as much as the Packers would like make Favre regret coming out of retirement by running a bunch of blitzes and knocking him to the turf repeatedly, the game plan has to be stopping Adrian Peterson so it's second-and-8 rather than second-and-4. Based on what we've seen the last two weeks out of the Packers, that seems like a tall order.

TY: What has surprised you about the Packers to this point?

BH: That they're the shakiest 2-1 team in the league. The Packers were so dominant in the preseason that a lot of people bought into the hype. And I'm not talking only about media and fans. I'm talking about people who know football. People who know football thought the Packers were a team that had all the pieces falling into place at just the right time to make a run at the NFC championship. Now, there are 13 games remaining and all of that could happen yet. But they haven't run the ball consistently, they haven't stopped the run consistently and they haven't protected Rodgers consistently. Other than that, they've been terrific.



Bill Huber is the publisher of PackerReport.com and Tim Yotter is the publisher of VikingUpdate.com. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this hot topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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