Vikings see Rodgers as doubly dangerous

It's not just Aaron Rodgers' arm that concerns the Vikings defense. They are coming into the game with a plan to limit him, one that allowed them to sack Rodgers eight times the last time the teams met.

It's hard to look as the NFL's second-rated quarterback as the "other guy" in a matchup of signal-callers, but it would seem that Aaron Rodgers will be taking a back seat to the media frenzy surrounding Brett Favre's return to Lambeau Field. As important as Favre will be to the level of success the Vikings enjoy, perhaps no quarterback in the league will be more important to his team than Rodgers will be Sunday.

Rodgers was constantly harassed by the Vikings in the first meeting between the teams earlier this month at the Metrodome, but he rallied his troops late, completing 26 of 37 passes for 384 yards and two touchdowns. In his last three games, Rodgers has thrown for 988 yards and seven touchdowns. As a result, he has become the league's second-rated passer with a passer rating of 110.8 – behind only Peyton Manning's rating of 114.5. Despite being 20th in the league in pass attempts (184) and 15th in completions (121), Rodgers is eighth in completion percentage (65.8), sixth in yards (1,702), first in average per pass attempt (9.25 yards) and third in interceptions (2).

Not only has he been effective with his arm, but his 136 rushing yards is third among quarterbacks, making him doubly dangerous. Vikings safety Madieu Williams said that if the Vikings are going to gain a season sweep over the Packers, a lot of it will depend on them repeating their performance from their first meeting.

"Any time you get a quarterback outside the pocket it creates problems because receivers are going to find the holes in the zone," Williams said. "We're going to have to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket. Our D-line did a good job last time doing that the first time. I don't think that will change much Sunday."

Rodgers is an extremely efficient passer and, over his last three games, has torched the Vikings, Browns and Lions with big plays. But, one of the biggest concerns for the Vikings defense is his ability to make plays with his feet – both as a scrambler and a passer. He lit up the Vikings in the season opener at Lambeau Field last year by being able to effectively scramble when the pocket broke down, and linebacker Chad Greenway said that as dangerous a passer as Rodgers is, he is likely more feared because of his agility and ability to make significant gains on plays where he seemed destined to be taken down for a loss.

"Aaron can beat you with his feet," Greenway said. "He's done that before over there a couple of times. The Monday night game last year, he killed us with his feet. We have to be aware of that. They're going to take some shots down the field and we're going to have to limit what they do as far as big plays. In the first game this year, they had a bunch of big plays. If we limit those and force them to drive 10, 12, 14 plays (in order to score), it puts us in a better situation."

The onus will be on the secondary to make plays when Rodgers extends them to maintain their coverage for five, six or seven seconds. Cornerback Cedric Griffin said that, while they have different body types, the kinds of plays Rodgers can make by moving in the pocket are the same types of things the Vikings were concerned about last week with Ben Roethlisberger.

"Ben and Rodgers are similar," Griffin said. "Ben is a lot bigger, but both them are scramblers and make a lot of plays after a play is broken down. We have to keep our eyes on our man and go out and execute and stay with them if a play breaks down."

Since coming off their bye week, the Packers have looked like a much different team. Granted, they played the woeful Browns and Lions, but Green Bay has outscored its opponents 57-3 in the last two games in no small measure due to Rodgers playing big. In those two games, he completed 44 of 57 passes (77.2 percent) for 604 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. When the Vikings watch film on Green Bay, there are plenty of reasons for the defense to be concerned, especially with Antoine Winfield declared out of the lineup. He will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Benny Sapp, who believes the perceived weakness of the Vikings secondary without Winfield is likely going to prompt Rodgers to try to burn them over the top.

"He's a great quarterback, so he will pose some problems for us," Sapp said. "The last couple of weeks, they've made a lot of big plays and are going to try to do the same against us. I'm sure they're going to have a bunch of plays designed to take us deep. It will be our job to take those away and force them to check down to the short passing game."

The key to controlling Rodgers will be to prevent him from running. In the first meeting, Jared Allen and Ray Edwards did an excellent job of containing him and Allen said if they're going to get a repeat performance, keeping him from being comfortable and forcing him into third-and-long situations will be paramount.

"We have to put ourselves in position to be able to put the pass rush on him," Allen said. "We have to win on first and second down and keep the advantage with us."

Although Rodgers has developed into one of the top quarterbacks in the league, the Vikings aren't going to come into the game afraid of what he can do against them. What he has accomplished against teams like the Lions and Browns doesn't matter to the Viking defenders, who put Rodgers on his back early and often during their first game. If anyone should be afraid, they believe, it should be Rodgers, not them.

"We're going to treat him just like we do any other quarterback," nose tackle Pat Williams said. "We don't put no quarterback on a pedestal. We don't care who they have back there. We're going to bring the heat to him whoever he is."

INJURY UPDATE

  • The final injury report of the week lists CB Winfield (foot) as out. WR Bernard Berrian (hamstring), LB Jasper Brinkley (hamstring), WR Percy Harvin (ill) and WR Darius Reynaud (hamstring) are questionable. QB Brett Favre (hip), LB E.J. Henderson (knee), LB Ben Leber (calf), CB Karl Paymah (quad) and FB Naufahu Tahi (knee) are probable.

    Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (foot) practiced in full Friday after being limited the previous two games. He's listed as probable and will play. RT Chad Clifton (ankle) practiced Friday, but remains questionable. TE Jermichael Finley (knee) was not able to practice Friday and was listed as doubtful.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

  • Viking Update Top Stories