[size=18px]The Call: Vikings vs. Packers[/size]
Kevin Seifert, Star Tribune
Last update: November 20, 2005 at 6:33 PM
After RBs Michael Bennett and Ciatrick Fason combined for more carries (20) than yards (16) last week against the N.Y. Giants, the Vikings are looking for answers. Their best hope is that Mewelde Moore, who gained 105 total yards in the Oct. 23 victory over Green Bay, can recover quickly from a sprained wrist. The addition of new LG Toniu Fonoti, a noted mauler, could give Moore/Bennett/Fason a bit more daylight. There is little doubt the Vikings will call plenty of running plays, even if they fall behind. Fonoti's matchup with DT Grady Jackson will be key.
QB Brad Johnson has been unflappable in his first two starts, managing the short-passing game well and coming nowhere close to committing a turnover. Other than the pass-rushing of DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, the Packers offer no fearsome roadblocks. Vikings WR Nate Burleson is nowhere close to 100 percent and might not play, but WR Koren Robinson is appearing more confident and explosive every week. TE Jermaine Wiggins also should be a major factor.
Although veteran RB Tony Fisher (ribs) is expected to return in a limited capacity, rookie RB Samkon Gado could see the majority of first- and second-down carries. Gado runs hard and certainly has young legs, having been a career backup at Division I-AA Liberty. C Mike Flanagan's presence will give the Packers a boost. Vikings DT Pat Williams crushed his backup, Scott Wells, in the teams' first matchup. FB William Henderson's blocking will be an important factor.
Brett Favre threw for 211 yards and two TDs in the first half of the Oct. 23 meeting, but the Vikings shut him down after a depletion of his receiving corps. CB Fred Smoot iced WR Donald Driver, but Smoot is out. Without WR Robert Ferguson, who re-injured his knee, the Packers' next-best threats are WR Antonio Chatman and TE Bubba Franks. Vikings FS Darren Sharper, an ex-Packer, didn't have a big impact in the teams' first game, but his return to Lambeau Field figures to be eventful.
Hard to go against the group that put together one of the best collective efforts in team history last week. It is worth noting that Vikings PK Paul Edinger has missed five of seven attempts on grass this season, but he still seems confident in critical situations. KR Koren Robinson and PR Mewelde Moore both trust their blockers and believe they can take every return to the house. The Packers have no such gamebreakers, but PK Ryan Longwell has ice in his veins.
They're not exactly sitting pretty at 4-5, but few thought the Vikings would be even this close to .500 after their miserable start. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell devised a strong scheme to confuse N.Y. Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Coach Mike Tice also made a bold move this week, replacing veteran LG Chris Liwienski with the raw Fonoti. Like the Vikings' Mike Tice, Green Bay's Mike Sherman is trying to save his job. He's two games behind right now.
There are two ways to look at last week's victory in New York: It was either historic anomaly or an indication that the worm has turned. We're not ready to suggest that something special is going on quite yet, but the Vikings should possess the primary ingredient for a road victory: confidence. They have every reason to be the aggressor tonight.