Vikings, Packers need a win
GREEN BAY, Wis. - For the Vikings, this is a game that can put them back on an even keel. For the Packers, it can be another step on the path back to respectability. Minnesota and Green Bay go into tonight's game desperate for a win for very diff...
GREEN BAY, Wis. - For the Vikings, this is a game that can put them back on an even keel.
For the Packers, it can be another step on the path back to respectability.
Minnesota and Green Bay go into tonight's game desperate for a win for very different reasons. The Vikings believe at 4-5 they are still in the race for the NFC North and have a shot at fulfilling the promise this season once had.
The Packers believe at 2-7 they just need a win - any win - to build on last week's upset at Atlanta.
"Now is not the time to get excited, because we really haven't done anything," Minnesota coach Mike Tice said. "We're still 4-5. We're under .500. We'll get excited when we move into first place."
The Vikings' problems have been well documented. A disappointing start was compounded by a scandalous boat trip that embarrassed the team and put the Vikings on the verge of collapse. Instead, they found a way last month to come back from a 17-0 halftime deficit and beat the Packers on a last-second, 56-yard kick by Paul Edinger - the longest field goal in franchise history.
Since then, they've gone 2-1, losing quarterback Daunte Culpepper for the season to a knee injury in the loss against Carolina, another blow that could've ruined the season.
Again, the Vikings found a way to bounce back, beating the New York Giants last week despite gaining just 137 yards by becoming the first team in league history to score touchdowns by returning a punt, kickoff and interception in one game.
Tice pointed out the Vikings have four of their final six games at home, an opportunity to make a run should they beat the Packers. Green Bay is the first of four straight teams Minnesota plays that have losing records.
"I like how things are coming together, but we've got a long way to go," Tice said. "I can't sit here and do cartwheels over 137 yards of offense."
The Packers have shown promise before this season, only to blow it with the loss to Minnesota. Green Bay followed a 52-3 win over New Orleans with its collapse in Minnesota, and no one is assuming last week's victory in Atlanta means the Packers are primed for a turnaround.
The offense may have finally found a running game in rookie Samkon Gado, a Nigerian native who was cut by Kansas City earlier this year and was ready to give up football for medical school before the Packers signed him Oct. 17. He ran for 103 yards and scored three touchdowns, but even he admits the belief he could be the answer for the Packers' rushing woes is tenuous.
While his 103 yards Sunday were 27 more than the Packers have averaged as a team, he also fumbled twice. Both were recovered by the Packers
"I'm one fumble away from the general consensus being very different," Gado said.
The Packers are also on the verge of ending a very impressive streak. Quarterback Brett Favre hasn't had a losing season since he took over as starter in 1992, a run of 13 years that's best in the league. To extend it, Green Bay will have to finish 6-1, which may not be impossible with Chicago (twice) and Seattle the only teams left on the schedule with winning records.
Carolina was in a similar situation last season, losing a rash of players to injury as the Panthers stumbled to a 1-7 start. The Panthers finished strong - though missing the playoffs at 7-9 - and are atop the NFC South this season.
The Packers aren't thinking much about the big picture right now.
"We've got to win one game at a time," tight end Bubba Franks said. "We can't say we want to win them all. We've still go to play them one game at a time. Minnesota is the most important game right now."
The Vikings are convinced they still haven't put together a game with offense, defense and special teams working together. They showed last week they can win with just defense and special teams. But wide receiver Nate Burleson said the Vikings know if they can get everything to click, they can do something special.
Even though the offense struggled last week, quarterback Brad Johnson moved the ball when the Vikings needed it most, driving 42 yards in eight plays and completing four passes to set up the last-second field goal that won the game.
"We have the ability to go blow teams out," Burleson said. "We just have to put it together."