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Butler's Breakdown: Packers vs. Vikings


Off to a 3-4 start, heading into the Metrodome to face the 6-1 Minnesota Vikings, the Green Bay Packers are playing for pride this week.

Pride and respect.

I know everyone is going to be betting against the Packers this weekend, but a win would mean so much more to this team than one game in the standings. A victory here could launch the Packers into a second-half charge into the playoffs.

But getting that win won't be easy.

The Packers defense has struggled of late, but I think the biggest match-up of the game will be the Green Bay offense against the Minnesota defense.

Under Brett Favre the Packers are 2-9 in the Metrodome. It's a tough place to play, probably the second-loudest stadium I've ever played in behind Kansas City's Aarowhead Stadium.

But the beautiful thing about the Metrodome is how quiet it gets if you can jump out to an early lead. If the Packers strike early, it'll be so silent that you could hear a cat chasing a ball of yarn.

So how do the Packers do that?

First off, they can't afford any turnovers. That's been their Achilles' heel this season, and it seems like every time the Packers go to the Metordome, they give the ball away.

Secondly, they need to establish the run. Ahman Green has been the most deadly weapon on the team this year, and once the running game is there, the Packers can go to play-action and let Favre work with his receivers.

If the Packers can draw 1-on-1 coverage against their receiving corps, they should win those match-ups every single time.

For the running game to work, and for Favre to stay on his feet, the offensive line has to come through with a great performance. When Favre does drop back to throw, he needs to be patient and take what the defense gives him.

If that means dump-off passes for short yards, so be it. In the big picture, it's important that the Packers win the field position battle to win the game, and to do that they have to move the football.

That said, the Packers are coming off the bye week and I expect they'll do a number of things to keep the Vikings defense on its heels.

Expect the Packers to take some downfield shots, which are low-percentage overall, but like gold when you complete them on the road. Figure that the Packers will also do things like no-huddle or quick screens Anything to keep the Vikings defense guessing.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Packers run the football a few times on third-and-long. If it doesn't work the first time, you'll probably groan about the play calling. But be patient. I think this week it could work more often than not.

Normally I try to pick a player to watch every game, but I think everyone on the Packers offense is going to have to step up big Sunday night.

On the defensive side, let's assume that the Packers have used the bye week to figure out some new ways of applying pressure on the quarterback.

Blitzing Daunte Culpepper can be dangerous, because he's so elusive. In order to keep him from scrambling down the field and hurting the Packers with his legs, the defensive line has to stay home in their gaps.

You can take your chances with Culpepper going around the outside, but you can't let him break loose up the middle.

Of course the Vikings' biggest weapon is wide receiver Randy Moss, who had nine receptions for 150 yards in the season opener at Lambeau Field.

Safety Darren Sharper was limited that game due to a groin injury, but is healthy now and has to have a big game Sunday.

In playing next to Sharper, it seemed he always turned in some of his best performances against Moss. That's probably because at 6-foot-2, he matches up a lot better than most 5-9 defensive backs.

The reason Moss was so successful against the Packers in Week 1 wasn't just because of Sharper's absence, but because the Packers didn't disguise their defensive schemes long enough.

Culpepper and the Vikings have been very successful throwing the ball to Moss whenever he gets lined up 1-on-1. Often times they'll just throw the ball in the air and let him make a play.

The key to matching up against Moss is to play him tough coming off the line. He's strong enough and fast enough that he's going to get by you some of the time, but you have to do your best to keep him from going deep.

Short catches are okay. Bombs will kill the Packers.

When Culpepper puts the ball in the air, the defensive backs have to remember to play the ball and not the receiver. Against Moss, lots of DBs lose focus and take their eye of the ball. That only makes it easier for Moss to come down with it.

The key to having help on Moss, is to shut down Kelly Campbell 1-on-1. If the Packers can't do that, they won't be able to shift the defense, and they'll be in trouble.

When Minnesota isn't throwing to Moss, they'll be running away from him.

The Vikings will assume that most of the time the Packers defense will be shifted toward the play-making receiver. By running away from him, they're likely to find fewer defenders.

Michael Bennett could be back this week, but Moe Williams and Onterrio Smith have been effective in his absence. If Bennett plays, his fresh legs and blazing speed could be dangerous on that fast track.

As I said earlier, the Packers will look to shake things up defensively.

They will blitz, but they'll be smart about it, bringing the heat on third-and-long and second-and-short.

They need to bring that same pressure on special teams, where a blocked field goal or punt would go a long way to a road win.

Under coordinator John Bonamego, the Packers have been crafty on special teams, and I don't expect anything different this week.

I do expect Antonio Chatman to finally break one, because he's been so close so many times. That week off for the bye has hopefully rested his legs just enough to give him the extra step he needs.

Perhaps the most important player of the game is kicker Ryan Longwell.

The Packers will need to cash in on every scoring opportunity. And if beating the Vikings means kicking seven field goals, then Longwell needs to make all seven.

Josh Bidwell needs to continue his strong season in order to win that crucial field position battle.

The Packers don't have a lot of wiggling room if they want to come away from Minnesota with a win. But they aren't facing an impossible task.

I know Favre hasn't fared well in the Metrodome. I know his thumb is broken.

But the Packers are playing for pride and respect this week. And those are two things Favre knows all about.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is providing exclusive analysis to with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays and a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website,*

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