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Defense Gearing Up For Sunday Test


While it appears that All-Pro receiver and notorious Packer slayer Randy Moss will not be part of the Minnesota Vikings' offensive attack this Sunday when the Packers take on their NFC North rivals at Lambeau Field, by no means does that signal to the defense of the Green and Gold that they will have an easy time.

Still at the helm of the Vikings' high-powered attack is quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who has been nothing short of spectacular through eight games this season, as he leads the NFC in nearly every passing category.

Packer defenders are aware that they will have their hands full not only the big man wearing #11, but the rest of his supporting cast as well. GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman knows that any number of Vikings could step up to have a big game, whether or not they have Moss at their disposal, including any of their four running backs.

"They have a slew of running backs back there," said Sherman. "And with the return of Mewelde Moore - he might be the best fourth-round pick in football this year - they have an excellent group of backs who can not only run the football but catch the football, run routes, catch screens and whatnot. They're very talented at that position.

"I think the utmost of Randy Moss. He's one of the all-time best at his position, but they have other guys that have done a nice job for them - Nate Burleson, Marcus Robinson, Kelly Campbell have all been very good for them. Their quarterback has been phenomenal this year, so I think the challenge that they present to us is the fact that they can run the ball, and they can throw the ball. There's not much that they can't do offensively."

Linebacker Na'il Diggs knows that his opponents' sport a very dangerous, well-rounded attack, led by Culpepper.

"It's a full-fledged offense," said Diggs. "Right now they're at the top of the league in a lot of categories and the thing that Daunte's doing is he's doing very well on third downs - he's keeping them on the field. With his talent, size, and throwing ability, he's really a multi-dimensional quarterback that can do pretty much everything to you. You've really got to respect all aspects of the game."

Fellow 'backer Nick Barnett is also preparing to stop Culpepper along with their multi-faceted running game, which ensures that there are always fresh legs in the backfield.

"They all bring different things to the table, but you've just got to go in there and try to shut everybody down," Barnett said.

Onterrio Smith, Michael Bennett, Mewelde Moore, and Moe Williams aren't the only Vikings who possess the ability to hurt you with their running, though. Culpepper is an added running threat, especially on third downs.

"We've struggled with that at times," Sherman said. "He converts third downs with his arm or with his feet. You go to tackle him and people bounce off him. You have to keep him in your vision, keep leverage on him at all times."

Safety Darren Sharper is equally wary of Culpepper's multi-pronged attacking system.

"They have a lot of different things that they do well, and it all starts with their quarterback because he's a double threat throwing and running," said the veteran play-maker. "When there's nobody open, he'll take off running and get first downs. We've seen that in the past. He's an extra running back, and then you add in the fact that they have four quality running backs - it makes it tough stop. And then they have good receivers too, so there are a lot of things that you have to worry about.

"He's playing at an MVP level. He played good in past years, but now he's playing lights out. He's not making any mistakes. You think about a guy having a quarterback rating of 115 - it's just unbelievable. The thing about him is that he's hurting people with his arm, but he's also killing them with his feet."

Almost lost in the discussion of Minnesota's offensive prowess is the fact they figure to be playing without a future Hall of Fame receiver. While that fact may not be lost on cornerback Al Harris, he still will be readying himself for the contest as if Moss were going to play.

"It's not going to change the way I prepare for a game, so if he plays, he plays. If he doesn't, he doesn't," said Harris. "It doesn't matter to me who plays. Whoever they put in front of me, I'm up for the challenge."

The dreadlocked defender knows he's still in for quite a tussle after watching the Viking offense perform well without one of their top weapons.

"I think they pretty much run their plays no matter who's in there," Harris stated. "They did pretty well on Monday. They lost, but even without him, they scored points, so I'm pretty sure they're going to do what they do regardless of who plays."

The Packers' defense knows they will be tested this week, a test which they are looking forward to. Defensive end Aaron Kampman summed up the feeling in the locker room, as the home team knows that Sunday's contest has the potential to kick the Packers off on a successful stretch run.

"It's a huge game for us and I think it's a great way for us to start off the second half of the season with a game of this magnitude."

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