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Notebook: Getting To Favre A Key Factor

While Green Bay’s defense would love to duplicate the performance it had against Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson in Week 4 at Minnesota, the players know that putting pressure on quarterback Brett Favre on Sunday will be critical in the divisional showdown at Lambeau Field. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 28

While Green Bay's defense would love to duplicate the performance it had against Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson in Week 4 at Minnesota, the players know that putting pressure on quarterback Brett Favre on Sunday will be critical in the divisional showdown at Lambeau Field.

The Packers limited Peterson, the NFL's second-leading rusher this season with 687 yards, to a season-low 55 yards on the ground on 25 attempts (2.2 avg.), the third-lowest output in his three-year career.

The flip side of that was Favre, who connected on 24-of-31 attempts (77.4 percent) for 271 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions on his way to a 135.3 passer rating. It was the only time this season that Green Bay's defense didn't post a sack as well as the only time Favre hasn't been sacked in a game this year.

"I think we did a pretty good job of shutting down one of the premier, if not the premier running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson," linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "What we didn't do a good job of obviously was pressuring and disrupting Brett, getting him off his rhythm and things like that.

"It's not a secret. You want to always control the run game, but then you want to make it one-dimensional so you can get after the quarterback. We didn't get that side of it done last time we played them and we want to do that this time."

In Green Bay's last two games, vs. Detroit and at Cleveland, the Packers have continued their success against the run, limiting the Lions to just 78 yards on 18 carries and the Browns to only 58 yards on 21 attempts. Along with that production against the run has come increased pressure on the quarterback, with a season-high five sacks against Detroit and two more on Sunday at Cleveland.

While sacks are what show up on the stat sheet, just as important is the pressure on the quarterback, an area the Packers have improved in as well the last two weeks. The coaches credited the defense with 13 quarterback hits against the Lions, a season-high, and 10 at Cleveland, which matched their previous season best of 10 against the Bears in the season opener. Compare that with the six hits and no sacks on Favre in Week 4, and the connection is clear.

"I think it's very critical to cause some havoc," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "Maybe we don't get the sacks there, but if we can cause some pressure and get him moving around and have our guys lock up their guys, I think we can create some stuff for our defense."

Last week in Minnesota's first loss of the season, Favre was sacked four times, which matched his season high, and posted two turnovers for the first time as a Viking. The first, a fumble forced by Brett Keisel, was scooped up by linebacker LaMarr Woodley and returned for a 77-yard touchdown to push Pittsburgh's lead to 20-10. The second turnover came when Favre's screen pass went off the hands of running back Chester Taylor and was returned by linebacker Keyaron Fox for a game-clinching 82-yard score.

"We've got to get to that quarterback and we've got to stop the run, and that's the challenge with them," Barnett said. "They've got one heck of a running back back there and a great offensive line, so you've got to be prepared for the run and you have to be prepared to stop the pass.

"It's a balance, and I think we've got a great defensive coordinator and a good defense. I think we're up to the challenge. Now it's on us to go out there and execute it."

Up in the air

Head Coach Mike McCarthy spoke several times this offseason about his desire to settle on the same five offensive linemen after injuries forced the team to use multiple starting fronts in 2008.

Six games into the '09 campaign, the Packers have opened up games with different combinations of players on the offensive line in four contests because of injuries once again.

Coming off the offensive line's finest performance of the season at Cleveland, one that saw the Packers rush for 202 yards and not allow any sacks of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, McCarthy said the team is still striving for continuity and cohesiveness on the line, but that he won't make a decision on the starting five until the end of the week.

"I think that's clearly what you look for in every offensive line, the ability to play next to the same guy more than one or two weeks," McCarthy said. "We've had a hard time hitting that target. That's just the way it has gone for us as far as injuries and some of the rotations we've had to go through.

"We're striving to find that group collectively that plays with some continuity. We're doing the best we can to get that done."

In Cleveland, the Packers opened up with rookie T.J. Lang at left tackle in place of an injured Chad Clifton, with Daryn Colledge at left guard, Scott Wells at center in place of an injured Jason Spitz, Josh Sitton at right guard and Allen Barbre at right tackle.

Spitz was active at Cleveland after missing the Detroit game, but only saw time on extra points against the Browns. He did not participate in Wednesday's practice, but McCarthy said it is possible he could practice on Thursday following treatment on Wednesday.

Clifton was limited in Wednesday's practice due to an ankle injury originally sustained in Week 2 vs. Cincinnati and aggravated in Week 6 against the Lions.

Wells did not practice, but McCarthy said Wells was handling a personal issue that was a "very positive one", and would be back on the practice field on Thursday.

Taking the week

Tight end Jermichael Finley, who sustained a sprained knee on his 16-yard reception on the Packers' opening drive Sunday at Cleveland, did not participate in Wednesday's practice, but the decision on his availability for Sunday's game against the Vikings could very well go right up until gameday.

"Based on what Dr. McKenzie feels about Jermichael, it's going to be as much treatment around the clock between now and...Saturday will potentially the first test day, or a Sunday morning workout is what we are shooting for," McCarthy said.

{sportsad300}Finley had a breakout performance against the Vikings in Week 4, posting career-bests in receptions (six) and receiving yards (128), matching Jackie Harris' mark for the best single-game yardage mark by a Packers tight end in franchise history. Finley's 62-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter was the longest by a Green Bay tight end since Harris recorded a 66-yard grab in 1993.

If Finley is not able to go on Sunday, first-year tight end Spencer Havner, coming off a career-best performance at Cleveland, would see increased reps behind the other tight end on the roster, veteran Donald Lee.

"Jermichael is unique; I think we all recognize that as far as the matchup opportunities that he gives you, which was evident in the game up there in Minnesota," McCarthy said. "We felt that he was an excellent matchup for us in that game and he took full advantage of that opportunity with the big evening up there.

"Really the next set of issues when you game plan, it's not Spencer. It's not having the third tight end. You never want to go into a game where you are one injury away from being out of your core base concepts that you are planning for that game. You don't want to have your whole offense in two tight ends. Those are some of the things we're looking at."

Coming back

Plenty of attention will be placed on what kind of reception Favre will receive in his return to Lambeau Field Sunday, and you can include some of the Packers players as being curious for what that welcome will be.

"I don't know what they are going to do," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "You have Brett Favre fans and you have Packer fans. Brett Favre fans are probably going to cheer him regardless of the situation, and Packer fans are going to boo him. So I could see that happening. That's part of life. You deal with it and move on.

"I know him but I don't know he would handle that. He hasn't ever gotten booed before, has he? Yeah, so I don't know. It will be hard to see, so I don't know. It will be funny. I want to see what happens. I want to see the expression on his face."

McCarthy was on Green Bay's staff as quarterbacks coach in 1999 when former head coach Mike Holmgren returned to Lambeau Field for the first time as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.

"I think once the ball is kicked off the Green Bay Packer fans will be the great fans that they always are," McCarthy said. "Our fans have a lot of class. I think they'll be appropriate."

Injury/participation update

Fullback Korey Hall (calf) and wide receiver Jordy Nelson (knee) are out for Sunday.

Finley, Spitz, Wells and safety Derrick Martin (hamstring) did not participate on Wednesday.

Clifton, linebacker Clay Matthews (jaw), Rodgers (foot), cornerback Charles Woodson (hip) and defensive end Jarius Wynn (hamstring) were limited participants.

For Minnesota, wide receiver Bernard Berrian (hamstring), defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (not injury related), linebacker E.J. Henderson (knee) and cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) did not participate.

Favre (hip), linebackers Jasper Brinkley (hamstring) and Ben Leber (calf), cornerback Karl Paymah (quadriceps), wide receiver Darius Reynaud (hamstring) and fullback Naufahu Tahi (knee) were limited participants.

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