Notebook: Packers Prepare For Plethora Of Playmakers

Along with Brett Favre’s miraculous touchdown pass to Greg Lewis with two seconds remaining to beat the San Francisco 49ers, there was another rather impressive feat turned in by the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday. The 32-yard TD pass to Lewis was the sixth explosive play of at least 30 yards turned in by the Vikings in that game, by the sixth different player. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 2

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Along with Brett Favre's miraculous touchdown pass to Greg Lewis with two seconds remaining to beat the San Francisco 49ers, there was another rather impressive feat turned in by the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday.

The 32-yard TD pass to Lewis was the sixth explosive play of at least 30 yards turned in by the Vikings in that game, by the sixth different player. It was an impressive display of spreading the ball around yet being able to change the game with any of those players at any moment, and it's something the Packers will have to be prepared for come Monday night.

"You really need to make sure you're taking the proper assignments and alignments because a lot of the (San Francisco) breakdowns were execution errors," linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "That's not taking away from their playmakers, because they have a lot of playmakers, no doubt. But when you really break it down, you're seeing it come down to fundamentals and us executing those."

Here's the rundown on Minnesota's half-dozen big gainers from last week:

Early on, (1) running back Adrian Peterson's game-long 35-yard run set up (2) receiver Sidney Rice's 30-yard TD reception. Near the end of the first half, (3) running back Chester Taylor's 30-yard catch-and-run set up a field-goal try, which was blocked. Then in the second half, (4) Percy Harvin returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. Then (5) receiver Bernard Berrian had a 36-yard reception to get the Vikings out of a hole when they were backed up inside their own 10. And finally (6), Lewis snagged the 32-yard TD catch to win the game in the final moments.

Other than Favre, the most notable newcomer to that offensive arsenal this year for the Vikings is Harvin, a first-round draft choice out of Florida. Thus far, Minnesota has lined up him almost anywhere in the offensive formation, including as a "Wildcat" quarterback, and he's averaging 9.2 yards for every touch from scrimmage (12 receptions, 128 yards; 5 rushes, 28 yards). He also has two receiving touchdowns, plus the one score on a kickoff return, with a league-leading 35.8-yard average on 10 kickoff returns total.

"He's a nice tool to add to your toolbox," Minnesota coach Brad Childress said. "There's no such thing as too many good players, and he has a unique skill set.

"I know he was drafted as a wide receiver, but a guy like (Florida coach) Urban Meyer, when he can say he may have been my best running back last year, that's a mouthful. To be able to hand it to him, for him to be able to return the ball, play wide receiver, there's different ways he's going to be able to get different touches. He's not just your split-out-wide guy that somebody may double-cover and take him out of the game. That's another nice piece to the puzzle."

We meet again?

Left tackle Chad Clifton's availability for Monday night's game remains in doubt after he didn't practice for a second straight day.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he would see if Clifton would be able to participate in at least the opening jog-through portion of practice on Saturday, the final on-field workout before the game. It appears the best-case scenario at this point is Clifton would be a game-time decision.

If Clifton can't play, that would leave Daryn Colledge to start at left tackle for the second straight game. It would also match Colledge up with Minnesota's best pass rusher, end Jared Allen, who had 14½ sacks last season for the Vikings, his first with that team after four years in Kansas City. One of those was for a safety against the Packers. Allen has a team-high two sacks so far this year.

"He's been playing defensive end a lot longer than I've been playing left tackle, so obviously the advantage is his right now," Colledge said. "I've got a lot of work to do this week and I plan on trying to step up to this challenge and having some success. I'm not going to lay down because it's Jared Allen. I'm going to go out there and do my work."

Interestingly, Colledge and Allen went head-to-head once back in their college days. In 2003, when Colledge was a sophomore left tackle at Boise State and Allen was a senior defensive end at Idaho State, they squared off in an early-season September contest.

Colledge's Boise State squad won handily, 62-0, but Allen did record one sack in the game. He got it in the first quarter, when it was only 10-0 and the game still in the balance, and he forced a fumble by Boise State's quarterback on the play. The player who recovered the fumble? Colledge.

Critical stat

Normally, the turnover ratio is the most critical statistic in football. But in the recent history of the Packers-Vikings rivalry, there's another stat that has been more telling in terms of winning and losing the game -- third-down conversions.

In the six games McCarthy and Childress have gone head-to-head over the past three seasons, the winner of the turnover battle is just 3-2 (with one tie in turnovers). Minnesota lost the game despite a plus-2 in turnovers in the second meeting in 2006, while the Packers lost despite a plus-3 in turnovers in the second meeting last year.

But whichever team has converted third downs at a higher rate is 5-1. The only game against the norm was the season opener last year, when the Vikings edged the Packers in conversion rate (44 percent to 40 percent) but Green Bay won the game.

It's also worth noting that three times the losing team has had an abysmal third-down percentage. In the second meeting in '06, Minnesota converted just 2-of-14 third downs (14 percent), and when the Packers blanked the Vikings in the second meeting in '07, Minnesota was 0-of-8.

Last year at the Metrodome, the Packers were just 1-of-11 on third downs (9 percent), and that's the only game McCarthy has lost to the Vikings.

Injury/participation update

Defensive linemen Johnny Jolly (abdomen) and B.J. Raji (ankle) were added to the injury report on Friday as limited participants.

{sportsad300}McCarthy said Jolly's abdomen just flared up on him in practice on Thursday, while Raji had a setback with the ankle problem he's been battling all season. He sounded hopeful both players would be able to practice on Saturday.

In addition to Clifton (ankle), linebacker Jeremy Thompson (knee) also did not practice for the second straight day. Safety Atari Bigby (knee) and running back Brandon Jackson (ankle) remain out.

Defensive end Cullen Jenkins (groin) was a full participant and cornerback Charles Woodson (foot) was limited after both did not participate on Thursday.

Receiver Greg Jennings (wrist) was a full participant for the second straight day.

For the Vikings, the only change from their Thursday report was that punter Chris Kluwe (illness) was upgraded from limited to a full participant.

Otherwise, guard Steve Hutchinson (back) and receiver Darius Reynaud (hamstring) did not participate for the second straight day, while Favre (foot), cornerback Cedric Griffin (hand), linebackers Erin Henderson (calf) and E.J. Henderson (shoulder), tight end Jim Kleinsasser (hand), and fullback Naufahu Tahi (back) all remained limited.

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