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Packers' run defense knows it has work to do

Another test awaits Green Bay this Thursday in San Francisco

Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook
Minnesota Vikings RB Dalvin Cook

GREEN BAY – As Adam Thielen jogged over to his side of the field, Adrian Amos recalled a play from earlier in Sunday's game against Minnesota and knew what he needed to do.

With the Packers trailing by two touchdowns, and looking to hold Minnesota on a third-and-1, the veteran safety didn't bite on Thielen's motion and instead shot around the edge to trip up Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook for a 2-yard loss in one of those "gotta-have-it" moments to force a punt midway through the fourth quarter.

The problem for Green Bay and its defense was there just weren't enough of those plays during the team's 28-22 defeat at the hands of the Vikings.

In his first game back from a groin injury, Cook racked up 226 total yards (163 rushing, 63 receiving) and four touchdowns to power Minnesota to its second win of the 2020 campaign.

Of Cook's 30 carries Sunday, the Packers only corralled him behind the line of scrimmage twice – on Amos' TFL and a Za'Darius Smith tackle for a 1-yard loss that contributed to the defense's other fourth-quarter stop to keep Green Bay's hopes alive.

"That's a stop we had to have, get the ball back to our offense after we just been having a bad day on defense," said Amos, who led the Packers with eight tackles. "We need more negative plays on defense and then I think we'll do better against these heavy running teams."

A medley of missed tackles, open holes and Cook's talent contributed to a long day for the run defense on a blustery afternoon inside Lambeau Field.

The Packers held Cook in check in this year's opener (12 carries for 50 yards) but understood the challenge the 25-year-old running back presents. He rushed for 154 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries in Week 2 last year.

With Cook moving the chains, Kirk Cousins needed to drop back only 15 times. Green Bay hit Cousins once – a Dean Lowry sack for a 9-yard loss in the second quarter – but otherwise had difficulty getting the Vikings' QB off his spot.

The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings faced off in a Week 8 matchup on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020.

"We knew exactly what they were going to do in terms of they were going to ride (Cook)," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "We never put them in a situation where they had to drop back and throw the football – or at least not too many times.

"That's something that we better get it fixed, and we better get it fixed fast because I have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen on a short week on Thursday in San Francisco, as well."

The 49ers, who rushed for 285 yards against Green Bay in January's NFC title game, boast a top-10 rushing offense but have been banged up in the backfield this season.

Veterans Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson are on injured reserve with high-ankle sprains, Jerick McKinnon is battling leg fatigue and Tevin Coleman left Sunday's game against Seattle with a knee injury and didn't return.

Still, the Packers recognize they have a lot of work ahead of them – especially on a short week with no padded practices – to make the necessary corrections to bounce back in San Francisco.

"On the defensive side of the ball, we have similar run schemes coming up this week," Amos said. "We need to execute. We have to be focused all week.

"A lot of things are going to be mental because obviously on this short week we can't do too much banging around. We just need to get in our playbooks. We need to get in our films and we have to be better with our assignments."

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