Pass Rush Has Paid Dividends vs. Minnesota

If there’s been one constant in the previous three victories over Minnesota, it’s that the Packers have gotten steady pressure on the quarterback, no matter who it’s been. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Vikings Game Center Notebook: Coston’s Health Could Factor Into Guard Decision Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 9

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DE Aaron Kampman gets one of his three sacks against Minnesota QB Tarvaris Jackson in last year's Packers-Vikings matchup at Lambeau Field on Dec. 21, 2006.

If, as expected, Brooks Bollinger starts at quarterback for Minnesota on Sunday at Lambeau Field, he will become the fourth different starter at that position for the Vikings in their last four games against the Packers.

But if there's been one constant in Green Bay's previous three victories in the series, it's that the Packers have gotten steady pressure on the quarterback, no matter who it's been.

When it was Brad Johnson on Nov. 12, 2006, the defense racked up four sacks. Against Tarvaris Jackson on Dec. 21, it was three sacks, all by Aaron Kampman. And earlier this season, facing Kelly Holcomb on Sept. 30, it was four more sacks.

What's been the secret? Well, it's not as though the Packers are going to reveal it, even if they could pinpoint it. But the truth is, they haven't really stopped to think about how they've compiled 11 sacks against the same foe in three games.

"I wish I knew," Kampman said. "Obviously we'd like to see that happen again."

The run of relentless pressure on Minnesota QBs began with a string of blitzes. In last year's four-sack game against Johnson, three of the four were recorded by linebackers on blitzes. A.J. Hawk had 1 1/2 sacks, Brady Poppinga had one, and Nick Barnett had 1/2 (Cullen Jenkins had the other sack in that game).

But the Packers haven't relied on the blitz by any means. In the last two games, all seven sacks have been tallied by defensive linemen -- Kampman leads the way with four, followed by Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila with two and Ryan Pickett with one -- so mixing up the pressure packages has helped.

Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders noted that down-and-distance and game situations have played a part as well. Three of the 11 sacks have come on third-and-6 or longer, while four others have come either late in the game or late in the half when the Vikings have been in a pass-only mode.

That's a defensive lineman's treat, and the Packers have taken advantage.

"Coach turns us loose and lets us go, and I love it when he does that," Corey Williams said. "When he gives us the 'go' call, that means hey, get to the quarterback."

Bollinger, the former University of Wisconsin star, brings some mobility against the rush much like Jackson did last year. In that start at Lambeau Field, Jackson rushed five times for 23 yards.

That becomes a coaching point both leading up to and during the game, that the defensive linemen must stay in their rush lanes and keep the quarterback from escaping.

"Every week you try to hold the quarterback in there," Sanders said. "Some are more mobile than others, but certainly you want everybody in the pocket and throwing. We're well aware of those situations and we talk to the guys about it."

{sportsad300}The other factor that could play into Sunday's pass rush is Minnesota's running game with Adrian Peterson. The dynamic rookie is the one player who can keep Bollinger and the Vikings out of obvious pass situations and keep the defensive linemen and linebackers from being able to concentrate solely on applying pressure to the QB.

"With the way their running backs are playing, it adds a new dimension with the play-pass and those types of things because you have to get out hard on the run, but then you have to be certain to hold deep," Sanders said. "It's going to be a big challenge for us.

"You like to tweak the things you try to do and adjust, but you don't want to get away from your base stuff. I'm sure they don't either. But we'll have a few new wrinkles here or there."

Wrinkles that hopefully will keep the sacks coming.

"We have to be able to get them in a passing game," Kampman said. "A team that's running the ball as well as they are, we've got our work cut out for us to get them in that situation, and like any week, that's always our focus.

"We want to stop the run, we always do, and get them in position where we can play to another one of our strengths, which is rushing the passer. It will be no different this week."

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