GREEN BAY – The Packers will attempt to revive their offense this Sunday against one of the league’s top young defenses.
“They have a good scheme and they play hard,” Packers Associate Head Coach and play-caller Tom Clements said of the 7-2 Vikings, a team on a five-game winning streak that has moved them into first place in the NFC North.
The Vikings are led by the league’s No. 1 rush offense and leading rusher, Adrian Peterson. The complement to Peterson is a young defense that has risen to No. 9 overall, No. 8 against the pass.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer is a former defensive coordinator known for a particular scheme that’ll give the Vikings the look of a seven-man front. The offense’s challenge is to identify the rushers at the snap of the ball.
“They like to get their linebackers up on the same level as the linemen,” Clements said.
It’s Zimmer’s version of the zone blitz Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers has used effectively during his career.
“You see people in the league who have elements of it, but he’s got the full package. He’s committed to it,” Capers said of Zimmer.
“He picks his moments,” Clements said of the Vikings’ use of the blitz. “They play good, sound, fundamental defense. If they get you at a point that it’s to their advantage, they like to eat you up. Anything you can think of, they can probably do.”
The Packers have struggled to sustain drives and score points through the last four games, but Clements saw signs of encouragement in the Packers’ 18-16 loss to the Lions.
“We made gains in plays run, 82. We had a ton at the end of the game; too many three-and-outs. We got better but we have to do it more consistently,” he said.
Capers’ defense is facing the ultimate stop-the-run challenge: How do you stop Peterson?
“I’m looking for any suggestions,” Capers said. “You can’t ever relax. You might have a great game going, but on any given play … last week it was late in the game when he broke the 80-yarder.
“You have to get multiple people to the ball. He’s a violent runner. You have to not get your defense at different levels.”
The Packers defense is No. 23 overall, No. 24 against the run.
Packers Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook is facing a challenge similar to Capers’: Stop Vikings kick-returner Cordarrelle Patterson, who returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown last Sunday against the Raiders.
“We can’t kick it out of bounds. We have to kick it to him and tackle him to the ground. He’s the real deal,” Zook said.
November wind and cold intensify the challenge for special teams. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-30s in Minnesota on Sunday. The days of non-returnable kickoffs are coming to an end.
“It’s going to be the same weather for both sides. That’s playing football in the north,” Zook said.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby is coming off a rare bad kick. His attempt to win the game against the Lions with a 52-yard try resulted in a wobbly kick that fell short of the end zone.
“Mason’s foot hit the ground and bounced up. Getting into the weather, this is where these guys make their money,” Zook said.
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