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'Disciplined Coverage' a Focus for Vikings DBs Against Packers

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Captain Munnerlyn once said it was crucial for defensive backs to "keep their eyes on their luggage" when facing the Packers. Now two years – and four Border Battle games – later, Munnerlyn hasn't changed his stance.

The "luggage" Munnerlyn spoke of refers to Green Bay's wide receivers. The cornerback won't risk losing any bags for Sunday night's home opener at U.S. Bank Stadium; he hopes to not lose any receivers, either. 

Munnerlyn said defenders must stay with their assignment for the length of plays because Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers can extend plays. He said pressuring Rodgers requires a coordinated and measured effort.

"You definitely have to be in your gap. Everybody has to be in their gap," Munnerlyn said Monday. "If I'm supposed to be outside blitzing, I have to stay outside.

"You can't go in and try to blast [Rodgers], because he can escape and find an open guy," Munnerlyn continued. "So you definitely have to control it and be prepared as DBs to stay covering." 

The Packers 2016 starting receivers are Jordy Nelson, who missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL, and Randall Cobb.

In 2014, Nelson recorded 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns. In his past four games against the Vikings, Nelson has totaled nine catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns. In two of those games, Minnesota held him out of the end zone.

Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said Nelson and Rodgers always seem to be in sync.

"They have a good connection," Edwards said. "You see a couple times, [Rodgers] throws a smoke out there to him, and it ends up being a back-shoulder fade. They're on the same page, and it's an easy catch. He catches the ball – boom! – and [will get] out of bounds, stop the clock, those types of situations.

"That really helps him as far as those two being on the same page," Edwards added. "Understanding what they're trying to get done route-wise, understanding what they're trying to do if it's a run, then all of a sudden you stem the safety down in coverage, and he's able to get the ball out to him, and they're able to connect."

Veteran cornerback Terence Newman has faced Rodgers six times since the quarterback became a starter in 2008. He said Rodgers' ability to extend plays and find open receivers makes it difficult to defend Green Bay's offense.

"[Receivers] just find open spots, and it's like one guy takes off, the other guy goes this place, and he finds them," Newman said. "That's something that's going to be tough to guard against, because you don't know when it's coming, you don't know where the guys are going to end up at. You just have to try to extend and understand where a guy wants to go."

Know the Green Bay Packers key contributors on offense, defense and special teams heading into the first regular season game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Newman echoed Munnerlyn, saying tight coverage is the priority when Rodgers starts shifting around in the pocket and looking to find a target.

"You just have to play football at that point," Newman said. "Scramble, and stay with your guy, and try to make a play if it comes your way."

Edwards said the most important thing heading into Sunday is for the defensive backs to maintain a controlled coverage. He said the Vikings defense has to keep in mind that Rodgers understands protections, will move around in the pocket to create more time and has the ability to throw on the run.

"Making sure that whatever coverage that we're in and whatever we're asking them to do, if it's to stay up top or go underneath, whether it's to trail or it's to re-route him," Turner said. "I think all those things [together], we have to be disciplined in the techniques and things that we're trying to do when he's on our side of the ball."

Come Sunday, it will be a team effort to shut Green Bay's passing game down.

"We have to do a good job of rushing him. We have to do a good job with coverage," Edwards said. "We understand that it's going to take all 11 guys on the field to be on the same page to [accomplish] what we need to get him stopped."

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