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Notebook: Vikings Focused on Stopping Packers Early Scores

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer knows his defense has a list of goals when going up against the Packers offense.

Stopping Green Bay early on could be a key component for success.

Zimmer said Green Bay has used a simple but effective formula this season as the Packers have climbed into the playoff race with an 8-6 record.

"They're number one in the league in touchdowns on first possessions of the game," Zimmer said. "So you know they go down there they score, they get you behind.

"Then the defense has a chance to pressure you some more," he added.

The Packers have scored on 11 of their 14 opening possessions of the game, with Green Bay finding the end zone eight times and getting field goals three other times. The Packers are 7-1 when they score on their first drive of a game.

Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks said limiting Green Bay's scoring chances early could provide a boost to Minnesota's defense. But he added that a stop just before halftime or a fourth-quarter turnover could also be a crucial in getting a win.

"Our goal is always to stop them no matter what time it is in the game," Kendricks said. "We don't want them to get in the end zone."

Of the three games in which the Packers didn't score on their opening drive, one was the Vikings Week 2 win at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Although Green Bay did score first, Minnesota rallied for a 17-14 win.

Tennessee and Washington are the other two opponents who did not allow Green Bay to score on its opening possession.

Zimmer also talked about containing Rodgers, who has been dealing with a calf issue.

"He looked a little bit gimpy in some of (Sunday's game against Chicago)," Zimmer said. "But yeah, even when he is gimpy he is pretty mobile.

"And actually as the game got going more, he looked like he had loosened it up," he added.

Rodgers is third on the Packers with 314 rushing yards and is tied for the most rushing touchdowns with three. He has also thrown for 3,781 yards with 32 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Patterson on Pro Bowl nod

Vikings kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson was selected was selected for his second Pro Bowl earlier this week.

Patterson leads the NFL with a kickoff return average of 31.5 yards and is one of seven players who have returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

The 25-year-old Patterson said while he was proud of his individual accomplishment, his current mindset was on the Vikings finishing their season with a pair of wins.

"My main focus is this season and finishing the season off strong," Patterson said. "I'm not worried about the Pro Bowl; that's a couple months from now or whatever."

Patterson tied a franchise record against Arizona earlier this season with his fifth career kickoff return for a touchdown.

Patterson has also made his mark as a wide receiver this season. He has a career-high 49 receptions and has added 401 receiving yards and two scores. He is closing in on his career high in yards (469) , which he set in 2013 when he had four touchdown catches.

Barr assesses his season

Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr said he and his defensive teammates had an uncharacteristic performance last Sunday against the Colts.

Barr rattled off the areas where Minnesota struggled — poor tackling, an inability to stop the run and lackluster coverage — and included himself as a player who needs to improve.

"You can always play better and try to learn from your mistakes," Barr said. "I'll try to go out next week and play well."

Barr has 76 total tackles (according to the coaches tally), with 2.0 sacks and four tackles for loss.

Zimmer said Wednesday that Barr has room for improvement in his recent play.

"It's not like he's done terrible; he just hasn't made the explosive plays he probably made a year ago," Zimmer said. "I think when he cuts it loose a little bit more, that's when you see him making the explosive plays and kind of the 'Wow' plays."

View images from the Vikings Thursday, December 22 practice at Winter Park.

Injury reports

For the Vikings: Adrian Peterson (knee/groin), Laquon Treadwell (ankle) and Brandon Fusco (concussion) did not participate. Harrison Smith (ankle), Stefon Diggs (hip) and Zach Line (concussion) were limited. Mackensie Alexander (abdomen), Trae Waynes (concussion) Charles Johnson (knee), Jeremiah Sirles (ankle) and Marcus Sherels fully participated.

The Packers did not practice Thursday but did list players as if they had. LB Jayrone Elliott (hand) and RB James Starks (concussion) were listed as did not participate. WR Randall Cobb (ankle), G T.J. Lang (foot/back), LB Nick Perry (hand), CB Damarious Randall (shoulder) and C/G J.C. Tretter (knee) were listed as limited. G Lane Taylor (hip), LB Clay Matthews (shoulder) and Rodgers (calf) were listed as full participants.

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