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Vikings Defense Continues Job as Roles Change

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Chad Greenway had started 130 games in his first nine-plus seasons, but had never been the opening act as the Vikings middle linebacker.

Greenway, however, suited up and stepped up to the "Mike." He played all but one snap and recorded eight tackles (coaches' tally) in Minnesota's 30-14 victory at Oakland.

The Vikings limited the Raiders to 84 yards rushing in just the latest example of a player handling his job for the betterment of the team.

"He played really good in this ball game at the Mike linebacker spot," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "I think it's good for him. He got off of blocks good this week, he was physical at the point of attack. They had a bunch of plays where they pulled the guard around on him, so I thought he did a really good job."

Greenway said the "mindset is to give the team the best chance to win. It doesn't matter where you are playing, it's your job to get caught up on alignments and assignments and go play your best football."

The longest rush for the Raiders was a 14-yarder in the second quarter. Greenway made the tackle of Latavius Murray and went to the sideline for one play before returning.

"Guys are aligning, they're doing their job and letting the plays come to them," Brian Robison said. "That's kind of been the biggest key for us."

Asked how he was feeling after back to back weeks of playing full games the 32-year-old said, "Good, if I can just avoid Linval [Joseph] landing on me at any point, I would feel better — no — he's been playing awesome, but my body feels good."

Greenway started at weakside linebacker against St. Louis before moving to the middle because of a season-ending injury to Audie Cole, who was filling in for rookie Eric Kendricks against the Rams. Kendricks is recovering from a ribs injury.

One not enough: As for Joseph, who was credited with nine tackles, a sack, four quarterback hurries and one forced fumble, Zimmer said the defensive tackle is starting to see more double teams "because of the way he plays."

"He's been very, very physical," Zimmer said. "He's doing so many good things and he's such a great kid, and really kind of embodies what we're trying to get this football team to be like.

"He does an awful lot of dirty work and doesn't necessarily get the recognition – I know he's getting more now," Zimmer continued. "He doesn't really care about getting recognition, I don't believe. He just wants to win and help his buddies to play good and keep linebackers free and if he falls into a sack here or there, he's excited about it.

Joseph smothered Derek Carr for a loss of 10 Sunday after the quarterback was frenzied by Danielle Hunter.

Big game coming: The Vikings (7-2) are in first place in the NFC North thanks to five straight wins and three straight losses by the Packers (6-3), setting up a showdown at 3:25 p.m. Sunday at the University of Minnesota.

Zimmer knows that players understand the significance of the game.

"I don't think that I'm going to have to pull out any magic wands or anything like that," Zimmer said. "I think they'll understand, but to me it's all about preparation, how you prepare, making sure that you focus on – like I told the team today – one day, one week, one game. That's all we worry about right now and that's how we're going to attack it going forward."

It isn't really part of the preparation, but when Vikings players arrived at Winter Park Monday, they had black T-shirts in their locker rooms with NFC North on the front and "Beat Green Bay" on the back.

"It's just a T-shirt," Zimmer said. "You can go down to the store and print them up. It's not a big deal."

When asked, Joseph said, "I just walked in and saw it this morning. It's a nice shirt."

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