The week of practice is over and the Vikings are nearly set for their contest against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Here's what we learned this week about the Vikings-Packers matchup in Week 11.
Kalil has a toe injury, but also a chance to play Sunday
Green Bay is banged up along their offensive line, with four of the five starters on this week's injury report and starting G TJ Lang listed as questionable. But the Vikings have an injury along the OL that bears monitoring, as well. Matt Kalil has been listed on this week's report with a toe injury, and it kept him from practicing on Wednesday and Thursday. Kalil did return to practice on Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday.
Brandon Fusco is coming off his best game of the season
Sticking with the offensive line, LG Brandon Fusco is coming off his best game of the season. The Vikings ran for 263 yards against the Oakland Raiders last week and the interior OL, including Fusco, was a big reason for the success. So much so that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer gave Fusco, C Joe Berger and RG Mike Harris a game ball.
"I thought he had his best game [last week]," Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner said. "Coach [Zimmer] gave him a game ball – he and the center and right guard. This is a week-to-week league. I think he's playing more comfortably at left guard, sometimes it's a matchup, sometimes it's a scheme, but he played well last week."
Fusco is playing a new position this season, moving from his previous spot at RG to the left side. There are natural ups and downs that will occur with such a significant move, but it sounds like Fusco is handling the transition well and continues to improve as the season progresses.
Aaron Rodgers has a lot of respect for Mike Zimmer
Vikings fans may hate what he does to their favorite team, but it's hard not to respect what Aaron Rodgers has done on the field since 2008, particularly with his success against the Vikings; he's 10-4 as a starter with a 32-4 TD-INT ratio. But the respect comes back toward Minnesota, too, as Rodgers gushed about Zimmer's chops as a football coach.
"Coach Zimmer is an excellent football coach," Rodgers said. "He does a great job of having his guys prepared every single week. They understand their scheme and make things look very similar and bring different types of pressure behind it. Anytime you're at the forefront of revolutions in this league, to say, as they do with their seven and eight up looks they started at Cincinnati, that says a lot about the type of coach you are."
No one has tried to bully the Packers run defense
Can Green Bay stop the Vikings rushing attack? It's hard to say because no one has tried to run the ball as frequently and in the same manner the Vikings can run the ball. In Green Bay's six wins this season, opponents ran the ball an average of 25.1 times per game. In Green Bay's three losses this season, opponents have run the ball an average of 32.0 times per game. The St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers have given it an honest look, with 36 rushing attempts a piece, but even they didn't run it with as much power in terms of personnel packages as the Vikings have done in recent weeks. It will be interesting to see how this matchup – the Vikings rushing offense against the Packers rushing defense – unfolds on Sunday.
The momentum team
Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer was asked a couple questions about a big play his group had in Oakland on Sunday – Cordarrelle Patterson's 93-yard TD return. Priefer gave big-time props to Adam Thielen for his block at the beginning of the return, and then later Priefer explained an interesting way of looking at one particular phase of special teams.
"The biggest thing about that play – and we talk to our kickoff return team all the time about being the momentum answer team" Priefer explained. "The kickoff team is the momentum team. We just scored or it's the start of the half, we've got to keep the momentum going. When we receive a kickoff, obviously, it's the start of the half or the opposing team just scored and we answered the call when we really needed to. They had just taken the lead, their crowd was into it, it was towards the end of the first half, we were up 13-0, now we're down by a point. It was a big, big play for us and I'm glad Cordarrelle and the rest of the guys came through."
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.
Erin Andrews received wardrobe assistance from the Vikings equipment staff
You know it's a big sporting event if Erin Andrews is involved. She is the sideline reporter for FOX's biggest game each week, plus she is the network's on-field reporter for the World Series and she co-hosts ABC's hit show Dancing With the Stars. Andrews is in town this week to cover the Vikings-Packers game, and during her visit to Winter Park on Friday to meet with players and coaches about the game she also spent some time with the Vikings Entertainment Network. Among the many interesting things that she stated during her interview with VEN is that she enlisted the help of the Vikings equipment staff upon her arrival in Minnesota.