Upon safety Dwight Smith
's return to the starting lineup, the Vikings felt the need to confuse San Diego Chargers
quarterback Philip Rivers
by disguising coverages and showing him looks he hadn't seen before.
The plan worked. Rivers completed only 19 of 42 passes for 197 yards and an interception to earn a 49.4 passer rating. The Vikings also held the Chargers to a season-low 25 percent in converting third downs while the run defense was even better, holding the Chargers to 42 yards on the ground.
Still, the Vikings know they won't have any easy time confusing wily veteran Brett Favre
"There ain't nothing he ain't seen," said Smith, who acknowledge that taking too many risks could come back to bite the Vikings against Favre. "When you get caught up trying to trick somebody, you can put yourself in a lot of bad positions a lot of times."
The result against San Diego was the second-best performance of 2007 by the Vikings' pass defense – the best coming in the season opener against Joey Harrington
and the Atlanta Falcons. How much Smith's recovery from a hamstring injury and insertion into the lineup helped in the matter is debatable, but he certainly provides an energizing presence to the defense.
"I just try to keep everybody into it. Regardless of what happened the play before, let's move onto the next play," Smith said. "I was around a defense (in Tampa) that was No. 1 in the NFL which won the Super Bowl. I try to do things or say things that I seen done or said around there. When I came in, you had guys like Derrick Brooks
, John Lynch
, Ronde Barber
and guys like that who were vocal leaders and also led by example, so I just try to do the things that I saw them do for me."
With the Vikings' best and most experienced cornerback, Antoine Winfield
, questionable with his own hamstring strain this week, the Vikings might need Smith's veteran presence to keep the younger cornerbacks upbeat. The last time the defense face Favre at the Metrodome, Green Bay put up 338 yards of net passing offense.
Favre's former teammate, Darren Sharper
, now a teammate with Smith, says his fellow safety's presence in the lineup helps.
"(Smith) is a vocal leader for us and it's always special for me playing beside him," Sharper said. "It's a pleasure to have a guy like that because it gets me going and that's my road dog. That's who I'm out there fighting with each and every game."
Smith and Sharper have two interceptions each this season, not exactly high totals considering it is halfway through the season, but Sharper is hoping Favre's gunslinger mentality plays in the Vikings' favor.
"I can't remember him playing any better than he's playing right now, yet some of the throws he's making, I just hope he tries those against us," Sharper said earlier this week. "Those 50-yard balls over the middle of the field, we'll see how much success he has against us.
"I just see him throwing the ball up over the middle of the field very high and very long, and I like when quarterbacks do that. He did that last time we played him."
Favre did loft a high one over the middle on the very first pass he attempted against the Vikings on Sept. 30 and Sharper came down with the interception – one that was called back because of illegal contact on Winfield.
Big plays are likely to play a part in the divisional rivals' upcoming game, as the Vikings lead the league with nine defensive touchdowns since the start of the 2006 season and the Packers are second with eight. Each team has five interceptions returns for touchdowns, with the other scores coming on fumble returns for touchdowns.
"We pride ourselves on having playmakers on defense," Smith said. "You're not just talking about guys that are in skill positions. You see guys like Kevin Williams
and guys like that are trying to get to the end zone with the ball – it's just something that we stress around here when we get the ball in our hands."
How often that will happen in Lambeau Field remains to be seen.
TALKING THE TALK
Smith is known as one of the team's best trash talkers – if not the best. But even Smith has his doubts as to how much that will affect a veteran quarterback like Favre.
"It's very hard to rattle a guy like Brett Favre. The thing about talking to a guy like Favre can do is for him to try to beat you. When you get him into a situation like that, you try to get him to throw the ball at you for you to make a play," Smith said. "That's the type of guy he is. If you get to talking at him, he's going to try to embarrass you somehow. It goes both ways."
While Smith talks trash even to a player like San Diego tight end Antonio Gates
, whom Smith considers his best friend (they went to high school together), he says his on-field persona and off-the-field demeanor are different.
"I just love to have fun. It's all in fun with me," he said. "People will tell you last week with my best friend (Antonio Gates), I talked stuff to him and it don't make no difference who I'm playing against. That's just how that guy plays football. People say, ‘You're not like you are on the field.' That's how I make my money. That person there is how I make my money and he does things different."
The bigger the game, the more Smith seems to like to talk. When asked for the best line dished out to him and by him, he talked about that Super Bowl showdown between his former Bucs team and the Oakland Raiders.
"Even in the Super Bowl, with Jerry Rice and Tim Brown, they were like, ‘Who are you?' Them are the type of questions everybody would ask: ‘Who are you?' Like I would always say, ‘You'll know me after the game. You might not know me coming in, but you'll know me after,'" Smith said. "I hit Tim Brown with – because he dropped a ball early in the game in the Super Bowl – I asked him if he waited the whole time to get to the Super Bowl to play like that. But it's all in fun, keeping me in the game."
Smith said no one in the offseason approaches him about his trash talking ways.
"No. Because everybody knows between the lines, it is what it is. Outside the lines, fans take football too far. We don't," he said.
ROSTER MOVE COMING?
Vikings coach Brad Childress said after Friday's practice that a roster move could be coming, "perhaps" at the quarterback position, where the Vikings signed former Philadelphia Eagle Koy Detmer
as an insurance policy in case Tarvaris Jackson
(concussion) and Kelly Holcomb
(neck) were unable to play at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
"Koy very well could play if need be. We'll just see. We may end up making a roster move here before we get out of the day, and we'll keep you updated on that," Childress said Friday.
The Vikings released cornerback Ronyell Whitaker
to make room for Detmer on the 53-man roster, but Whitaker's nameplate has hung above his locker throughout the week and clothes have remained hanging there. With starting cornerback Antoine Winfield questionable with a hamstring injury and the Packers' propensity to throw the ball, Whitaker may be needed on Sunday.
For Friday's injury report, the Vikings listed WR Sidney Rice
(hamstring), CB Antoine Winfield (hamstring), QB Kelly Holcomb (neck), QB Tarvaris Jackson (concussion) and DE Ray Edwards
(foot) as questionable. LT Bryant McKinnie
(left knee inflammation), RT Ryan Cook
(shoulder) and WR Bobby Wade
(knee) were listed as probable. Wade was only one of those listed who participated fully in Friday's practice. The others were all limited.
For the Packers CB Will Blackmon
, S Nick Collins
and TE Bubba Franks
are all listed as out with injuries. LB Tracy White
(ankle) is questionable. Listed as probable are DT Justin Harrell
(ankle), T Chad Clifton
(knee), WR Koren Robinson
(knee), OL Junius Coston
(ankle) RB Ryan Grant
(concussion), CB Al Harris
(back), WR Ruvell Martin
(back), T Tony Moll
(nick), DT Ryan Pickett
(knee), LB Brady Poppinga
(shoulder), DT Corey Williams
(knee), S Aaron Rouse
(shoulder) and CB Charles Woodson
With Brett Favre at quarterback and a running game they haven't committed to this season, the Vikings defense is preparing for a heavy dose of passing Sunday at Lambeau Field. See what starting safeties Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith had to say about the possibilities, along with Smith's favorite trash talk, a roster move update and the Friday injury report.
The Vikings defense is preparing for a heavy dose of passing Sunday at Lambeau Field.