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Packers' injury avoidance shares spotlight with fired-up 'D'

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Nov. 15, 2011 @ 7:54 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

It's pretty hard not to focus on the Packers' defense following its best overall performance of the season in Green Bay's Monday-night rout of the division-rival Vikings at Lambeau Field. After allowing an average of 439.7 yards in the previous three games, Dom Capers' unit dominated the overmatched Vikings, allowing 266 yards and only one TD, which was set up by rookie Randall Cobb's botched punt return.

In the grand scheme of things, though, equally pertinent was the Packers' ability to emerge from the Vikings game unscathed from an injury standpoint. The only noteworthy ailment was a knee injury suffered by DE Ryan Pickett, who left the game for a spell but later returned. That's encouraging news indeed, considering the three games the team will be forced to play in an 11-day span, with matchups vs. Tampa Bay at home this Sunday and vs. the Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day fast approaching.

The PFW spin

The injury theme is worth emphasizing for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's very much worth remembering that one of the bigger keys behind the Packers' Super Bowl run last season was their amazing ability to overcome what seemed like one injury after another to key players (15 players landed on injured reserve, including seven Week One starters).

The Packers have enjoyed much better health so far this season, but hot on the heels of what turned out to be one of the bloodier Sundays in recent memory around the NFL, the fear of costly injuries suddenly taking a toll can't be ignored. Consider Week 10's considerable carnage, with Texans QB Matt Schaub (right foot), Chiefs QB Matt Cassel (right hand), Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno (right knee), Bengals CB Leon Hall (left Achilles tendon), Jaguars CB Rashean Mathis (left knee), Bills C Eric Wood (torn ACL), Bears OLG Chris Williams (left wrist) and Seahawks ORG John Moffitt (right knee) all going down for the count, among others.

If anything, things are looking up on the injury front for the Packers, with Mike Neal, who was first in line to replace the departed Cullen Jenkins at right end, apparently close to returning to action after missing the first 10 games following knee surgery.

As for the Green Bay defense, Capers made a concerted effort Monday night to confound rookie QB Christian Ponder with different blitz packages and open up more playmaking opportunities for OLB Clay Matthews in particular, which is something CB Charles Woodson lobbied hard for after the Chargers game. Just as importantly, the defense made the dangerous Adrian Peterson a relative nonfactor, limiting the Vikings' superstar running back to 14 carries for 51 yards and a harmless TD.

Peterson sat out the fourth quarter in a game that was over, for all intents and purposes, after the Packers' offense scored TDs on drives of at least 50 yards in each of its first four possessions of the second half.

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