Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, left, breaks up a pass
intended for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11)
during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday,
Sept. 28, 2014, in Minneapolis.
Minn. — Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes is coming off
the best game of his brief career.
Aaron Rodgers is next.
Rhodes had five
tackles and a career-high four pass breakups against Atlanta's
dangerous offense on Sunday, showing why he was selected in the
first round of last year's draft. Rhodes spent much of the
afternoon covering Roddy White, who was targeted 14 times by Matt
Ryan but had only four catches.
second-to-last play of the third quarter with the Falcons leading
28-27, Ryan threw deep for Julio Jones on first-and-10 from their
own 30-yard line. But Rhodes was right there to knock the ball
away, and the Vikings forced a punt soon after.
consider it one of my best games, but there's even more to come.
I'm looking forward to getting better," Rhodes said.
This would be a
good week for that. The Vikings play at Green Bay on Thursday, and
Rodgers is more than just one of the NFL's elite. He has tormented
the rival Vikings like no other opposing quarterback.
are remarkable and impossible to downplay.
In 12 career
starts against the Vikings, Rodgers has completed 71.4 percent of
his passes for 3,382 yards, an average of almost 282 per game. His
116.8 cumulative passer rating is the highest by any opponent in
their 54-year history. He has thrown for 27 touchdowns with just
four interceptions. The Vikings have picked him off only once in
the last seven games, by Harrison Smith on Dec. 2, 2012.
Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) yells over to the
sidelines in the first half of an NFL football game against
the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Chicago.
Captain Munnerlyn is the leader of this Vikings secondary, but he
has only faced Rodgers once, at home in 2011 for Carolina. So he
has been the one seeking advice from his younger teammates like
Rhodes and fellow cornerback Josh Robinson.
like, 'Man, what do they like to do? And what kind of quarterback
is he?' And they're like, 'Man, he's one of the best, and you're
going to see when you play him,'" Munnerlyn said, adding:
"I'm just going to these guys trying to get all the help I
One of this
franchise's biggest problems for years has been drafting and
developing cornerbacks. The best player for the Vikings at that
position in the last decade was Antoine Winfield, who signed as a
free agent, like Munnerlyn did. But Rhodes and Robinson, who has
two of Minnesota's four interceptions this season, have made
probably played his best game last week. Josh has been
consistent," coach Mike Zimmer said. "I just want Josh
to be a little bit more confident in his abilities. He's got a
chance to be a very good corner if he continues working on the
techniques, refining the techniques, understanding the concepts
Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, right, takes part in a
drill with cornerback Chris Greenwood, left, during NFL
football practice at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, Minn.,
Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014.
Such progress is
not a secret.
younger players, like you always like to see your younger players,
they're taking a big step in their second and third year,"
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "So I think it's a better
defense than in the past."
arrival meant Robinson could move out of the slot and back to the
outside after playing out of position last season.
"I had a lot
of growing pains as a player last year, a lot of things I had to
deal with, but I definitely see the growth and am just going to
try to continue," Robinson said.
Rodgers, on a
conference call Tuesday with Minnesota reporters, expressed
respect for Zimmer and the defenses he's supervised over the
well-prepared and very confusing at times with their
schemes," Rodgers said, "and I think it's a defense
that's proven that'll be one of the top defenses when it's said
The Vikings would
take a significant step toward that with an effective game against
"We have to
do a great job of keeping an eye on our luggage -- that means your
man -- and play football," Munnerlyn said.
Indeed, a strong
pass rush is only the start. When Rodgers runs out of the pocket,
he's one of the best at that, too.
at Medusa, because he's going to turn you to stone," Robinson
said, repeating the Greek mythology-inspired mantra for the
secondary this week. "So we're always trying to keep our eyes
on the receiver as long as we can, especially with this