Backups are key on Monday Night

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The two plays that threatened to crack the NFC Central race occurred just minutes apart in Week 2.
The Minnesota Vikings were tied in the fourth quarter at St. Louis when quarterback Brad Johnson went down untouched.
In Green Bay, the Packers were trying to run out the clock on Tampa Bay when halfback Dorsey Levens tried to sweep around left end and was pulled down awkwardly by linebacker Derrick Brooks.
Each had a broken leg. Johnson is out for up to two months, Levens for as many as three.
“I think they’re both devastating blows,” Packers split end Antonio Freeman said. “It’s bad either way you look at it.”
But the Vikings and Packers, who meet Monday night in the biggest game so far in the NFL season, are 4-0 and thriving.
The Vikings replaced Johnson with Randall Cunningham, and the Packers replaced Levens with Raymont Harris.
Cunningham is tied with Denver’s John Elway for the NFL’s top passing rating and has yet to throw an interception.
“If you have to lose a starting quarterback for a while, they’re in as good a shape as any team in football with Randall,” Packers coach Mike Holmgren said.
Harris, still recuperating from a broken leg himself, has fumbled twice in two starts and is averaging three yards a carry.
But that’s just part of the story. As long as the Packers have Brett Favre, they’ll be dangerous.
Cunningham, who started the last five games last season after Johnson hurt his neck, gets to throw to the most-feared receiving trio in football: Cris Carter, Jake Reed and rookie sensation Randy Moss, the talk of the NFL.
“I think we have the capability of being the greatest group of wideouts on one team, ever,” Carter said.
If you can cover all three, the Vikings simply turn to tailback Robert Smith or tight end Andrew Glover.
“Scary is a pretty good word,” Packers defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur said. “They are as well-equipped as anybody I think we’ve played since we’ve been here in that they’ve got the three wideouts that are exceptional players, an excellent tight end and they’ve got a great runner with a good offensive line and a quarterback that can get them the ball. That’s the complete package.
But there’s no team better able to handle it than the Packers.
“No one’s invincible out there,” Packers strong safety LeRoy Butler said. “Even though we’re the No. 1 defense, we’re not invincible. They have a great offense, they’re not invincible either.”
Cunningham said when he looks out over his line at the Packers’ defense led by Reggie White, Santana Dotson, Gilbert Brown and Vonnie Holliday, “all I see is a bunch of great talent.”
And while the Vikings may have an awesome offense led by the best backup quarterback in the league, the Packers have the best starting quarterback.
Favre is coming off a five-touchdown performance at Carolina last week.
“We’re a passing team first,” Favre said. “Bottom line, I keep saying, is winning the game, no matter how you do it.”
Emerging threat Derrick Mayes helped offset Green Bay’s stagnant ground game with three TD receptions last week. He sees the Packers’ passing game as every bit the menace of Minnesota’s.
“I see us being the best receivers in the league,” Mayes said.
The Packers hope to exploit cornerbacks Jimmy Hitchcock and Corey Fuller, although they’re reluctant to talk about it.
“Every team has weaknesses, every team,” Freeman said. “I’ll say that.”
Many expect a high-scoring game, and Favre would like to avoid that.
“I hope it doesn’t come down to a shootout because they have some tremendous weapons on offense,” he said. “And if we get behind to a team like that, then you’re playing into their hands on defense because what they do well is rush the passer and create turnovers.”
And if they do that, the Packers’ 29-game home winning streak could be history, Levens or no Levens, Johnson or no Johnson.