EDEN PRAIRIE -- On most Mondays this season, Willie Shaw has carried a weary, sometimes glum, look.
This week, for once, the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator is able to show a little enthusiasm.
His charges, though still ranked next-to-last in the league, forced a season-high seven punts against the high-powered Packers offense in a 31-21 victory over Green Bay and its Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Brett Favre.
OK, this Minnesota defense has a long way to go before it could ever come close to the 1985 Chicago Bears or the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
But thanks to the comfort a couple of players showed in new spots and the continued steady play by the few veterans they do have on that side of the ball, the Vikings -- barring injury of course -- will finally be able to use the same starters in consecutive weeks when they visit New England on Sunday.
By moving to strong safety, Corey Chavous allowed rookie Brian Williams to crack the lineup at left cornerback.
"We thought Corey played a really good, solid game," coach Mike Tice said, "and we thought that Brian Williams played an excellent game.
"You have to be able to put your players in the best positions to be successful. We'll look at that as we continue to put the game plan in. Right now, there are no indications that we're going to change anything."
Shaw has expressed his frustration lately over the constantly-in-flux lineup, especially in the secondary. Although Tice has the final say, Shaw has agreed with his boss that changes have had to be made.
There have been several stretches of several games where the Vikings (3-7) haven't been able to stop anyone, and a handful of middle-of-the-pack quarterbacks have posted impressive statistics against them.
The hope around Winter Park is that the defense can gain some much-needed confidence from what it did against Green Bay, which in turn will stabilize the lineup. Favre had 296 yards passing but was intercepted three times and the Packers didn't score on their last three drives.
Shaw was in sort of a philosophical mood on Monday, and he dug deep in his collection of analogies to relate the fortunes of the Vikings' defense to swimming.
"We've just never had any continuity," he said. "We're just trying to keep from drowning. We don't even think about trying to set a world record in the butterfly. We're just trying to stay afloat. If we can keep the same lineup, without any injuries, maybe we can get to the other end of the pool."
Now, the Vikings must turn their attention to winning AWAY from the Metrodome. Excluding the preseason, they haven't won a road game since Thanksgiving Day 2000 at Dallas.
They play at New England (5-5) on Sunday. Though the Patriots have been inconsistent, Tom Brady has had some huge games passing this year and should provide another tough test for the secondary.
The Vikings have talked all season about how well they've practiced and expressed frustration about how few times that's translated to success in the games. But last week, it finally did.
"If we can carry that preparation onto the field again on Sunday," Tice said, "we should fare better than we've fared on the road this season."
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