Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Peprah emerges as unlikely Packers hero in most recent win

Posted by: under Vikings, Packers, Super Bowl Updated: November 7, 2011 - 11:43 AM

The Green Bay Packers won Sunday.

Again.

This time it was a 45-38 shooutot victory over San Diego.

It was the Pack's 14th straight victory, a streak that started in Week 16 of last season, included four postseason wins on the way to a Super Bowl XLV title and now has Green Bay at 8-0 in 2011.

Sunday's unlikley hero? Safety Charlie Peprah, who not only had a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter, but then sealed the game in the final minute, intercepting a Philip Rivers pass to Vincent Jackson at the Green Bay 18 and then returning it 76 yards. Ballgame.

As if Vikings' rookie quarterback Christian Ponder didn't have enough to worry about. In Week 7, Ponder was intercepted twice by Packers corner Charles Woodson. On Sunday, Green Bay intercepted three Rivers throws with Tramon Williams joining Peprah in the fun.

Yes, the Packers allowed 460 yards of offense and 38 points and almost let a three-touchdown fourth-quarter lead evaporate Sunday. It's proof the defending Super Bowl champs are far from invincible. But once again, the defense came up with a big play to keep the undefeated  season alive. This time, it was Peprah playing the role of hero and revealing later that he has been inspired to master his role this season based on how he saw the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA title last summer.

A passage from today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage:

Leading up to Sunday's tilt, [Peprah] had a feeling Rivers would throw some softballs. Rivers has a tendency to hang passes high to his tall receivers, Peprah said. On the clinching pick, Rivers floated a deep pass to Jackson and Peprah rushed over.

"For whatever reason this year, he's not as accurate," Peprah said. "There's miscommunication. We knew we'd have some chances to get some balls and we did that."

This was not a work of art, not the work of a champion for most of the fourth. The Chargers nearly finished a comeback for the ages.

"We let the bear in the back door a little bit," cornerback Jarrett Bush said, "but we fought him off and that was that."

At this rate, expect more hang-on-for-dear-life scares. The Packers continue to live dangerously. Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman and others await. For now, the Packers will need more defensive backs to keep stepping up.

Peprah knows something about roles, about fitting into your spot on a championship team. A lifelong Dallas Mavericks fan, he attended all of the NBA Finals games in Dallas a year ago. At the ESPYs - when the Packers were ousted by Dallas for the "Best Team" award - Peprah actually stood up and cheered.

Here in Green Bay, he's been the resident Tyson Chandler. Quietly, without fanfare, Peprah does his job.

For one day, the Packers needed him to play Dirk Nowitzki.

"It feels great," Peprah said. "It really does. But in this league, it's 'what have you done for me lately?' So I won't enjoy this one too long. I'll move on to Minnesota in the Monday night game."

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