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When the 4-0 Vikings travel to Green Bay to play the 4-0 Packers this Monday night in what shapes up as the best game to date this season, keep an eye on Minnesota defensive lineman John Randle—that is, if you can keep track of him.
Randle's usual position is what the Vikings call "under tackle." He lines up across from a guard but cocked a bit sideways toward the center, which is what he did about 85% of the time last season. But this year he has filled that spot only about 40% of the time and instead has been at right defensive end for about 40% of the plays and has split the rest of the downs between left end and nosetackle. "I feel like it's really opened things up," Randle said last week. "Teams can't isolate on me so much." Randle, who had 15½ sacks in '97, has 2½ this season.
"We just wanted to see if we could get Johnny to have an even bigger effect on the game," says Vikings coach Dennis Green. "In basketball you never want to let a guy dunk on you because it gets the crowd riled up. Same thing here. Johnny gets a sack, and our defense just explodes."
The good news for the Packers is that Randle, with 6½ sacks in eight career games against Green Bay on the Metrodome's fast artificial turf, has just three sacks in eight games on the grass at Lambeau Field. The bad news? "We're 7-5 against the Packers since Mike Holmgren and I came into the division," says Green. "We know how to play them, and we like big games."
It is not folly to think that Cowboys cornerback-returnman-wideout Deion Sanders secured his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his performance in Dallas's 31-7 Monday night win over the Giants on Sept. 21. Despite being on the field for only 26% of the plays (42 of 159), Sanders made four of the most spectacular ones in the game. He returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown, caught a 55-yard pass that set up a touchdown, returned another punt 39 yards and returned an interception 71 yards for a score.
When all was said and done, Sanders had added to his NFL record for career touchdown returns. He has run back an interception, a fumble, a punt or a kickoff for a score 16 times in 10 years. Defensive back Lemar Parrish had 13 such returns during his 13-year career with the Bengals, the Redskins and the Bills.
Oh, yeah, Sanders is also arguably the best cover corner ever.