MILWAUKEE, OCT. 28 -- Two football teams that have hardly been as nasty as they wanted to be this season met today in a game that bolstered the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes and left the Minnesota Vikings shaking their heads and wondering how low they can go.

The Packers (3-4) prevailed, 24-10, thanks mostly to six turnovers by a free-falling Vikings outfit now 1-6, matching the worst Minnesota start since its first season, 1961.

Herschel Walker set the tone by fumbling on the opening scrimmage play to gift-wrap a Packers field goal. Walker, who came to the Vikings for five veterans and seven draft choices in a spectacular trade with the Cowboys last season, had another game in which he was not a factor.

Imagine having a running back earning $1 million a year, and who got a $1.25 million bonus just for agreeing to be traded, carrying the football three times for six yards, dropping one wide-open pass and being on the field for only 11 of the Vikings' 63 plays. He did return four kickoffs for 130 yards, but never played more than two straight downs. Two weeks ago against Philadelphia, he carried three times for three yards and fumbled twice.

Asked about the way he used Walker today, Coach Jerry Burns bristled and said: "I've answered a thousand questions on Herschel. You all saw the game. You answer your own questions on him."

Is this the way the Vikings will use their backs the rest of the year? "I don't know," said Burns, whose job security is considered tenuous.

Walker stood in the middle of a subdued postgame Vikings locker room and answered questions from all comers, dressed for success in a three-piece charcoal double-breasted suit with a starched white shirt and tie knotted tightly around his massive neck.

"It's a question the coaches will have to answer. I can't," he said. "That's something you have to ask them. . . . I'm not the type of player to {ask the coaches for more work}. I'll do what they want me to do. It's a team sport, I'm a team player. I'd like to get more involved, but that's their decision.

"I know there's going to be criticism when you're having a tough year, and I can handle that. When I was born, my mother almost passed on, so my back has been against the wall my whole life. This is a time that really tests your character. I'm prepared for it. I can take it."

It's difficult to imagine the Vikings taking more direct hits than they have this season.

Today, in their fifth straight loss, Darrell Thompson ran past them 12 yards for his first career touchdown, breaking a 3-3 tie; Shawn Patterson returned an interception nine yards to make it 17-3, and Packers quarterback Don Majkowski ran six yards to take it to 24-3.

The Packers then intercepted Rich Gannon on the Vikings' first three possessions of the fourth quarter, two by rookie LeRoy Butler.

In September, the Vikings lost the season's third game on a 52-yard field goal on a day when Wade Wilson's throwing thumb was injured so badly he might not return this season. In their fourth game, the Vikings lost in overtime. Later, they gave up 17 points in a 2:07 span of the fourth quarter of a 32-24 Monday night loss to the Eagles.

Off the field, General Manager Mike Lynn, who made the Walker deal, announced Oct. 10 he'd be leaving to become president of the World League of American Football, the NFL's new international venture. Vikings lineman David Huffman described Lynn's departure as "a rat leaving a sinking ship."

And just this last week, kicker Donald Igwebuike made headlines when ABC News linked him to a Floridian accused of smuggling heroin from Nigeria to the United States. Igwebuike has not been charged, but the tumult added yet another major distraction.

Igwebuike made a 20-yard field goal today and missed a 42-yarder on the first drive of the second half. After the game, he would talk only about his kicking, not his problems with the law.

The Vikings were saying all the usual things when today's debacle had ended. They all pointed to the interception by Packers defensive end Patterson as the game's turning point. He juggled the ball a moment, then slogged ahead for the 17-3 lead with 44 seconds left in the third quarter.

Gannon, a fourth-year pro, completed 19 of 41 passes and was intercepted five times.

Even with a 14-point deficit, Walker stayed on the bench for all but the first two plays of the fourth quarter. "Nothing I can do," he said. "I play when they tell me to play, that's all I can do."

Gannon made it a point to defend Walker and pointed the finger of blame "at every man on this team.

"It's been very tough on Herschel Walker," Gannon said. "People are riding him hard, the fans, the media. The minute something happens to him, people start saying, 'What's wrong with Herschel?' It's not his fault, but he takes all the heat. I'll defend Herschel Walker because he's a great player and a great person.

"There's too much attention paid to him all the time just because we gave up all the picks. Why should he take all the heat? . . .

"There isn't one guy on this team who hasn't made a mistake, and I've made more than my share. We're all to blame, not just one guy."