Defense Blasts Hapless Cowboys

A week after a shutout victory over the Jets, Green Bay allowed just a second-quarter touchdown on Sunday night against Dallas. The Packers allowed 205 total yards and picked off Jon Kitna twice.

The Dallas Cowboys came into this game intending to run the ball on the Green Bay Packers' defense. They got stoned, picking up a measly 5 yards in the first three quarters. Their passing game didn't fare much better, with journeyman quarterback Jon Kitna connecting on just 19-of-30 passes for 183 yards with two interceptions and a paltry 63.6 rating.

Defensively, the Packers were simply dominant all night. They came in waves, stopping Felix Jones and Marion Barber in their tracks and making life miserable for Kitna and his receivers.

If the Packers were concerned that this could have been a trap game, they certainly weren't letting on. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was quick to point out that it was a total team effort, certainly as far as his defense was concerned.

"Well, I think we had a number of guys who were impactful," said Capers. "It started with stopping the run. So, when you stop the run, then you saw us, we played an aggressive game tonight. We probably pressured as much as we have this year. I think our guys responded well. You hope to get disruption with that. I thought that we were able to play a disruptive game tonight because of our ability to stop the run early in the game. I thought we'd see them come in and try to run the ball against us early."

Safety Charles Woodson was his usual disruptive self, registering a sack and being part of 10 tackles – including a big stop of Barber on third-and-1 on the game's first possession. Capers was asked if he's trying to get even more out of Woodson's defensive capabilities. "Well, he's always a big part of our game plan," Capers explained. "That's why we like him where he is in there. A year ago, he was matched up on Jason Witten the whole game. We had a couple of schemes where we could put him on Witten but we just felt like we liked him where he was on the slot tonight and we blitzed him a lot."

As has been the case so often this season, Clay Matthews was the undisputed star of the evening. He was simply unstoppable. In the second quarter, he burst into the Dallas backfield and sacked Kitna for an 8-yard loss. Matthews, who leads the NFL with 10.5 sacks, piled up seven tackles (three solo) and saved his best play for the fourth quarter. With the blitz on, Matthews rushed up field only to find a deflected pass landing in his lap. Matthews pulled it in and romped 62 yards for a touchdown, his first pick-six since high school.

"It was just a blitz where I was supposed to get up field and try to set up the guys coming underneath, Woodson and Hawk," Matthews said. "I turned around and I just had a lay-up right there for me so I just ran like a little kid. Those receivers are kind of fast. I got the touchdown but I'm working on the Lambeau Leap skills. It's not as easy as it looks. It felt great to get that first touchdown at home."

It was Hawk who deflected the pass and he was only too happy to see Matthews gobble it up and reap the rewards.

"We had a couple of guys blitzing on that play and I was one of the inside guys," said Hawk. "I don't know who was behind me that Kitna was trying to throw to but he tried basically to throw it right through me. I got my hands up and batted the ball and it got knocked around a few times and went right to Clay."

Rookie Sam Shields also turned in a solid performance, on defense and special teams, although he lost a jump-ball battle in the end zone with Dez Bryant for Dallas' only score. After the Cowboys blocked a first-quarter field goal attempt by Mason Crosby, Kitna tried to get something going down the sideline to Miles Austin. Instead, Shields made a one-handed, interception to squelch the drive at the Green Bay 37.

"It was man-to-man coverage," said a happy Shields. "They went deep to (Austin) and I got my head around and I saw the ball. It felt good to make a pick. It was my first pick in the NFL regular season and it came against the Cowboys in prime time so it felt really good. Each week I've practiced to get better and better. It came time for my opportunity and I made a play."

Shields also flashed his lightning speed on a kickoff return to start the second half. Taking the ball 5 yards deep in the end zone, Shields came up the middle and then burst around the right corner to set up Aaron Rodgers and the offense at the Green Bay 43.

"That was something we've been working on all this week," said Shields. "It came and it was my opportunity to make a play. I just couldn't ou-run them. I tried giving the last guy a fake but he was still there. Everybody knows we played together as a family and that's what we talked about all week, playing together as a family and that's what we did."

So now, the Packers find themselves riding a three-game winning streak and being just one-half-game off the pace for best record in the NFC heading into a much-needed bye week. It will be a chance to rest, heal and get ready for the season's home stretch.

"Well, I think it's a good time for a bye for guys to catch their breath a little bit," said Capers. "Hopefully, we can get healthy now. These last three weeks have been a pretty good stretch for us. We bounced back and answered some questions. We've had a bunch of new guys; we played a bunch of those new guys tonight quite a bit. Having this bye week will be excellent to be able to spend extra time to try to get them up to speed on being able to do everything. The way it worked out tonight was good because we got a chance to play all of those guys. Half of our defense there at the end of the game wasn't on our team about four weeks ago."

"Three weeks ago, I don't think many people outside this locker room would have envisioned this three-game stretch that we've had," added Hawk. "We did as players. We knew what could happen if we played together. Each game over these last three weeks we've kind of taken little steps to get there. Today we put a full game together, which we needed to do if we want to get to where we want to be."

If the Packers are going to get where they want to be this season, they're going to have to prevail in the toughest part of their schedule, starting Nov. 21 at Minnesota. How good are these Packers? We're all going to find out very soon.



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