Despite those remarkable accomplishments, one bad night on Nov. 24, 2008, still serves as salt in a wound for the Green Bay Packers' star cornerback. Playing with a chance to grab some control over the wide-open NFC North, the Packers were destroyed 51-29 at the Superdome. That was the start of a five-game losing streak as the Packers tumbled to 6-10 just one year after barely missing out on the Super Bowl.
"Getting our ass whooped. That's all I need to remember," Woodson told Packer Report recently.
Drew Brees had one of his finest games as a pro, completing 20-of-26 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns. His passer rating was a near-perfect 157.5 and was given a nice bounce with 70-yard touchdown passes to Lance Moore and Marques Colston.
So, even though Woodson has surged into consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame with his nine interceptions of 2009 and his all-around brilliance as the heart and soul of the Packers' run to the championship in 2010, that awful night in 2008 is something he'd like to wipe clean tonight.
"It eats at you because we felt like we were better than that," Woodson said. "You get in a situation sometimes where, as a team, you don't make any adjustments. You just keep trying to do what it is you do as a defense or offense or whatever. We just continued doing one thing throughout that whole game and we paid for it."
Obviously, that game was a long, long time ago. And, in a way, it proved to be the starting point of the Packers' rise to their fourth Super Bowl title. While coach Mike McCarthy said "no staff changes were made that day," the loss at the Saints proved to be the beginning of the end for coordinator Bob Sanders, whose approach to defense could barely be more different than the man who replaced him, Dom Capers.
Sanders' philosophy was to do one thing and do it very well, so he stuck with the Packers' press-man coverage scheme in the secondary. When his cornerbacks were being beaten repeatedly – like in the 2007 NFC Championship Game and against the Saints in 2008 – Sanders didn't have a Plan B. Capers, on the other hand, goes into games with a Plan B. And a Plan C and a Plan D and …
"It is the difference," Woodson said. "We just ran our stuff instead of trying to do something different. When a team's running up and down the field on you, you do something different. Last time around, we didn't. (Now), we'll make adjustments if something's not working and we'll keep making adjustments until we find something that works. So, that's a big difference in that respect."
Woodson was well aware of the challenge facing the defense tonight. Since 2006, Brees leads the NFL in completions, attempts, yards, 300-yard passing games, touchdown passes and 25-plus-yard completions. And since 2006, the Saints' receivers lead the league in yards after the catch. Now, with the addition of first-round pick Mark Ingram, the Saints might have a running game to take some of the pressure off the Brees-led passing attack.
"Great test, great test," Woodson said. "You've got a team that's only two years removed from the Super Bowl and still has their coaches intact, still has their quarterback. They've added some pieces that's going to help them win. For us, just speaking defensively, you've got a team that knows how to put up points. It'll be a great test for us and a lot of fun. Doesn't get any bigger than that so we look forward to the challenge."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.