Packers Turn Picks Into Six

As demonstrated by Charlie Peprah and Tramon Williams last week, no team in the NFL turns defense into offense quite like the Packers, who are far and away the league leaders in interceptions and pick-sixes over the last three-plus seasons. We tell you why.

The Green Bay Packers lead the NFL in interceptions. And when those defensive backs get their hands on the ball ...

"We're going to score," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said, interrupting the question with the perfect answer for this story. "That's us. I believe it and we put it up there and we stress it."

For all of the problems confronting the league's 31st-ranked pass defense, the Packers continue to do one thing better than every other team in the NFL. They sit atop the league with 16 interceptions. That's after a league-high 30 interceptions in 2009 and a second-ranked 24 interceptions in 2010. Their 92 interceptions since the start of the 2008 season are merely 17 more than second-place Baltimore.

The pick parade has led to a parade of defenders running into the end zone. Including the pick-sixes by Charlie Peprah and Tramon Williams against San Diego, the Packers have returned 15 interceptions for touchdowns since the start of the 2008 season. That's four more than Baltimore and five more than Buffalo. During that same span, Charles Woodson has returned seven interceptions for touchdowns. No one else has more than four.

"Obviously, we're looking to score," Williams said. "You've got guys who lead by example. Obviously, Charles has been doing it for a long time. You find yourself watching him and learning from him. Nick (Collins has) done it a lot, and now you've got younger guys who have learned by example."

They've learned well. Peprah hadn't scored since the first game of his sophomore year at Alabama, for instance.

"For me, it all starts with the mind-set that we have — get the ball and score," Peprah said. "Charles Woodson set the precedent, and now you've got playmakers back there like Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. Everybody, when they get their hands on the ball, is obligated to score. We always talk about scoring on defense, but it's also just DB pride. We want to make plays. It's not good enough to get the ball and get a few yards."

For Peprah — a high school running back in Plano, Texas — getting those yards took a lot of work. After catching the ball on a deflection, he ran through at least four tackles and carried the ball almost all the way across the field. On the way to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown, he got blocks from Williams, A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews, among others.

"It turns into a punt return," Whitt said. "Everybody turns and blocks. Turn and block and block speed, and let the runner beat the big guys. We want to block all the fast guys and let the runners beat the big guys."

For Williams, his 43-yard touchdown on the next series couldn't have been easier. Then again, anything that looks easy on the field almost always is the byproduct of the right call during the game and the work done on the practice field and film room.

"He was baited into (the throw) but it was my play to be made," Williams said. "We gave him a different look. We were in zero man-to-man. I played with a lot of depth — about 8, 9 yards off. The No. 1 receiver ran up and I still had depth and I was on top of him, and the other guy came out on the flat. It was a situational play, also, because it was third-and-4 and the guy came out in the flat. They were just trying to get the first down and I broke on it."

Williams' interception is the perfect summation of Whitt's coaching style and the playmaking ability in the secondary. Not that every team doesn't strive to intercept the ball, but the Packers' overwhelming production shows that they stress it and coach it and do it better than everyone else.

"When you listen to Joe Whitt talk, we're talking about defending the next opponent and talking about defending routes," Peprah said of game-planning meetings early in the week. "Most coaches would be like, ‘We've got to break that up.' He's like, ‘That's a pick. We'll intercept this.' Everything's an interception to him. That mind-set trickles down."

Whitt literally dreams that mind-set.

"The thing is, if we're in the right coverage and they run that route, we should get it," Whitt said. "Like what happened to Tramon, they ran that three-out against our coverage, that's our route to get. If they throw it, we're going to get it. I told Tramon, ‘You're going to get an interception for a touchdown this week.' I had a dream about it. I thought him and Sam were going to get it but Pep got the other one. I said, ‘We're going to get two interceptions (for touchdowns) this week. Tramon's going to get one and Sam's going to get the other one,' and Tramon got it on the route that I was thinking."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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