Defense Finally Slams the Door

The Packers' defense, who had been badly outscored in the fourth quarter this season and couldn't finish off the Vikings last week, picked a fine time for a game-saving stand - against Tom Brady and the Patriots. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY)

For weeks, Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers spoke of the need for his unit to slam the door shut on its opponent.

So, too, had linebacker Julius Peppers.

The Packers entered Sunday’s game against New England having been outscored 95-58 in the fourth quarter. Sure, there were the circumstances. The Packers had blown out several opponents, leading to some garbage-time scoring with backups on the field and star players laughing and joking on the sideline. But when the Packers needed a stop to slam the door on the Vikings last week, they gave up a touchdown. When they needed a stop at Detroit in Week 3, the Lions ran the ball down the defense’s throats.

Against the Patriots – against the No. 1-scoring offense in the league and future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady – the defense rose to the occasion for a signature win against an elite team and an elite quarterback.

“I think it says a lot,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “At the end of the day, this is the type of team we’re going to be playing if we want to get to where we want to go. It’s the type of team we’re going to be playing and it’s the type of win we’re going to have to get. It’s always been that way. You’re going to get to the playoffs and every game’s going to be tight. There aren’t going to be any runaways. You’ve got to be able to stay in the game physically and, most of all, mentally. That’s what it comes down to: Who can hold that focus the longest. We held our focus. I think they did, too. We just made the plays that we needed to.”

Davante Adams’ drop of a touchdown pass looked like a dire mistake, with the miscue being the difference between a comfortable 30-21 lead and a too-close-for-comfort 26-21 edge. New England’s offense took possession at its 28-yard line and 8:41 on the clock – plenty of time for Brady, who had authored 43 game-winning drives when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter or overtime.

What could have been an agonizing moment turned into a galvanizing one.

“First thing we do is look at each other and say, ‘We’ve got to make the stop, guys,’” Williams said. “We didn’t point any fingers. It happens. It was too good to be true. It happens. We looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got to win this game.’ There’s no blueprint on how you’re going to go out there and get the stop. At the end of the day, we knew we had to get one.”

Brady converted a fourth-and-3 and a third-and-7 with clutch passes, and LaGarrette Blount’s 12-yard run gave New England a first down at the Packers’ 21. But Green Bay stuffed Blount on first down and HaHa Clinton-Dix saved a touchdown by knocking away a potential touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski on second down. That set up a third-and-9. Mike Neal applied immediate pressure and got an arm on Brady, and defensive tackle Mike Daniels finished him off for a pivotal sack. A missed field goal by the Patriots and a clinching first down by the Packers ended the game.

“Whew. That’s a scary bunch of men – coach on through the players,” Daniels said. “To get a win like that against them at home is huge. The best thing about is we can keep getting better and learn from it and get ready for these Falcons (on Monday).”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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