Packers’ Defense Sets Harassing Tone

Even without Clay Matthews, Green Bay's defense stole the thunder from Aaron Rodgers and Co. during Saturday's Family Night.

The Family Night fireworks were provided by the Lambeau Field pyrotechnicians, not Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers’ explosive offense.

Green Bay’s defense, which likely will be the deciding factor on whether the Packers can turn this into a Super season, turned in a strong performance. It was an incredibly promising performance considering linebackers Clay Matthews, Mike Neal and Nick Perry were sidelined by injuries. And it started early.

On the third snap of 11-on-11, Rodgers fired a deep pass up the left sideline that was intercepted by safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. His next pass, a long ball to Larry Pinkard, almost was intercepted by first-round cornerback Damarious Randall.

"Just the defense to get a turnover early, and he got it on 12 (Rodgers), so that's definitely a big thing as well," cornerback Casey Hayward said. "HaHa has been doing a great job, and hopefully we can continue that trend."

Here’s a play-by-play of the next seven snaps:

-- Nose tackle B.J. Raji had a clean shot at running back Rajion Neal at the line of scrimmage.

Scott Tolzien’s pass glanced off the hands of receiver Jimmie Hunt and was intercepted by cornerback Tay Glover-Wright.

-- Defensive tackle Khyri Thornton beat offensive lineman Don Barclay to stop running back Alonzo Harris for a loss.

-- Tolzien completed a pass to receiver Myles White against cornerback Casey Hayward.

-- Outside linebacker Andy Mulumba got free on a stunt and leveled the 237-pound Harris for a short gain.

-- Quarterback Matt Blanchard hit Pinkard on a crossing route. If this were a game, Pinkard would have been crushed by cornerback Ladarius Gunter.

-- Blanchard, facing stiff pressure, heaved a pass that landed in between receivers Ty Montgomery and White.

The pass rush was as good as it’s been during training camp. Whether it was starters against starters or backups against backups, green-clad defenders continually got in the backfield of the white-wearing offense. In a span of four plays, defensive linemen Bruce Gaston and Lavon Hooks shared a sack on Blanchard and Brett Hundley had to fire passes while getting in-his-face pressure from Raji and Mike Daniels. In plays near the goal line, Tolzien threw a touchdown pass to White despite pressure from Datone Jones and Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Richard Rodgers despite a clean stunt by Thornton.

“I thought the defensive pass rush was definitely better today, particularly in the pass-under-pressure drill,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think even in the two-minute it was pretty good. Yeah, we’re improving there. And that’s what we need to do.”

The best sustained drive by the offense came at the end of the night, when Tolzien piloted the lone two-minute drill. A well-executed screen to Neal, who followed excellent blocks by guard Lane Taylor and receiver Jeff Janis for a gain of 17, and 13-yard completions to Pinkard and Montgomery moved the ball to the 22. After Tolzien clocked the ball with 19 seconds left, he threw a perfect pass to Pinkard in the end zone but the rookie who didn’t play collegiately as a senior dropped the ball. A third-down pass to Janis in the end zone was knocked away by cornerback Demetri Goodson. A fourth-down pass to tight end Kennard Backman had no chance, and the rookie was flagged for offensive pass interference.

Bill Huber is publisher of 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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