Green Bay Packers Defense Stuffs Peterson, Shackles Bridgewater

In the biggest game of the season, the Green Bay Packers' defense turned in its best performance of the season by limiting Adrian Peterson and sacking Teddy Bridgewater.

The Green Bay Packers’ defense had a dual mission Sunday afternoon – find a way to stop Adrian Peterson and, at the same time, put the cuffs on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

That seemed like a tall order for a team that had been reeling for three consecutive weeks, and to fill that order on the road seemed like a daunting proposition at best.

Not to worry.

The Packers were more than equal to the task as they ganged up on Peterson and held him to a measly 45 yards on 13 carries while turning up the heat considerably on Bridgewater.  The second-year quarterback finished with a respectable 296 yards on 25 completions and one touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph.  But those stats belied the fact that he spent much of the day running for his life, trying to outrun a ferocious Packers pass rush that sacked him six times and hit him very hard on several other occasions.

Peterson may indeed be the best player in the game right now but the Packers definitely rose to the occasion on this frosty afternoon.

“I think the most important thing is stopping Adrian Peterson,” said coach Mike McCarthy.  “He’s a great player, great back. The fact that you can have a chance to play a little downhill in the passing game (was big). I thought Teddy Bridgewater made some great plays today, and the fact we were able to keep the pressure on him and get some sacks and win those fourth downs was important for us.”

“It’s a challenge,” said linebacker Julius Peppers on trying to stop Peterson.  “These types of games define who you are and the guys stepped up to the challenge. It was a great sign for us as a team, as a defense, in this moment and in this situation. We came up big.  Clay Matthews played well for us and we had Datone Jones with a couple of sacks. Everybody came prepared to play this game. We were focused and we got the job done. That’s basically Football 101. You go into the game to stop the run and you try to make a team one-dimensional. Against a team like this with a great running back that runs as hard as Adrian, it was nice to be able to stop him and put them into a one-dimensional phase. That plays into our advantage with the pass rush.”

Matthews saw things pretty much the same way. Peterson’s longest run of the day was for 11 yards as he bounced a run to the outside, and he managed to get into the end zone once on a 6-yard slash.

“Aside from one play where Peterson caught the edge, I thought for the most part we did a good job bringing pressure and getting to him before he got started,” said Matthews. “If you miss tackles here and there, that’s going to happen against a great back like AP. Their whole offense is based on giving him the ball and creating situations for Bridgewater to make it happen. Fortunately, we were able to shut him down and force Teddy into a more one-dimensional mode. We did a good job pressuring the quarterback. We’ve done a good job in weeks prior but tonight we got a number of sacks and were able to get Bridgewater off the spot and make him uncomfortable. That’s the important thing we look at, pressures and pass rush and disrupting the quarterback.”

Defensive end Datone Jones once again showed that he’s stepping up his game considerably, contributing a pair of sack, one of which came at the expense of Vikings guard Mike Harris, a former college teammate of Jones’ at UCLA.

“It feels great,” Jones said of his one-on-one battles. “The best part was going against my college teammate Mike Harris. I had to go against him since I was a freshman in college and he used to whip up on me. I always told him, ‘We’re going to play against you someday.’ It was definitely a battle between him and I today. We both made a few plays on each other and it was great. As a unit, we came out today as underdogs and this was definitely a must-win for us to get out of our slump so we could get back on our high horse and be the Green Bay Packers that we know we are. It was great to know the coaches trust me and they’re putting me in for passing situations to disrupt the quarterback and get him off the spot. We got a lot of big hits on him, Mike Daniels, Mike Neal and myself. It was fun. Effort was the big difference. We were relentless tonight and it was great to affect the quarterback and stop the run.”

Bottling up Peterson also made things considerably easier for the defensive backs. They were able to anticipate routes and even take a few extra chances. In the fourth quarter with the Vikings desperately trying to put together a drive to get back within striking distance, safety Morgan Burnett snuck up on Peterson from behind and punched out the ball and Sam Shields recovered it at the Packers’ 21 to end the threat.

“We were playing with a sense of urgency because it was a must-win game coming in,” said cornerback Damarious Randall. “Everybody knew we had to come in and stop one of the best running backs in the league. Once we got them into passing situations, it’s the mental part of the game anticipating routes they’d run in certain situations. The pass rush put us into some great situations and I feel like we played great today.”

Maybe the players saw this game as a must-win. And, yes, there were plenty of doubters among the Packer faithful as Green Bay prepared for its border rival.  But McCarthy did not seem to view this as a “do-or-die” scenario.

“I don’t think it was a gut check at all internally,” said McCarthy. “I’m very proud of the team the way they stayed the course. This is a process we talked about. We’ve been very open about it. This stretch of games is going to be the toughest stretch of our season, hopefully. Really, the preparation was reflected in today’s performance. It may sound like coach-speak or whatever you want to take with it, but that’s the facts. These guys stayed the course. Maybe a little more conversation than normal, but the way we practiced, I’m happy they had the success today because they’ve been putting it out the whole time. This is a group that’s close, they’re very accountable. That’s how you get better as a football team. Frankly, once again, we’ve got things we can improve on, there’s a couple things we could probably do a better job of today, we’ll learn from them and turn this thing around tomorrow and get ready for Chicago.”

So it was a night for laughter and a bit of celebration. But Peppers and his defensive teammates didn’t want to overblow one victory, with the Bears coming to Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving.

“It’s a great win for us and one that we needed badly but we’ve got another divisional game coming up in a few days,” Peppers cautioned. “We can’t get too high off this. We’ve got to focus back in and get ready for Chicago on Thursday. It’s a division game and these games are about toughness and playing big in special situations. We go into the game with the mentality that it doesn’t matter what the offense does, it doesn’t matter what the defense does or the special teams. We’ve got to go out there and make the stops.”

“It’s huge and it’s good to get back on track,” added defensive tackle Mike Daniels. “I want to enjoy the night and we got another big one coming up here in a few days. We made a decision (to pressure Bridgewater) and we have to do that every day and every week. You just got to keep playing hard even through times of adversity. These last three weeks, we’ve experienced quite a bit of adversity and we just kept fighting through it.”

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