Defense turns it up in second half

Sure, it was 12-on-11 at Lambeau Field on Sunday, but the Packers' defense, so pathetic just a week ago at Philadelphia, was downright dominant in the second half of the critical 16-13 victory over the Detroit Lions at windy Lambeau Field.

In back-to-back weeks, the Packers had allowed franchise records for passing yards. On Sunday, however, Lions quarterback Joey Harrington connected on 5-of-22 passes for 47 yards as Mother Nature played tricks with practically every pass and kick. His passer rating of 39.6 is as low as it can go without an interception.

"I wouldn't say we surprised ourselves," said Packers cornerback Al Harris, who held standout rookie Roy Williams to just one catch. "We have confidence in ourselves. You guys (the media) are the ones who don't have confidence in us."

The Packers' defense was pushed around for much of the first half. The Lions led 13-0 at the break as rookie running back Kevin Jones had rushed 23 times for 118 yards and a touchdown.

The second half, however, was a different story. Detroit rolled up 155 yards and 14 first downs in the first half but managed only 73 yards and four first downs in the final 30 minutes.

"We just played more physical than them the second half," said Packers nose tackle Grady Jackson. "We came out with a vengeance the second half."

Jackson and the much-maligned Mark Roman played with the most vengeance during a critical sequence in the third quarter.

The Packers showed some life by opening the second half with a field goal to cut the Lions' lead to 13-3, but Detroit looked like it was going to answer that score with one of its own. Set up by a good kickoff return by Reggie Swinton, the Lions started with the ball at their 37-yard line. On the first play, Jones found clear sailing around right end for 11 yards. Harrington then found tight end Casey Fitzsimmons for 9 yards to set up a second-and-short.

That's when Jackson and Roman stepped to the fore. On second down, Jackson pushed center Dominic Raiola into the backfield and Roman filled the gap to stop the powerful Jones cold in the hole.

On third-and-1, Jones took a handoff and tried to find a crease to the left. Jackson, however, got immediate penetration and forced Jones to go parallel to the line of scrimmage instead of forward. Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila also got heavy penetration. He was picked up by lead blocker Cory Schlesinger a couple steps into the backfield, and that forced Jones to continue to run parallel. Roman, who was nearly benched for his awful play at Philadelphia, beat the block of pulling left tackle Jeff Backus and took Jones down for a loss of a yard.

The Lions wound up punting, and the Packers mounted a 10-play, 90-yard scoring drive.

The rest of the way, the Lions held the ball for 12 plays, picked up 16 yards and acquired just one first down.

"It was as simple as one, two, three and A, B, C," said linebacker Nick Barnett, who had his best game of the season with 14 tackles, including a few for a loss. "Just go out there and hit your gaps, make plays and make the tackle. That's all we had to do to stop them. We went out there and we did that."

The big second half was a far cry from the woeful first-half showing. Because of Jones' first-half success, the Lions rushed for 193 yards for the game. The Lions entered the game with one of the league's worst rushing offenses while the Packers had climbed the charts after a bad start to the season to rank ninth against the run.

"We played smarter in the second half and were able to get off blocks and made tackles," said Packers coach Mike Sherman.


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