Sydney Speaks! Winning because of the defense's Harry Sydney breaks down the highs and lows of the Packers' offense and defense following Green Bay's 9-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings Thursday night.

On Thursday night it was the battle of borders with two teams fighting for what could be their playoff lives. So what did we see out of the two rivals?

I saw Mike McCarthy understand the opponent that he was facing and make the adjustments. He wanted to come out and run the ball, at times, but he seemed to realize that if he tried to run from regular personnel that would be like beating his head into the wall, so he did what he hadn't done before and that was change his approach.

Even though he started the game throwing he shifted his run thought to running out of throwing formations, which helped control the Vikings. Another thing he did which I thought was good game management occurred after Brett's second interception. He took the ball out of Favre's hand and ran play after play because I believe he felt Brett's frustration. And just like last week, the offense had more than enough drops.

Also, I liked the fact that they called more screens and that reverse pass thrown by Carlyle Holiday was a very nice wrinkle, even though it didn't work. It was better than any shuffle pass maybe Jags will take it to Boston College with him. I can only hope!!!!

In reality this game wasn't about the coaches, it was about the players, especially the guys on the defensive side of the ball. So let's go there because that's were the game was really won.

It all starts up front with those guys with their hands down on the ground and they brought it play after play. I saw Aaron Kampman return to the form that got him elected to the Pro Bowl by getting three sacks on the rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Aaron got credited for those sacks, but he had a lot of help from other guys that played their butts off. I am talking about his partners Cullen Jenkins, Corey Williams and, yes, often forgotten Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. All they did all game was get after the rookie quarterback, and they did it smartly. They rushed in their lanes giving him no alley way to escape. And against the run, I saw Ryan Pickett all over the field making his off season pick-up well worth the money.

But the greatest thing is that the Packers didn't have to send an extra blitzer to put pressure on the quarterback. They got it done by just rushing their front four which is such a pleasant thing to see. As we move from the front four we have to move to the linebacking group, which might have played its best game to date. I believe that the chemistry that I am seeing between A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga is outstanding, and finally working the way that we all hoped it would. I know I haven't been overly impressed with Nick Barnett until the last couple of weeks. Before the last couple of games I thought he talked the walk and looked the part, but didn't play that way, but I am glad to say that he has picked up his game to match his talk. Even Brady Poppinga is becoming a force when it comes to the run. I really liked the way he stuffed the run against the Vikings. I especially liked the way he got off blockers and attacked playing down hill.

Then you have Hawk. He showed again why he was the fifth pick overall in last year's draft. He has ignited this defense to play at a higher level and has made the other linebackers better because his play pushes them to be better. Talk about leading by example. The way he filled the hole and stopped Chester Taylor in his tracks was a thing of beauty.

As we move to the secondary we have to look at the way Charles Woodson has picked up his game by having the most interceptions of his career. Those who might not have wanted him in Green Bay must admit that he has played better than expected. All Al Harris does is shut people down.

Safety Nick Collins finally looked like the player we all thought he would be at the start of the year. I thought he was all over the field. He made a crucial tackle on Tarvaris Jackson on a third and medium that stopped the Vikings from gaining momentum as Tarvaris got out the pocket for a potential big play. The players on defense battled their butts off again for the second straight week and won the game because the offense did a lot of fluff, but had nothing to show for it. They haven't allowed a touchdown in two weeks. GREAT JOB!!!!!


We all realized that the offensive line would probably be in trouble when it came to trying to establish the run, but I thought at least they would put up a fight and the success wouldn't be geared to coaching only. Well, I was wrong. They got knocked around as if they didn't belong on the same field. I know all about the zone blocking that Colledge, Wells and Spitz are supposed to be perfect for, but how about just some nasty fight at the point of attack? I didn't see any whatsoever.

The running backs are at least supposed to get back to the line of scrimmage before they are touched. Way too many times Ahman Green and Vernon Morency were trying to survive and didn't have a chance to run. And as for the receiving group, hats off to Donald Driver for proving again why he has earned the right to be considered one of the best in the game. Being named to the Pro Bowl is a very deserving honor for Driver. Nine catches for 99 yards wasn't a bad performance.

With good there is always bad, and our first stop is the tight end position, mainly Bubba Franks. It looks as if he is trying to play himself out of the National Football League. After his performance Thursday night, which team would even want to trade for him? You have to believe the Packers must upgrade this position next year. Either it has to be a pay cut, or trade, or just a flat-out release because what he is doing isn't NFL standards anymore. His fumbles and drops almost cost them the game. If the Packers weren't playing against another horrible team, they would have lost.

As for Greg Jennings, he seems to be playing as if he hit a wall, and his reactions just aren't there. He seems late on everything, even though I say that I'm not sure Brett's two interceptions were Jennings' fault. I know everyone was looking for any sign from Brett to signal what his future would be and if that was his last game at Lambeau, and I hope not. If it is, another great one would go down with a not-so-storybook ending. With one game to play he has 17 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, but the team has improved to 7-8.

This game, again, wasn't about the offense because it couldn't do anything in the red zone. In the last two weeks the Packers are 1-8 scoring touchdowns in the red zone, or the green zone as some call it. For so long it has been about the offense, but aren't we glad the Packers are WINNING BECAUSE OF THE DEFENSE.

Harry Sydney

Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. E-mail him at

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