The Packer defense was more than a question mark coming into the game, especially on a short week. After an onslaught of injuries already cost the team Antuan Edwards, Vonnie Holliday and a rejuvenated Joe Johnson, the addition of Mike McKenzie and outspoken team leader Darren Sharper seemed to seal the Packers fate to anyone looking at the game objectively.
Head coaches are generally not objective.
"All I know is, Mike Sherman came in and said, we're going to win this football game. He set the goal and it's our job to create a plan that will get us that," Donatell said." That's what we intend to do every week and that's what we did here. The players and the coaches and the way the came together, there was a tremendous focus.
"The greatest part of sports is great team victories. It was a great team victory today and that's what really keeps you going as a coach, the highs that come off of that when people work together. It's a very powerful thing, teamwork is, and that's what we had today."
Donatell got his part of that team victory accomplished with an unlikely cast of characters in the defensive backfield:
-Rookie Marques Anderson was expected to be groomed for an eventual starting role by several players in front of him.
-Matt Bowen was likely on a few people's short list of training camp cuts, until he impressed coaches with his tenacity.
-Bryant Westbrook - the 5th overall pick in the 1999 draft - was just another Dallas Cowboy career gone awry until the Packers picked him up early in the week.
- Tod McBride rarely finds himself at the top of the depth chart, but has found a way to stay on this team.
This patched-together secondary held the Patriots to less than 200 yards passing despite 44 attempts by Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. He averaged just 3.6 yards on his 21 completions.
"(Patriots head coach) Bill Belichick was a secondary coach and he knows when you get young guys down there, there's a chance you can get the ball down the edge," Donatell said. "It really helped when Bryant Westbrook stepped up big and intercepted one early. That was one in our favor. And then we had a couple balls where our guys made plays. They got us for one (pass) interference (penalty). Overall we came out on top."
The Packers picked off Brady three times, relegating him to a quarterback rating of 44.
Anderson, Westbrook and Bowen put on the pick parade, with Anderson running his back 22 yards. The rookie also was instrumental in the Packers' fumble recovery after Brady's lateral was dropped. After a host of veteran players milled around the ball thinking the play was over, Anderson alerted his teammate and was the first to make contact. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila came up with the recovery.
"I was yelling at (Gbaja-Biamila to cover the ball), but on the field it's kind of hard for them to hear you. I didn't hear any whistle. The ball was just laying there. I tried to get there as fast as I could," Anderson said. "Anytime there's a screen or a pass that could be remotely behind the line of scrimmage, if you don't hear a whistle, you have to go get it and let the refs decipher that after the play is over."
So the game that loomed like a storm cloud after the Packers' encouraging win over the Bears last Monday night didn't turn out the way most people thought. But how about the dominance of the Packers D in the win? Not even Donatell predicted that.
"I thought it was pretty big, I really did. This is a (Patriots) team that scored in the first two out of three drives against the San Diego Chargers. We knew that could be a possibility, so we wanted to keep our confidence in our guys in case that happened," Donatell said. "Our goal was to make one more play than them. For it to come out lopsided like this, I would like for it to, but I didn't know that it would for sure."
As the glow of victory wears off the preparation begins for the Washington Redskins and their offense-minded coach Steve Spurrier, the injuries remain. The group of backups will have to do it again, but this time it's different. They knew they could, but now everyone else knows they can, too. "This is like a family," Anderson said. "I don't think of it just as a group of guys, it's a family. We came together. We had a couple key injuries, but the guys had to step up. The guys that were prepared to step up, they stepped up and they made some plays and we beat the world champs."
"That says something about our whole team," Anderson said. "We're not going to skip a beat. We have our eyes on the goal. Our goal is the Super Bowl. We're going to keep on pushing, whether you're a starter, whether you're a backup, we're going to keep on pushing for that goal."