Defense delivers repeat performance

The Packer defense keeps raising the bar with the NFL's best takeaway ratio. While opponents are certainly tiring the the Packers' penchant for coming up with the ball, the Green Bay D just can't get enough of the now-familiar refrain.<P>

The Packers' plus-15 turnover ratio is by far the league's best. The 49ers and Buccaneers are the closest competitors with a plus-10 ratio. By contrast, the other teams in the NFC North Division opponents are all in the negative. Next week's foe, Detroit, is minus-1; Chicago is minus-3, and Minnesota ranks last in the NFL with a minus-15 ratio.

Green Bay compiled it's impressive figure with 14 interceptions and 13 fumbles recovered, against their own 8 fumbles lost and just 4 Brett Favre interceptions in eight games.

Players have repeatedly credited defensive coordinator Ed Donatell for his focus on developing the ball-hawking ability. He expects to see it in practice, which leads to the players expecting to produce it on the field.

"We had a really good practice week, our preparation was great in taking the ball away," Donatell said. "We demonstrated it in practice, so it doesn't surprise us when it shows up in the game. We have a great team mindset in that area right now, and we will continue to do that in the second half (of the season)."

Packer defensive end Vonnie Holliday said the mindset is definitely contagious.

"To see Nate (Wayne) and Kabeer (Gbaja-Biamila) and all those guys digging at the ball like that, we see that every day in practice and it's certainly carrying over to the game," Holliday said. "It's such an emphasis placed on that in practice and in our meeting rooms. It's really amazing to see it carry over to the field and see it play out. On that play with Nate Wayne, that's a play that we've seen so many times in practice. It's coached and it's drilled and that was just an instance it happened."

Wayne kept the Dolphins off the board when he forced, then recovered a fumble in the red zone. The takeaway caused a complete momentum swing, because the Packers had lost their own scoring opportunity on the previous drive on an interception in the end zone. Had the Dolphins scored a touchdown, it would have been a deflating 14-point swing.

Wayne was the defense's leading playmaker on a night when the defense stole the show. In addition to his nine tackles, Wayne forced and recovered a fumble and came up with an interception. He also had two additional passes defensed.

Wayne, along with running back Ahman Green, was named John Madden's player of the game and his picture will adorn the ABC "Horse Trailer." He was quick to share the credit after the game:

"It comes down to the defensive coaching staff," Wayne said. "They're putting in a lot of hours coming up with good schemes. They're doing a great job and then it's up to us to go out and execute.

"We look to try and give the ball back to our offense. We feel if we give the ball to our offense, our chances of winning are 100 percent," Wayne said.

Safety Darren Sharper looked healthier than ever after returning from a hamstring injury, and Monday night he seemed to make up for lost time.

With time winding down in the third quarter, the Dolphins' seemed poised to cut the Packers' 17-0 lead down to just seven points. Having driven from their own 11-yard-line, the Dolphins faced first-and-10 at the Packers 14-yard-line. But when Ray Lucas attempted to hit Ed Perry near the 10-yard-line, Sharper deftly stepped in front of Perry for an interception and 81-yard return to the end zone to end the third quarter.

"I saw him looking that way and just trusted my instincts," Sharper said. "I was lucky to hold on to the ball, and lucky again to get into the end zone."

"I'm not as fast as I could be," said Sharper, on his recovery from the hamstring injury. "You could probably see that on the return. But I was fast enough to get in the end zone. I'm glad none of the running backs or receivers were chasing me, let me put it that way."


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