Commentary: Defense playing like champs

Last week I mentioned that December was playoff month and that there's usually two factors that make a difference in winning and losing. One being the weather conditions and the other injuries. Let me add another factor, and this one is the war cry you always hear during playoff time. DEFENSE!<p>

You will hear this word used more than "you need a running game" to win in the playoffs. We've all heard the phrase "offense wins games but defense wins championships."

Sunday the defense showed why this is so true. No matter what the conditions are when you don't allow the opposition in the end zone a tie is the worst you can do. We saw an inspired defensive end Vonnie Holliday lead the defense with five sacks for a team total of six. Green Bay forced four fumbles and recovered three.

Yes, the windy conditions played havoc on the passing game for both teams but it was the pressure by the whole defense of Cletidus Hunt, Gilbert Brown, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Rod Walker and the linebacking corps led by Hardy Nickerson. And you can't the forget the play by the secondary. Holliday would be the first to say when the guys in back are doing their job it makes his job a lot easier.

On every Bills series there was always a different player making a big play, which has many saying this team, is peaking at the right time. I say that the coaches have done a great job teaching and the substitutes have done a super job of learning their assignments and watching game film knowing that on the next play you could be the starter. We've seen that happen throughout the year and it just keeps on continuing. All-pro safety Darren Sharper went down in the second series of the game with a knee strain and backup safety Matt Bowen filled in. It's not just the physical aspect of the game at safety but the ability to put everybody else in the right position on the field and still do your job. At safety you are the eyes of the defense. Whenever there's a shift by the tight end, running back or wide receiver, the safety makes the call if there's a change in the defense. The first thing people asked when LeRoy Butler retired was, ‘Who will be the leader?' It's a lot of responsibility. Being a competitor, Bowen was ready should the opportunity present itself.

The Bills' high-powered offense struggled with the weather conditions like our own Brett Favre. Like I said before "DEFENSE" will be the word used when people look closely at the stats. Zero points, 43 yards rushing and a mere 142 passing.

I didn't mentioned this when Gbaja-Biamila lost his mother two weeks ago, so I'll say it now especially after hearing Holliday talk about losing his second cousin, a 16 year old who died tragically the night before the game. I'd like to send my deepest condolences to them and their families.

My last paragraph goes to the Packers for their continued class. It brought back memories seeing the players walk around the field after the game and shake the hands of the fans thanking them for their support through out the year (we did that a couple years when I played). Not only have they gave us inspirational football, but we've had a chance to see every and I mean every player on this team play a significant role in this team's success. Coach Sherman said at the start of the year he wanted every player of this team involved but I don't think he meant (injuries) it this way.

This Sunday is the New York Jets who, by the way, are coached by Herman Edwards, former defensive coordinator of the Tampa Buccaneers. It's definitely a game the Pack can win but it's a late game so they will have a chance to know the outcome of the teams contending for home-field advantage. Will this be too much pressure knowing what they'll be playing for? I would think not, that's why they call it competition. As Old Toab (Packer all-pro linebacker Fred Carr) would say, "If you can't stand the heat, you better get out of the kitchen".

All I want for Christmas is home-field through out the playoffs. Merry Christmas!

Editor's note: Former safety Johnnie Gray played for the Packers from 1975-84. He was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994. E-mail him at

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