Green Bay's defense limited Detroit's Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton to 105 passing yards on 11-of-25 marksmanship while sacking them five times and picking them off three times en route to a 26-0 win. You can argue that the Green Bay's offense should've scored about 45 points, but defensively, they did exactly what they needed to do against a lesser opponent. They stepped on their throat.
"We don't worry about what strength the Lions are at," said linebacker Nick Barnett, who led the defense with nine tackles and shared a sack with end Michael Montgomery. "This is the NFL. Did anyone give us pity when we had three defensive starters out last year or did anyone give us pity when we had offensive line guys hurt? This is not the game for pity. No one gets sympathy."
The shutout was Green Bay's first since Nov. 11, 2007, when they beat a Brooks Bollinger-led Minnesota Vikings squad at Lambeau Field and cornerback Al Harris knocked running back Adrian Peterson out of the game. It was just their sixth time holding an opponent scoreless since 1991, proving how tough that zero really is to come by.
"Anytime, I don't care who it is, if you hold an NFL offense to no points, that's a significant performance," linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "And I thought we turned in some good plays today."
Green Bay's first good play of the day came from end Cullen Jenkins, who's putting together a Pro Bowl-caliber season after five games. It was the Lions' first possession when, on third-and-15 from their 25-yard line, a rushing Jenkins saw running back Kevin Smith sneak behind him for a screen pass. The 305-pound Jenkins pulled back in time to see Culpepper floating a short pass right at him, which he hauled in for his first career interception, rumbling 4 yards before being wrestled to the ground.
Jenkins laughed when he said his only concern was not dropping the ball. He also clarified that it wasn't just his first NFL interception; it was the first one at any level of organized football … at least that counted.
"I had one in high school, but it got called back because of a penalty," Jenkins said. "And I played DB in high school, too, so that was pretty bad."
The Packers kept the defensive momentum going on the next series when rookie Clay Matthews III – making his first start since supplanting Brady Poppinga at right outside linebacker – sacked Culpepper for a 9-yard loss on third down. He rode on the 260-pound quarterback's back for a few seconds before end Johnny Jolly came up and knocked them both to the ground.
Matthews continued to be a Detroit drive-killer in the second quarter. He broke up a third-down pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew early in the period and dropped Culpepper again, this time for a 4-yard loss, later in the second. But his best play may have been hitting Smith for a 1-yard loss on a fourth-and-1 run with 15 seconds to go in the half. It appeared Matthews had overcommitted to the inside but he was able to use his speed to step back outside and pull Smith down, with some help from rookie teammate B.J. Raji.
"I'm always trying to make a big play within the framework of the defense and fortunately, I was able to do that, make a few stops and get them in some third and longs in which we were able to get after them," Matthews said. "So, yeah it's big, but we had a bunch of other guys getting interceptions, pressures, sacks, so it was great all-around team performance."
Schematically, it was a different look than the one on display at the Metrodome, when quarterback Brett Favre sat back in the pocket and picked them apart with surgical precision. Against the Lions, Green Bay returned to the blitz-happy, pressure packages that are a hallmark of the 3-4 defense. There was also a welcome defensive wrinkle that had Kampman putting his hand down on the ground, looking like the pass-rushing defensive end that opposing quarterbacks came to fear over the past three seasons.
The decision to utilize Kampman's skills in a more familiar way was something he and the coaches arrived at. That he collected his second sack of the season and was a regular presence in the Lions' backfield should go a long way in making sure that Kampman – who's in the final year of his contract – gets more opportunities lining up that way and spends less time dropping into coverage. Kampman, who said he lined up with hand down about seven times, totaled five hits on the quarterback.
"There's so many variables that go into it … calls, down and distance, the offensive formation, things like that," Kampman said. "But obviously, when we felt like it was a comfortable thing you saw (my hand) down.
"I loved it, obviously. I got (my sack) in a four point. They both have pluses and minuses but it was good to come out of (that stance) again."
After Culpepper tweaked his hamstring on a third-quarter run, he was replaced by Stanton, who threw two interceptions over the last quarter and a half. The first can't be blamed on him, as Al Harris capitalized on pass that bounced out of Pettigrew's hands, pulling it in before stepping out of bounds.
Stanton's next pick came as Detroit was threatening to put its first points on the board. On third-and-goal from the Green Bay 10-yard line, Stanton fired a pass at John Standeford, who was blanketed by safety Atari Bigby. Back in the lineup for the first time since spraining his knee in the season opener against Chicago, Bigby caught the pass as if it was intended for him all along, pulling it in to his gut and preserving that zero on the scoreboard. Green Bay would control the clock over the final 7:52 to end the game.
"One Sunday doesn't just mean it's fixed," Kampman said of the Packers' defensive performance. "But I think we took a step in the right direction."