They had heard the talk all week. Sure, the Packers had the No. 1 defense … on paper. But was it really all that tough? Well, for the doubters who thought that shutting down the likes of Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis didn't count for much (never mind that it stopped a potent Dallas offense), Green Bay unleashed a bruising brand of football that looked a lot like the type of play its opponent is known for. In essence, the Packers "out-Ravened" the Ravens in their 27-14 victory Monday night.
"I think we showed why we're the No. 1 defense in the NFL," nose tackle Ryan Pickett said. "We're physical up front, the front seven is probably the most physical in the NFL. Baltimore may have had that reputation, but we wanted that reputation. So, we came out and played hard."
Green Bay held Baltimore running back Ray Rice to 54 yards on 14 carries, with 38 of that total coming on two second-half carries. The 5-foot-8 powerhouse had just 11 yards on seven carries at the half as the Ravens trailed 17-0.
While shutting down the run is priority No. 1 for defensive coordinator Dom Capers, harassing the quarterback ranks pretty high, too, and Green Bay did plenty of that with three Joe Flacco takedowns to go with three takeaways. Flacco completed just 15 of his 36 pass attempts for 137 yards and a 27.2 rating as Green Bay brought pressure from the outside and up the middle. Green Bay had Flacco running sideways and even running a circle around his offensive tackle at one point, trying to get away from the pressure.
This was the kind of statement game Green Bay had been wanting to make, and one that has it clearly pointing to the playoffs.
"We're playing with a lot of confidence and it's not a false confidence," middle linebacker Nick Barnett said. "This game was a proving grounds for us. All we heard about was the Ravens' defense and Ray Lewis and all those guys, and we wanted to go out and show that we're a good defense, as well."
Not just good, playoff-caliber good.
2.) Finley's got talent and confidence to spare
Jermichael Finley barrels in for his second touchdown.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
He routinely found holes in the coverage and used his 6-foot-5, 247-pound frame to create mismatches on the ground, plowing for extra yards, and in the air — none more obvious than when he reached above Reed's replacement, Tom Zbikowski, in the back corner of the end zone for six points and a 10-0 Green Bay lead.
"You know, if it's Randy Moss and a 5-11 guy, of course it's a mismatch, so I just have to go out and play ball," Finley said, seemingly comparing his height, not talent to Moss. "I can win those probably 100 percent of the time.
"It was a big thing having Ed Reed out. But if he was in, we probably still would've beat them."
Then again, maybe he was comparing his talent.
3.) The officials like to air it out, too
It approached the ridiculous, but at least a flag-happy officiating crew seemed to call it both ways. Over the span of 3 hours and 23 minutes, Green Bay and Baltimore combined for 310 penalty yards, a Packers record. The previous record was set on Oct. 21, 1945, when Green Bay took on the Boston Yanks. Monday's 175 yards by the Packers and 135 yards by the Ravens ties the second-most penalty yards in a single game in NFL history.
Some of the 23 penalties were clearly warranted — facemasks and false starts and defensive offsides. Others — most notably, pass interference calls on the Packers' Tramon Williams, when he made a beautiful diving deflection of a Flacco-to-Demetrius Williams pass in the end zone, or on the Ravens' Derrick Mason, who guided Charles Woodson in front of him before catching an underthrown pass — left players shaking their heads.
"That's what happens when you have two physical teams out there," Tramon Williams said. "From what I understand, Baltimore is also at the top of the league in penalties. But we played the type of ball we usually play. We just got penalized for it.
"I guess if they were consistent with it, it's cool. But for me, it was frustrating, I can't lie. But you know, the refs did their job, what they thought was the right call, and I respect that."
4.) Williams is getting it done
It was a tough night for Tramon Williams.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
With Green Bay holding a 24-14 lead, Flacco went to his No. 3 wideout, Demetrius Williams, and drew yet another pass interference penalty on Tramon Williams, this time for 22 yards. The play gave the Ravens a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. On first down, Willis McGahee ran left for a 2-yard loss when cornerback Charles Woodson shot in and tripped him up.
On the next play, Flacco faked a handoff and rolled to his right. Packers defensive end Johnny Jolly ran at him but missed, leaving Flacco to step up and throw across his body toward the middle of the field. As the ball floated toward Demetrius Williams, Tramon Williams knew his redemption – and the game – was there for the taking.
"Oh man, it was a great feeling," Williams said. "After that pick, I had a lot of emotion. It was great to make a play for my team at a critical point in the game. That was a big deal. Actually, my man was running across the field. I saw him with my peripheral (vision) and went back that way with him, and made eye contact with (Joe) Flacco and I was anticipating that he was going to throw the ball, and I just made the play.
"When a quarterback tries to throw the ball back across his body, nine times out of 10 he's not going to put it on a rope. It's going to be one of those throws where the guy on TV is probably saying, ‘He should've never made that throw.' But I'm glad he did."
5.) ‘Special' and ‘teams' don't go together.
We can forgive the misses from longer than 50 yards. Maybe even 48 yards. But when you start missing from 38, something needs to be done. For his career, Mason Crosby has hit 53-of-57 from 39 yards and closer. He led the league in scoring as a rookie and his leg strength never has been in question, but Crosby has developed some issues with accuracy that need to be addressed.
His kick that sailed wide right at the start of the fourth quarter is proof. He's become the opposite of automatic, and at some point, it's going to cost this team. Kickers don't often lose their confidence. But sometimes their coaches do. You have to wonder how Mike McCarthy starts viewing fourth downs.
Adding to the kicking woes is the coverage teams' penchant for giving up the long return. After Rodgers hit Finley for his second touchdown of the game and a 24-14 lead, Ravens return man Lardarius Webb took a 64-yard Crosby kick right up the middle for 68 yards, setting Baltimore up at the Green Bay 26. Tramon Williams finally chased him down. Four plays later, Williams would officially end the threat with his interception in the end zone.
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W. Keith Roerdink has covered the Packers since 1992. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.