Defense Picks Up the Pieces

One week after getting picked on at Pittsburgh, Green Bay picks off four passes in 48-10 romp against Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks. Safety Atari Bigby led the way with two interceptions, and the Packers allowed only a garbage-time touchdown.

Matt Hasselbeck made another return to Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon and, once again, it was not triumphant. In fact, it was downright ugly.

While this game didn't have all the drama of the 2003 "We want the ball and we're gonna score" playoff loss or even the snowbound 2007 NFC divisional playoff defeat, Hasselbeck took plenty of lumps.

The Packers' defense badgered and harassed the former Green Bay quarterback all afternoon, with it picking him clean four times: twice by Atari Bigby and once each by A. J. Hawk and Jarrett Bush. Hasselbeck ended up with a miserable 36.6 quarterback rating, completing only 19-of-37 passes with one meaningless touchdown in garbage time.

How did things get so out of hand in a hurry?

"I am definitely searching for answers," a subdued Hasselbeck explained. "You have to look at each one individually. I am looking for answers and for ways to improve, things to do and things not to do. Looking at the last two interceptions, there is definitely an element of forcing things. I need to figure it out."

The Packers' defense certainly had him figured out.

Hawk's interception came on Seattle's first possession. Hasselbeck had the Seahawks moving, and on third down at Green Bay's 36, he rolled right and found linebacker Brad Jones in his face as he attempted a short pass. The ball fluttered harmlessly to Hawk, who returned it 29 yards before being brought down.

"It switched the momentum back in our corner, and we were able to go out and take advantage of it offensively," said defensive coordinator Dom Capers. "They had a little rhythm going, mixing the run -- really the run in that series."


Johnny Jolly celebrates with Atari Bigby after Bigby's interception.
Mike Roemer/AP Images
Since cornerback Al Harris suffered a season-ending knee injury against San Francisco, the secondary has been working hard to stay together and to establish its new identity, especially now with the playoffs in mind.

"We're a team that won't quit," said Bigby, who registered the second two-pick game of his career. "We always give 100 percent. We all have love for each other and we want to see each other make big plays, no matter who's in there. Getting two picks feels great. I've been trying to get a pick all season. It's December now and they're finally starting to come along."

Bigby's first theft occurred in the second quarter, when he snared a pass in the end zone intended for T. J. Houshmandzadeh as Hasselbeck tried to fit in a pass against Bush. In the third quarter, Bigby picked off a deep pass intended for Deion Branch.

"As a matter of fact, on the second one, Charles Woodson told me where to play," Bigby said with a broad smile. "He was, like, ‘It's gonna be a deep route so just stay deep.' So I stayed deep and listened to the veteran."

When told that Bigby gave him the credit for that interception, Woodson just took it in stride. "You recognize what a team is doing to you. You recognize it and I've seen that set a number of times and I just let them know what they were going to run. Either they throw it short enough and I get it or they throw it long and he gets it, and he made the play."

The secondary was having so much fun that even Bush got into the act. That's right, Jarrett Bush, a young man who has endured more than his share of adversity this season. Packer fans have been howling each and every time Bush has been out of position, watching the ball sail over his head and into the waiting arms of yet another enemy receiver.

Not this time.

Bush made a nifty move early in the third quarter, stepping in front of Houshmandzadeh at midfield and returning it to the Seattle 37. The pick led to a touchdown run by Brandon Jackson to put the Packers up 31-3.

"It feels pretty good but I'm not satisfied," Bush said. "I've got to keep playing up to expectations. I felt like it gave me a lot more confidence to be able to make plays and keep playing the way I'm playing. I've had some adversity and everybody kept talking about it and I had to just keep pushing. The Good Lord's on my side. I took a lot of criticism but I had to block it all out and focus on what I had to do."

So did the Packers, who came back from a heartbreaking loss in Pittsburgh last week and found a way to come up with a big, big win.

"We bounced back the way you're supposed to in this league," Woodson said. "We handled our business in getting a win and we find ourselves getting into the playoffs today so it feels good."


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