Charles Woodson might have cemented his status as the NFL's defensive player of the year. Plus, two major records set by the Super Bowl XXXI champions fell: The defense set a franchise record for stopping the run and the offense set a franchise record for scoring.
Woodson's second-quarter interception put him in a four-way tie for the NFL lead with nine with Buffalo's Jairus Byrd, Philadelphia's Asante Samuel and New Orleans' Darren Sharper. Irv Comp's franchise record of 10, set in 1943, is safe, but Woodson became the first Packer since Sharper to pick off nine passes since 2000.
Sunday's interception came when he diagnosed a post pattern to Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald, beat Fitzgerald to the ball and returned it 45 yards for his third touchdown of the season. Throw in Woodson's two sacks and four forced fumbles on the NFL's second-ranked defense, and the six-time Pro Bowler is in position to land the biggest prize.
"Charles has had an incredible season," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I'm sure there are a lot of excellent candidates out there for the defensive MVP, but I don't know how he does not win the award. His teammates are chanting MVP everyday at practice and he goes out and does it every Sunday. He played at a high level again today. He's played tremendous all year and he's a good football player. He's played four positions for us on defense. He's gone against the No. 1 receivers and the top tight end. He's really been an outstanding football player for us this year."
Woodson has played only four seasons for the Packers but has scored seven touchdowns on interceptions (tied with Herb Adderley for the team record) and eight defensive touchdowns in all (record). He has 28 interceptions with the Packers compared to 17 in eight seasons with Oakland. The Packers' record book shows only the top five interceptors. Sharper is fifth with 36.
"Oh, I think he's definitely the best corner in the game right now," Cardinals receiver Jerheme Urban said. "He's the most physical. He's the best tackling corner in the league; that's why they put him inside. They let him come off the edge and blitz, be run support a lot of times. He's a 12-year veteran. He's savvy. He's been around. He's been at the top of his game. I think that his last few years in Oakland when he wasn't going to the Pro Bowl and stuff and he got that second chance in Green Bay. It seems like he's really jumped at that opportunity. He's just an unbelievable professional. Whether it's our preseason game, that third game this year, he came out here like it was the Super Bowl. You don't see that from a 12-year veteran too often. He just really takes pride in his craft and you can tell he studies. You can tell he's been around the game. You have to tip your hat to him. We're obviously going to have to focus on him next week."
By allowing only 48 rushing yards, the Packers set a team record and led the NFL with 83.3 rushing yards allowed per game. That beat the old average of 85.2 set in 1994. Plus, they held 12 teams to less than 90 rushing yards, eclipsing the record of 11 set during the championship season of 1996.
"It means a lot," said nose tackle Ryan Pickett, who watched the game with a hamstring injury. "That was our No. 1 goal coming in here. This means a lot. Last year, we couldn't stop the run. So to go from like 26th in the league last season to first this season says a lot about our team."
Meanwhile, their 33 points gave them 461 for the season, or five more than the 1996 squad. A big reason for that is the team's 16 turnovers, which smashed the record of 19 set in 1972. The Packers have averaged 32.7 points in the seven games since a 17-7 win over Dallas. Their season average of 28.8 points trailed only Minnesota (29.4) and New Orleans (319).
A few other noteworthy figures:
— Aaron Rodgers finished with 4,434 passing yards, falling just short of Lynn Dickey's team record of 4,458 set in 1983. Rodgers didn't throw an interception in 12 games, breaking Bart Starr's record of 11 set in 1964. With seven interceptions, Rodgers finished with an interception percentage of an NFL-best 1.29. Only Starr's 1.20 in 1966 is better.
— Donald Driver's first catch of the game moved him over 1,000 receiving yards for a team-record sixth consecutive year. With Driver (1,061) and Greg Jennings (1,113) topping 1,000 yards, with Ryan Grant rushing for more than 1,200 yards (1,263) and with Rodgers surpassing 4,000 passing yards, the Packers are the only team in NFL history to accomplish that feat in back-to-back seasons.
— With an average time of possession of 33:03, the Packers finished third in the NFL and beat the old franchise record of 32:30.It was a banner day for the Green Bay Packers.
— Saving the best for last: An e-mailer pointed out Woodson intercepted more passes than Rodgers threw. Only twice has a player intercepted more passes than the primary quarterback threw: Starr threw three interceptions in 1966; Bob Jeter and Dave Robinson had five apiece. The other time came in 1943, when Comp threw four interceptions while intercepting the team-record 10.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.