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Defense turns up pressure

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Associated Press
November 16, 2009
— The Green Bay Packers defense showed signs of tension in recent weeks, with veteran players Charles Woodson and Cullen Jenkins publicly questioning defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ play calling after a pair of losses to the Minnesota Vikings.

But there wasn’t any discontent Sunday after the Packers stifled the previously potent Dallas Cowboys, 17-7, at Lambeau Field. Capers dialed up the pass rush pressure, to the players’ delight.


“We get extremely excited in the (secondary) when the game’s called the way that it was called,” cornerback Al Harris said. “We were sending guys from everywhere, and that’s how this defense is supposed to look. This is a pressure defense.”


Green Bay was mired near the bottom of the league rankings with only 13 sacks after eight games, but Capers turned his players loose early and often Sunday. And it worked.


A blitz-heavy scheme—the heaviest of the season, according to linebacker Nick Barnett—produced five sacks of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who also had a costly turnover.


“It was big,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. “Guys were getting to him real quick. Dom was just dialing it up, and guys were just coming. We had to bring it.”


The five sacks on Romo, who had guided Dallas to a four-game winning streak and first place in the NFC East, tied a career high.


“They have a good scheme, they throw a lot of guys around and they have good players who know how to (blitz), and it just made for confusion from time to time,” Romo said.


The Packers matched their season high for sacks, which they first attained in a 26-0 victory over Detroit on Oct. 18.


Barnett led the way with a career-best-tying two sacks.


He credited the aggressive, successful 3-4 scheme orchestrated by Capers to field position that worked in the Packers’ favor. The Cowboys’ average starting point was their 29-yard line.


“We want to be an aggressive defense, and today, we had the calls there to get us pressure on the quarterback,” Woodson said. “It was up to some guys to win one-on-one battles, and we won those.”


today, and when we got a chance to sack the quarterback, we sacked him.”


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ROOKIES RESPOND: A rash of midseason injuries forced the Packers to plug two rookies into the starting lineup Sunday.


Coach Mike McCarthy thought linebacker Brad Jones and offensive tackle T.J. Lang handled the challenge.


“Our rookies had a big part of our success today,” said McCarthy, also referring to Matthews, who had two fumble recoveries.


Lang started at right tackle in place of veteran Mark Tauscher, who injured his surgically repaired knee in the previous game. Lang previously started two games at left tackle for the then-injured Chad Clifton.


“It seems like every time I kind of settle into one spot, I’m kind of bumping around. But that’s part of the game,” said Lang, who played guard in the preseason. “It’d be nice to stay over there (at right tackle), but I don’t know what the plan’s going to be. It really depends on Mark, how his progress is going.”


Jones, a seventh-round draft pick, made his starting debut at left outside linebacker with Aaron Kampman (concussion) and Brady Poppinga (quadriceps) sidelined. Jones responded with seven tackles, third-most on the team.


“I thought he did a good job,” McCarthy said. “His plate was full, no question about it.”


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FUMBLE THAT WASN’T: Tramon Williams, known for his sure hands in the return game, was relieved his fumble on a long punt return in the third quarter didn’t stand.


Cowboys punter Mat McBriar knocked the football out of Williams’ right hand as Williams fell forward past midfield.


Dallas long snapper Louis-Philippe Ladouceur made the recovery.


“I guess I didn’t have it tight enough,” Williams said. “(I’m not) used to fumbling. That’s my first time ever.”


McCarthy challenged the fumble call, and replay review overturned it, with the ruling made that Williams was down by contact before the ball came out.


“I’m still undefeated,” Williams said with a laugh.


His 18-yard return to the 50 late in the first half set up a drive that ended with a 48-yard field goal by Mason Crosby to break a scoreless tie.



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