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Packers defense falls just short of shutout

Posted Dec 23, 2012

Second straight opponent held under 200 yards in blowout win


GREEN BAY—The only disappointment was not getting the shutout.

As the Packers defense throttled the Titans offense on Sunday, the only drama down the stretch was whether or not Tennessee would score. The Titans finally did, so the Packers had to “settle” for a 55-7 win at Lambeau Field.

“We definitely wanted it,” linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “It’s not too often you get to shut a team out in the NFL. We came up short.”

Only 99 seconds short, as Jake Locker’s 39-yard pass to Kenny Britt preceded a 2-yard scoring toss to Britt with 1:39 left. The Packers were going for their first shutout since Week 8 of 2010 against the Jets and the third shutout of the four-year Dom Capers era.

In the end, the goose egg would only have been cosmetic for a game in which the Titans appeared to lose interest after falling behind 20-0 in the first half. Tennessee gained just 180 yards, the second straight opponent the Packers have held under 200.

“What didn’t go right?” said defensive end Mike Neal, who had one of seven sacks of Locker. “This is the type of momentum you want going into the playoffs and going into the game next week.”

The seven sacks tied a season high (Chicago in Week 2) and were judiciously spread among six different defenders as Capers brought more and more pressure as the game progressed.

Hawk had his first two-sack game since 2008, Clay Matthews got his team-leading 12th on the opening possession of the game, and even cornerback Sam Shields got his first sack of the season. Shields became the 15th different player for the Packers to record a sack on the year, a team record.

Shields added an interception, and so did linebacker Erik Walden, as Locker’s passer rating hovered in the single digits until the Titans’ final drive.

“That was fun,” Walden said. “That’s one of the games you dream about where everybody’s making plays. It’s kind of like a greedy thing. Who’s the next guy who’s going to make the next play?”

The defensive effort started with bottling up home-run threat Chris Johnson, who was held to just 28 yards on 11 carries (2.5 avg.). Tennessee failed to get a first down on four of its first five possessions and eight of 14 drives in the game overall. The Titans ran only five plays in Packers territory until their final drive of the game.

“We hadn’t played a game like this since I believe the Houston Texans game,” Matthews said. “We’ve let teams hang around on the ropes for a while now. We haven’t put anyone out. It was nice to get that accomplished.”

The performance will no doubt push the Packers even further up the league rankings in several categories. They came in tied for 14th in total yards, ninth in points allowed and sixth in sacks percentage.

More important is the crescendo toward which the defense appears to be building. In addition to holding a second straight opponent under 200 yards, the Packers followed up their blanking of the Bears last week on third and fourth downs (0-for-10 combined) with a strong 4-for-17 showing on the clutch downs against the Titans.

The Packers also held a quarterback under 50 percent completions (Locker was just 13-of-30) for the second time in the last four games.

“You want to be that team that’s peaking at the right time,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “More than peaking, I think we’re kind of getting healthy also at the right time. Hopefully, all those factors play into the run we can make in the playoffs.”

It sure seems the defense is playoff-ready. With a surging Vikings team and record-chasing running back Adrian Peterson on deck next week, the unit will be out to prove it definitively.

“Looking back at the 2010 season, we got hot at the right time,” Matthews said. “Right now is about that time.”

Additional coverage - Packers vs. Titans

 
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