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Defense Gift Wraps Victory


Though the final score may have not indicated it, the Green Bay Packers were dominant in Thursday night's victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Well, dominant on the defensive side of the ball, that is.

On a night that featured rainy conditions throughout, the Packers had the upper hand in nearly all facets of the game, including time of possession and yards gained. But at the same time, the season's final game at Lambeau Field was exactly what you'd expect between two bitter rivals fighting for their playoff lives: a close, hard-fought, physical contest.

Sure, the numbers are misleading when you consider the fact that the Packers had 319 total yards compared to the Vikings' 104. Or that the green and gold had the ball for nearly 35 minutes to the Vikings' 25. If that's not enough, keep in mind that the Packers had 19 first downs and the Vikings could only muster three.

Letting the numbers soak in, you get the feeling that the game had every component necessary for a Packers blowout, right?

Well, not exactly.

In the end, the defense carried the day, and fortunately for the Packers, it lifted them to a narrow 9-7 win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Though it may not have been the prettiest victory of all-time, it was a victory nonetheless, and that's all that mattered in the winning team's locker room after the game.

"It was a huge win for us," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "Obviously, we're trying to get to 8-8 and that road went right through Minnesota. We have to continue to keep driving this truck of momentum and go down to Chicago, face a tough team, and get to 8-8. "

According to fellow linebacker A.J. Hawk, the key to the Packers' success was third-down execution.

"We emphasize that every week, but this week especially because we knew they had a good offense, a good balanced attack running and throwing the ball," Hawk said. "And it's just something where we knew if we wanted a chance in this game we had to get off the field on third down, regardless if it was third-and-2 or third-and-15.

"When we have a front four like we do that gets so much pressure and is so stout against the run, it makes everyone else's job a whole lot easier."

Aaron Kampman, who finished with three sacks on rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, echoed Hawk's sentiments.

"Those are the fine-line plays that make a difference in a game," Kampman said. "We found a way the last couple weeks to make those. Obviously it adds up to a cumulative effect and we're playing really well right now."

Playing well on defense might just be an understatement, too. The fact that the Packers held the Vikings to 2-for-14 on third down and didn't allow running back Chester Taylor to get untracked was the story of the game. It also didn't hurt that the Packers made the mobile Jackson strictly a passer, never an easy task against a defense that seems to be hitting its stride down the stretch.

"We were trying to stay in our rush lanes," Corey Williams said. "We weren't trying to give him lanes to run. He's a good scrambling quarterback. He's not the type of quarterback that's going to sit in the pocket.

"He's going to move around and he looks for one seam and he's going to hit it. I think we did a great job overall of keeping him from getting to the seams."

Nick Collins explained that facing Jackson was a little different than defending Brad Johnson, who had been the Vikings' starter up until tonight's game.

{sportsad300}"We knew he was kind of a runner and he has a deep ball," Collins said. "Brad Johnson can't throw the ball deep. So we prepared for him running the ball and going deep and we did a great job of keeping him in the pocket. The guys were just everywhere on him tonight."

Al Harris claimed that it was actually Jackson who had the most difficult task of the night. Making his first start, he had to learn on the fly in front of a hostile crowd and less than ideal conditions.

"This is Week 15," Harris said. "We're not going to change our game plan in Week 15, we just do what we have to do. We're not going to change our scheme, they are the ones who have to adjust.

"We just had to do what we do well and execute. He's the rookie. He really has to adjust, we have been doing it for 15 weeks."

Williams admitted that the defense was more than happy to pick up the slack tonight.

"It's a team thing," he said. "When the offense isn't clicking, the defense is clicking. When the defense isn't clicking, the offense is clicking. So, whoever isn't clicking, the other one has to get their back. We did a great job tonight of getting their back."

"It's just such a team effort and our team is really coming together, especially the defensive side," Kampman added. "It's a great win and a great gift for Christmas."

In the season of giving, it's also fitting that the defense gave the offense just the boost it needed -- a gift that is useful any time of the season.

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