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Defense Returns To Its Takeaway Ways

For a defense that prides itself on its ability to force turnovers, Green Bay had hit a bit of a lull in that category with just three takeaways over the previous four games entering Sunday. The Packers certainly found a way to break out of that against the Giants.


The Packers posted six takeaways against New York in their 45-17 win, picking off quarterback Eli Manning four times while adding two fumble recoveries. It was the most turnovers forced by a Green Bay defense since six takeaways in the season finale at Chicago in 2006.

"It was huge," said linebacker A.J. Hawk, who posted his career-high third interception on the season late in the game. "Coming into this game, we knew with how well their offense has been playing and how they have been running the ball on people, as a team and as a defense, we haven't gotten the turnovers we have wanted in the last couple of weeks.

"When you get turnovers, especially when you get six of them in a game and your offense scores a ton of points, it's going to be tough to beat you and I think today we showed that."

It wasn't just forcing the turnovers, but also capitalizing on them as well, and the Packers didn't waste any time doing that on Sunday. Three plays after quarterback Aaron Rodgers connected with wide receiver Jordy Nelson on a deep pass down the middle for an 80-yard touchdown to put Green Bay up 7-0 midway through the opening quarter, cornerback Tramon Williams undercut Manning's third-down throw to wide receiver Hakeem Nicks over the middle at the Green Bay 47 for an interception, his career-high sixth of the season.

Williams returned the pick 9 yards to the New York 44, and the offense went 44 yards in 10 plays with Rodgers connecting with wide receiver James Jones on a 3-yard touchdown pass to finish off the drive and give the Packers a 14-0 lead.

With the Packers possessing a 21-14 lead at the break, the Giants quickly moved into Green Bay territory on the opening drive behind a 16-yard pass interference penalty on Williams. Then with the Giants facing third-and-2 at the Packers' 41, running back Ahmad Bradshaw took a direct snap from center Shaun O'Hara, but was stripped by cornerback Charles Woodson at the Green Bay 46. Safety Atari Bigby scooped up the ball, the first fumble recovery of his career, to set the offense up with a solid starting point once again at midfield that helped set up a 31-yard Mason Crosby field goal.

Later in the third quarter, with Green Bay protecting a 31-17 advantage, the Giants appeared to be putting themselves in position to cut into the lead. After a 12-yard pass from Manning to Bradshaw and a 12-yard run by Manning, running back Brandon Jacobs broke loose down the right sideline for a 21-yard pickup to the Green Bay 42. But linebacker Clay Matthews hustled from the backfield to come from behind and punch the ball out, and safety Nick Collins recovered.

"Most running backs are not assuming that someone is going to get them from behind and strip the ball out or punch it out," Matthews said. "Fortunately I was able to do that. Unfortunately we gave up a big play, but we were able to get it back and I guess it was a change of momentum for the game."

Fellow linebacker Desmond Bishop appeared to be in position to scoop up the ball first but it went through his arms. But he quickly recovered, batting the ball back onto the field to give his teammates a chance at the ball. Williams provided some help too, clearing out tight end Kevin Boss, who appeared to have a good shot at recovering.

"I saw it out and I wanted to get it so bad," Bishop said. "My momentum was kind of taking me out of bounds and I didn't want it to go out of bounds. I just tipped it back and kept it in play, hoping that one of our guys could get it, and I was fortunate enough that Nick Collins got it."

The defense wasn't done, with two more turnovers setting up the Packers' final two touchdowns. The Packers finished with 24 points off of takeaways for the day after not having any points off turnovers in the previous four games.

Rookie cornerback Sam Shields picked off a Manning pass deep down the left sideline intended for wide receiver Derek Hagan, and while it wasn't clear if Shields got both feet in bounds, the Giants were out of challenges and couldn't call for a review.

The interception gave the offense the ball at the New York 46 as Rodgers quickly led them down the field with a 5-yard scoring strike to running back John Kuhn capping off the drive. Two plays after that, Collins picked off Manning's pass intended for wide receiver Mario Manningham at the Giants' 49. Rodgers connected with Nelson again for a big play, this time a 38-yarder down to the 1, before Kuhn took it in for the final score of the day.

"Anytime you get takeaways, then the offense comes in and plays like they do, I don't think there is anyone that can beat us at that point," Williams said. "Hopefully we can continue that.

"We know he was going to put some balls up. (Manning) is the leading interception-thrower in the league, so we knew he was going to put the ball up. We knew we were going to have opportunities to kind of make plays and we did today."

The Giants entered the game with an average of 144.9 rushing yards per game, but the Packers were able to limit them to just 90 yards on 21 carries (4.3 avg.), only the second time this season that New York was held under 100 yards rushing. That ability to make New York's offense one-dimensional played a big role in the opportunities for the secondary, and they made the most of them on Sunday.

"That's pretty much the plan every week," Williams said. "You want to stop the run at all times. Once you do that, we feel that any team is playing into our hands once that happens. We were able to get that accomplished today.

"Sometimes you are able to take advantage of the opportunities and sometimes we didn't. This year it has been kind of inconsistent. We kind of came out and put it together today and everything came through."

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