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Dominant Defensive Performance Keys Critical Win

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday that his defensive staff felt that the Dallas offense was the best Green Bay had faced all season, which made what the defense was able to accomplish on Sunday all the more impressive. - More Packers-Cowboys Game Center

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday that his defensive staff felt that the Dallas offense was the best Green Bay had faced all season, which made what the defense was able to accomplish on Sunday all the more impressive.

Facing a Cowboys offense that entered Sunday's contest as the No. 3-ranked offense in the league at an average of 404.5 yards per game, Green Bay's defense held Dallas to just 278 yards of offense, their season low and the fewest since posting 183 yards at the N.Y. Giants last season on Nov. 2, 2008.

"It definitely was a big win and a much-needed win, especially coming off of last week's performance, or the last couple of weeks' performances," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "Coming out today, it seemed like guys had a lot of passion out there today for the game. Where it came from, I don't know, but we were happy to have it and we got a big win for this team.

"We've got to have that passion every week and it's got to show up on the field. Again, today it showed out there and we played for the whole game. All four quarters we played hard, the intensity was there, and we never got down at any point of the game as far as emotionally. It was a big win."

One of the keys to the defense's success was the pressure it was able to get on quarterback Tony Romo. Coming off of back-to-back losses against Minnesota and Tampa Bay that saw Green Bay's defense post just one sack combined in the two games, the Packers registered five on Sunday afternoon, which matched their season high (vs. Detroit, Oct. 18). The five sacks also matched the most allowed by the Cowboys this season (at Denver, Oct. 4).

"Pressure was huge," said linebacker Nick Barnett, who matched his career high with two sacks. "We got some great calls from (Dom) Capers. He gave us some great calls, we had some great pressures (from) some up-front guys and we were just sticking to what we do. We weren't trying to do too much out of our jobs, but we continued to work hard and it paid off for us.

"This is the way this defense is supposed to look. We had some great cross-blitzing in the middle, some guys outside, D-line working hard and getting off blocks against a strong offensive team, a strong offensive line. I can't say enough about the guys. I was really proud and kind of choked up at the end of that game. I'm just proud of all the guys."

Getting after Romo was made easier by the Packers' stoutness against the run on Sunday as they allowed a season-low 61 yards on 14 carries (4.4 avg.). Running back Marion Barber's 26 yards on five carries were a season low, and the 61 yards were the fewest by a Dallas offense since the 2007 season finale at Washington that saw the Cowboys post just one yard on the ground.

"Containing or stopping the run, that's always key to any game because if a team can just run the ball down your throat then they can do pretty much anything to you," Woodson said. "I thought our pursuit today was unbelievable getting to the ball, not allowing those second-effort runs. If we can continue to do that, then we'll be all right."

One more key was limiting explosive plays by an offense that has had plenty of them so far this season. Through Sunday's game, the Cowboys are now tied for the league lead with 40 plays of 20-plus yards, but they were only able to muster two against the Packers.

The first was a 42-yard reception by wide receiver Roy Williams in the second quarter that ended up as a turnover after Woodson stripped him and linebacker Clay Matthews recovered. The second came on a 20-yard reception by Williams early in the fourth quarter, but two plays later, Woodson posted a sack/forced fumble on a corner blitz that Mattthews again recovered at the Dallas 3 to set up a touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to tight end Spencer Havner three plays later.

"I think Capers made some great calls, number one, and I think guys believed in the scheme and played," Barnett said. "We've got the talent. We've got some great linebackers, a great defensive line and some great backs.

"It's all about the belief and effort. We're just going to believe and do what we are supposed to do and make plays. Guys got open and made plays, and as long as we continue to do that, there is no telling where we can go."

{sportsad300}The Packers' third and final takeaway of the afternoon, a Woodson interception on first-and-goal from the Packers' 1 with just over six minutes remaining in the game, looked like it might put them in position to do something that a Green Bay team hasn't done since 1967: post two shutouts in the same season. But the Cowboys were able to put together an 11-play, 63-yard drive that was capped off with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Williams with under a minute left to play.

With a shutout in Week 6 vs. Detroit and three points allowed the next week at Cleveland, the Packers have allowed seven points or less three times this season, something they haven't done since 2003. While performances like that are nothing to scoff at regardless if they come against one-win teams like the Lions and Browns, doing it against a high-powered Dallas offense carries a little more weight.

"It means a lot," Woodson said. "It was a big stage. We know that. You play a team that is coming in here red-hot. They have beaten some tough teams coming in here. We know later on in the season it's going to get tough and if we get into the postseason we're going to play some big games. To finally get a game where I know a lot of people probably doubted us, it feels good.

"You go home and have fun, maybe drink a glass of wine or whatever, and then tomorrow it's back to work and let's get it done again the next week."

With another home game next Sunday against a 4-5 San Francisco team that joins the Packers in the playoff hunt, continuing to practice and play with the urgency that they did this week is now the focus.

"We felt like our backs were against the wall in this game," Barnett said. "I felt that if we lose this game then our season was over at that point, and we prepared like that.

"If we continue to do so, then we'll be great, but we've got to keep doing it. I'm not going to sell you the world right now just off of one game and we've still got a lot of work to do, but I'm proud of our team, proud of everybody."

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