Getting pressure on the quarterback from a variety of positions is one of the staples of new defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme, and the Packers reaped the benefits from it in their shutout win vs. Cleveland in the preseason opener Saturday night.
The Packers intercepted Cleveland quarterbacks four times, one from linebacker Desmond Bishop and two of the others aided by pressure courtesy of Bishop. Two of the Packers' three sacks came from defensive backs, the first a sack/forced fumble by cornerback Will Blackmon and the second from safety Anthony Smith.
"That's what the 3-4 is built for, it allows everybody to make plays," said Smith, who played in the 3-4 scheme his first three seasons in the league with Pittsburgh. "You can have the linebacker, the corners, even the safeties blitzing. It makes it even harder for the quarterback to read us."
The Packers' first takeaway of the night was created by a Bishop hit on quarterback Derek Anderson midway through the second quarter. Anderson's pass intended for wide receiver Josh Cribbs sailed into cornerback Tramon Williams' arms.
The second pick halted Cleveland's best scoring opportunity of the night. On third-and-goal from the Packers' 6 with 25 seconds remaining in the first half, safety Anthony Smith read quarterback Brady Quinn's pass to wide receiver Braylon Edwards, and stepped in front of Edwards to make the pick in the end zone.
"I zoned up and read the quarterback and was able to get a break on the ball," Smith said. "Our d-linemen got great pressure on him. He tried to force it in there and I came up with the turnover."
Bishop got on the board himself in the third quarter with an interception, picking off Brett Ratliff's pass intended for tight end Martin Rucker as rookie defensive end Jarius Wynn got up the middle to pressure Ratliff.
"Sometimes they say it's good to be lucky sometimes," Bishop said, who was credited with a sack and team-high four quarterback pressures. "I was kind of in the right position at the right time and made the most of the opportunity.
"It was just too bad I slipped though. I think I was going to try to get to the house on that one."
Another hit on Ratliff by Bishop forced the fourth and final turnover of the night as Ratliff overthrew tight end Aaron Walker and was picked off by safety Charlie Peprah.
"You don't know who is coming and you don't know where it is coming from (in the 3-4)," Peprah said. "Sometimes they don't know where they are throwing into. You just have some athletes that are on their feet versus in a stance.
"I think all of those things combined and good play-calling is going to lead to more turnovers."
All five of the Packers' running backs got a chance to show their stuff Saturday night, but it was the last one to take the field that ended up leading the way.
Rookie Tyrell Sutton, signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Northwestern, paced the running back group with 91 yards on 16 carries, including six runs of eight-plus yards.
"It's just all about maintaining and getting acclimated to the system," Sutton said. "Staying around the other running backs and Coach (Edgar) Bennett, it's a great feel for me. I just have to make sure I go out there and do it every single day and whatever I do in practice, make sure it translates to the field."
Sutton, who missed a good portion of OTAs due to an NFL rule that prohibits players who haven't graduated yet from working out with the team until their school year is complete, admitted he felt a little bit behind when he reported to training camp.
"It just made me that much more hungry to know that I was behind and I needed to get caught up," Sutton said. "I think it has been my motivation.
"I was still a little lost at the beginning. I was only here for rookie camp and got maybe two installs. With the coaching that Coach Bennett is giving me and all of the help the other backs have given me, it doesn't get much better than that."
It looked like the newcomer might get a chance to get in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, but after Sutton picked up a first down to get to the Cleveland 2, Head Coach Mike McCarthy elected to take a knee and run out the clock.
"As a competitor, of course, you always want the ball," Sutton said. "Going in for the score, of course you want it. But at the same time, you've got to hold onto that victory."
Mason Crosby got a chance Saturday night to show off his leg strength, but came up a little wide on each of his first two field goal attempts.
Early in the second quarter, McCarthy sent Crosby to attempt a 60-yard field goal on a 4th-and-19 from the Cleveland 42. His kick had plenty of distance, but went off the left upright.
"We've been hitting some long ones in practice and I've been making them," Crosby said. "I enjoy those opportunities and hopefully they keep coming."
Crosby had another long attempt later in the second quarter, this one from 55 yards out that had the distance again but sailed wide right.
Crosby, who said he connected on a couple of 60-yarders in pregame warm-ups, did get on the board in the fourth quarter with a 45-yard kick to put the Packers up 17-0.
For the second straight year, quarterback Brian Brohm's first play of the preseason was one he would like to forget.
In last year's opener vs. Cincinnati, Brohm's was intercepted on his first snap on a pass intended for wide receiver James Jones. On Brohm's first snap Saturday night, Browns linebacker Marcus Benard got past Tony Moll to get a piece of Brohm's elbow on his pass attempt, and linebacker David Veikune made the interception over the middle.
"This time I went out there and felt like I cut it loose and had fun," Brohm said. "Obviously I got some bad breaks and that happens in football. I still have the same confidence I did when I stepped out there for the first play."
Brohm later threw another pick on a pass to rookie wide receiver JaRon Harris that went a little high but looked catchable. The pass went off Harris' fingertips and into the hands of Browns defensive back Coye Francies. Brohm finished the night 3-of-10 for 18 yards.
The punting battle between incumbent Jeremy Kapinos and Durant Brooks could go on throughout the preseason, but on Saturday night only Brooks got an opportunity to compete in live game action.
The Packers punted once the entire evening, with the lone kick coming midway through the third quarter. Brooks hit a 39-yarder from midfield with good hang time that was covered well by running back Brandon Jackson and fullback Quinn Johnson as they limited Browns defensive back Gerard Lawson to just a 3-yard return.
Despite the 16 combined penalties called Saturday night, the game moved along at a brisk clip with a game time of just 2 hours and 38 minutes.
Cornerbacks Charles Woodson (healthy scratch), Al Harris (healthy scratch), and Pat Lee (back), linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring), Jeremy Thompson (stinger), Nick Barnett (knee/PUP), and Brad Jones (back/PUP), defensive end Justin Harrell (back) and nose tackle B.J. Raji (non-football injury) did not dress for Saturday night's game.
The Packers didn't have any other injuries to report after the game.
"Nothing significant," McCarthy said. "We'll know more in the morning. I am sure we have guys that are nicked, but nothing to report. That was a big factor, and a big victory, coming out of the game healthy."