Game Notes: Rookie Draft Picks Make Positive Impact

The Packers got some significant contributions from their 2009 draft class in the 17-7 victory over Dallas on Sunday. Two rookie draft picks - first-rounder Clay Matthews and seventh-rounder Brad Jones - started at the two outside linebacker spots and made their share of plays. Also, fourth-round selection T.J. Lang got his first start at right tackle and appeared to hold his own. - More Packers-Cowboys Game Center

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Rookie OLB Clay Matthews sacks Tony Romo in the second quarter on Sunday.

The Packers got some significant contributions from their 2009 draft class in the 17-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Two rookie draft picks - first-rounder Clay Matthews and seventh-rounder Brad Jones - started at the two outside linebacker spots and made their share of plays. Also, fourth-round selection T.J. Lang got his first start at right tackle and appeared to hold his own.

"They stepped up," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said of the youngsters. "It's always good to see a rookie step out, especially in a big-game environment like this."

Matthews, who took over as a starter in the base defense back in Week 5, was unofficially credited with just one tackle, but it was a 3-yard sack late in the second quarter. That gives him four sacks on the season, now tops on the team.

He also had two fumble recoveries, one after Charles Woodson stripped Dallas receiver Roy Williams after a 42-yard gain, and another after Woodson's sack/fumble of Tony Romo. The latter gave the Packers the ball on the Dallas 3-yard line, setting up a quick touchdown for a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter.

Jones, starting because Aaron Kampman was out with a concussion and Brady Poppinga is nursing a bad thigh, had a "full plate," according to McCarthy, and was credited with seven tackles (all solo), good for third on the team. Jones had been solely a special teams player through the season's first eight weeks and hadn't taken any snaps on defense, but he held up well and didn't appear to make any glaring mistakes.

On offense, Lang got his first start at right tackle after having started two previous games at left tackle for an injured Chad Clifton. With Mark Tauscher out with a knee injury, Lang took over at that spot for Allen Barbre and helped Ryan Grant post 79 rushing yards on 19 carries (4.2 avg.). Though he was victimized a couple of times by pass-rusher extraordinaire DeMarcus Ware and had one false start, he battled the way the coaching staff expected him to.

"I'm excited to watch the tape, excited to see Brad, T.J., and obviously it looked like Clay definitely had a lot of pressure over there," McCarthy said. "Our rookies had a big part of our success today."

Another first start

In addition to Jones, tight end Spencer Havner got his first NFL start on Sunday when the offense opened in a two-tight end set, with Havner replacing fullback John Kuhn.

Quiet and held without a catch almost the entire game, Havner ended up making his one play count, catching a 2-yard TD pass from Aaron Rodgers early in the fourth quarter. Filling in at tight end since Jermichael Finley injured his knee three weeks ago, Havner now has four TD receptions on the season on just seven total catches. The TD grabs ties him for first on the team with Donald Driver.

Chalk one up

For all the big plays safety Nick Collins has made in his five-year career with the Packers, he hadn't posted a sack until Sunday.

{sportsad300}Collins notched his first career sack on the Cowboys' opening drive of the game, and he had to work pretty hard to get it. Coming on a back-side blitz on third-and-3 from the Green Bay 19-yard line, Collins ended up chasing Romo all the way across the field as Romo rolled toward the right sideline.

Collins finally caught up with him and dropped him for a 1-yard loss, forcing a 38-yard field-goal try that Nick Folk missed, keeping the game scoreless.

Can't find the range

When kicker Mason Crosby missed a 52-yard field goal wide left in the first quarter on Sunday, it marked his fourth straight miss from 50-plus on the season.

Crosby made his first long one in 2009, a 52-yarder for his first field goal of the season in the opener against the Bears. But since then he's 0-for-4 from that range, after having made 7-of-12 from 50-plus in his career, including the kick in Week 1.

Crosby came back to make a 48-yarder on the final play of the first half to give the Packers a 3-0 lead. That kicked helped the Packers avoid being shut out in the first half for the first time since Week 13 of the 2006 season, when they were blanked in the first half by the New York Jets. It also avoided what would have been the only scoreless first half in any NFL game this season.

Injury update

The only injury McCarthy reported from the game was an ankle bruise to guard Daryn Colledge. He was replaced briefly by rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith, but Colledge did return to the game.

In addition to Kampman, Poppinga, Tauscher and Finley, the Packers' other inactives for the game were receivers Jake Allen and Biren Ealy, fullback Quinn Johnson, and tackle Breno Giacomini.

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