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Goal-Line Stand, Long TD Drive Showcased Team's Growth


Packers S Atari Bigby upends Browns RB Jamal Lewis on the 1-yard line on third-and-goal early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game in Cleveland.

The game was well under control at the time, and it wasn't a make-or-break situation for either the offense or defense on Sunday in Cleveland.

But what the Packers did on both sides of the ball to close the third quarter and start the fourth quarter was perhaps the best evidence yet of how the team is growing and improving through the middle portion of its 2009 schedule.

As the final minute of the third quarter wound down, the Packers led the Browns 24-3, but Cleveland had driven the ball to a first-and-goal on the 1-yard line. Not only did the Packers hold the Browns out of the end zone on four snaps, but they also took the ball and drove 99 yards the other way for a touchdown that removed what little doubt remained about the outcome.

Here's a breakdown of that landmark defense-to-offense sequence as it unfolded:

On first-and-goal at the 1, Cleveland tried running back Jamal Lewis off left guard. With the help of some penetration up front by lineman B.J. Raji, linebacker A.J. Hawk busted through and brought down Lewis for a 2-yard loss.

On second down, quarterback Derek Anderson tried a fade pass to Mohamed Massaquoi, but cornerback Al Harris won the man-to-man battle and Massaquoi never had a chance to haul in the high throw.

Then following the quarter change, the Browns tried another Lewis run on third down, this one out of the shotgun, but safety Atari Bigby upended Lewis on the 1. Eschewing the field goal because that would still have left the Browns three scores behind with less than a full quarter to play, Anderson tried Massaquoi against Harris again and failed, giving the Packers an impressive goal-line stand.

"I think keeping people out of the end zone becomes an attitude, and it's something we certainly talk a lot about," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said.

It was the second time in the game the Browns had gotten inside the 5 and not scored a touchdown, but on that series the defense benefited from a fumbled snap on second-and-goal from the 2, and the Browns kicked a field goal for an early 3-0 lead.

Coupled with the shutout of Detroit the previous week, the Green Bay defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in its past two games and as a result has climbed to fifth in the league in scoring defense.

"I was proud of our guys the way they fought (Sunday) because I thought it really meant something to them down there to keep them out of the end zone, and I think those are things that you build on," Capers said. "It doesn't make any difference, if they've got the ball first-and-goal on the 1-yard line ... if you line up and play that play and then line up the next play and play, there's always a chance of keeping them out. They ran it a couple times and threw it a couple times, and our guys responded well in those situations.

"I think nothing breeds success like success, and hopefully you can take and build on that."

The same goes for the offense, which had been plagued by penalties, sacks and other negative-yardage plays in the first five games. But the ensuing 99-yard touchdown drive following the defense's goal-line stand was flawless offensive football.

It started with a run-pass option on first down, and Aaron Rodgers saw single coverage on the outside and hit Greg Jennings on a slant for 18 yards to get the Packers out of the hole immediately.

After a Ryan Grant run gained two yards, Rodgers found Spencer Havner over the middle for 14 for another first down. Two more Grant runs gained four yards before Rodgers alertly scrambled out of the pocket on third-and-6 and picked up 19, sliding down in the open field to avoid an unnecessary hit and to stay in bounds, keeping the fourth-quarter clock running.

{sportsad300}"We kind of took what they gave us a little bit," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said of the drive. "That was a really good decision (by Rodgers) going down. Maybe he could have gotten three more yards but he went down, protected the ball, protected himself."

On the next snap, Grant busted through a well-blocked seam created by right guard Josh Sitton, right tackle Allen Barbre and fullback Quinn Johnson, shook a tackle and ripped off a season-long 37-yard run down to the 5.

Rodgers' TD pass to James Jones capped the season-long march, but it was Grant's big run on the 23rd of his 27 carries in the game, that highlighted the drive.

"We've sat here and talked (often) about explosive runs," Philbin said. "Some of it's blocking, some of it's breaking a tackle. You saw good things on both of that. He got to the second level, and then we finished a drive. There were good plays overall, yeah."

Eight plays in all, four designed runs and four passes, with one turning into a scramble. It broke down to a nice balance of 43 yards on the ground, 37 through the air, and 19 on the scramble.

More importantly, there were no sacks, negative runs or penalties as the offense produced its most efficient drive of the season thus far.

"It looked better, no doubt about it," Philbin said. "Some of the fundamentals were better.

"When you're not hurting yourself as much, you're certainly feeling better about your chances to have more production."

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