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Harris Returns Packers To Win Column


Al Harris said on Wednesday that he didn't think he would play in the Packers game versus the Saints this weekend.

After all, Harris had a lower back and buttocks injury and the pain got to the point earlier in the week that the eighth-year cornerback didn't know if he would be able to contribute to his team beating the Saints.

Well, it didn't take long for Harris to answer that question in the Packers 52-3 destruction of the Saints Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

Harris came up with perhaps the defense's play of the season when he stepped in front of an Aaron Brooks pass for an interception that he took 22-yards for the score. Harris' touchdown return gave his team a 14-3 lead and propelled the Packers to tie their second- largest margin of victory in team history.

Adding to his impressive day, Harris had his second interception less than a minute later. It marked the first time in his career that Harris had two pickoffs in one game, and the third time he's returned an interception for a touchdown (two with the Packers).

"It was a big factor for Al getting the turnovers," nose tackle Grady Jackson said. "When it rains it pours. We got five of them today and we have to build off of that."

The offense built off of what the Packers defense did Sunday, and offensive lineman Will Whitticker appreciates all the work his defensive teammates did to help the team pull off it's first victory of the season.

"You have to give credit to the defense," Whitticker said. "All the turnovers they forced-they had two turnovers for touchdowns. The defense played their butts off today."

In addition to Harris' return for a touchdown, linebacker Nick Barnett intercepted a Todd Bouman pass and returned it 95 yards for the score. The defense wasn't done there, however, as Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Kenny Peterson each had a fumble recovery as well. The unit also accounted for four sacks, including two by defensive lineman Corey Williams.

Yet, Harris may have stood out the most although he admitted that he really didn't do anything different on Sunday than he normally does.

"I basically just played the coverage and ended up in the right spot," Harris explained. "It ended up working out."

That doesn't mean Harris wasn't surprised by Aaron Brooks pass, however.

"I was surprised because I was sitting there in the flat and the guy was just running into my zone," Harris said. "I don't know if he (Brooks) saw me or if he just trying to look me off or what, but I was just surprised that he threw it and I was right there.

Just the type of route he ran and my position, I knew that if I could get it, it would be gone."

The play brought up memories of another remarkable interception in Harris' career. In 2003 Harris also returned an interception 52 yards for a score against Seattle Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, clinching the Packers playoff victory in overtime.

When asked after the game if today's performance was better than the one he had in 2003 against Seattle, Harris said that "I've got to go with the Seattle game."

Head Coach Mike Sherman didn't disagree.

"I'm partial to that Seattle game, and he'd probably have to have about 10 interceptions to top that game because that was so critical in the playoffs," Sherman said. "But it certainly was one of his top games. Al Harris has been playing pretty consistent ball since he's been here."

Speaking of consistency, Harris acknowledged that the defense should get better with every game, especially when it masters new coordinator Jim Bates' scheme.

"It's getting there," Harris explained. "With a new scheme, it takes a while, but we're getting there.With this defense you pretty much have to play it perfect, but it's possible.

You've got to be in the right spot and guys have to be on their matches, but if you can play it like that, you can stop teams from scoring."

According to Harris, when the defense plays well, it also allows Bates to mix up the defensive game plan throughout the game.

"It's great," Harris said. "The defensive coordinator gets to play a different chess match when you have the lead. It showed today. He was able to play some games and run some different coverages."

It also didn't hurt that the Packers got a little rhythm going on their side today, and essentially didn't allow the Saints to get any of their own going. Once again, that goes back to turnovers in Harris' mind.

"Any turnover, a fumble, an interception,-whatever it may be- it's a momentum builder for the team that gets the turnover, Harris acknowledged. "We have been stressing turnovers, turnovers, turnovers, and today we had ourselves in the right spots to get them."

It just goes to show that being in the right spot and being in the win column go hand in hand for the Packers.

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