Notebook: CB Williams Stays Mentally Tough

As frustrating as it was to see the yellow flags keep flying in his direction this past Monday night, cornerback Tramon Williams redeemed himself in a way that validated his mental approach to his position. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 10

As frustrating as it was to see the yellow flags keep flying in his direction this past Monday night, cornerback Tramon Williams redeemed himself in a way that validated his mental approach to his position.

That approach, following three pass interference calls for 106 yards - including two in the end zone that put Baltimore on the 1-yard line - was to not worry about avoiding the calls that were hurting his team but to keep fighting to find a way to help his team instead.

He did that, picking off an ill-advised Joe Flacco pass in the end zone just two snaps after his third pass interference call, preserving a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in the Packers' 27-14 victory.

"You have to be mentally tough for this game," Williams said. "For one, me, I think I'm very mentally tough. When the refs kept calling flags on me, I saw it as a challenge. I can't get down. I got frustrated with it, but at the same time I just wanted to make a play even more and more, once they kept calling the flags on me.

"I never got down to where I couldn't play the game. I got frustrated with the penalties, but I was always in my right mind to continue playing."

Head Coach Mike McCarthy seems to have Williams' back and appreciates the fact that his young cornerback didn't get rattled. At different times this week, McCarthy commented that he "likes our corners" and doesn't want to "overreact to the penalties." In other words, McCarthy doesn't want to see players like Williams lose their edge.

After viewing the film, Williams thought the first pass interference call was legit, but he thought he played the other two end-zone plays well. The officiating crew was obviously calling things pretty tight, especially the way the receivers and defenders were using their arms, as Baltimore had multiple pass interference penalties too. A total of nine were called on the night.

Having gone through a game like that now, Williams believes he'll be able to heed a given officiating crew's tolerance level for contact in the future. But applying that lesson for the first time in the heat of a critical, hard-hitting Monday night contest is easier said than done.

If Williams had dialed back his aggressiveness after that third flag, would he have made what turned out to be a game-saving interception just moments later? It's an interesting point to debate.

"I don't think you can let it change the way you play," Williams said. "You may be subject to some penalties. Evidently, I got that treatment this week that just passed, but I don't think you can let it stop the way you play.

"There's going to be some fighting down the field, there's going to be some hand-fighting. That's what happens. But like I said, you just have to adjust to the way guys are calling them. You live, you learn and you keep moving."

Not-so-long odds

Earlier this season, if the Packers' offense faced a third down needing 10 or more yards to convert, it was almost a sure bet punter Jeremy Kapinos was on his way to the huddle after the next snap.

But that hasn't been the case lately.

In a strange but impressive turnaround that has certainly played a part in the current four-game winning streak, the Packers have converted seven third downs of 10-plus over the last four contests after picking up only four in the first eight games of the season.

The sudden boost in efficiency started midway through the second quarter of the Dallas game in Week 10. The Packers came into that game a measly 4-for-38 (10.5 percent) on third-and-10-plus, and they missed their first four against the Cowboys, putting them at 4-for-42 on the season (9.5 percent).

But the offense converted 3-of-4 third-and-longs the rest of that day against the Cowboys, including two huge ones - a 14-yard bullet to Greg Jennings on third-and-11 and a 17-yard strike to Donald Lee on third-and-13 - on the pivotal 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that gave the Packers a 10-0 lead early in the fourth quarter of that game.

The Packers then converted at least one third-and-long in each of the next three games. The most notable were the 68-yard heave to Donald Driver on third-and-11 in Detroit on Thanksgiving, setting up a touchdown, and a 15-yard hookup with James Jones on third-and-11 on the opening drive Monday against Baltimore, leading to a field goal.

Taking out a third-and-long kneel-down at the end of the San Francisco game and a meaningless one in the final moments at Detroit with the game well in hand, the Packers have actually converted seven of their last 13 that mattered on third-and-10-plus.

That's a long ways from 4-for-42.

Looking for a sweep

There's only one NFC North opponent that McCarthy has yet to sweep since becoming the Packers' head coach in 2006 - the Chicago Bears.

In fact, after being downright dominant against the Bears in winning 18 of 20 contests from 1994 through 2003, the Packers haven't swept a season series from the Bears since 2003. They have a chance to do so Sunday, of course.

{sportsad300}But that's just another piece of motivation the Bears, who lost to the Packers in the final minute of the season opener at Lambeau Field, can use as they bring a disappointing 5-7 record into Sunday against 8-4 Green Bay.

"In this rivalry between the two teams, there's a lot of pride, especially in your own division," Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs said. "To be swept is a big deal, it's a very big deal.

"There's a lot of pride on it. You want to go out, you want to defend your home, you want to play well, and you want to have a better showing than you did the first game."

Injury/participation update

The only change on the Packers' injury report Thursday was that linebacker Nick Barnett (knee) was upgraded to a limited participant after sitting out on Wednesday.

The status of the Packers' quartet of defensive linemen - ends Cullen Jenkins (hamstring, limited) and Johnny Jolly (knee, limited) and nose tackles B.J. Raji (ankle, limited) and Ryan Pickett (hamstring, did not participate) - remained the same.

"They're getting better," McCarthy said of the group. "Tomorrow will be a big day for those guys."

Tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring) and cornerback Charles Woodson (shoulder) also remained limited for the second straight day.

For the Bears, four players were upgraded to full participants in practice. They were Briggs (knee), linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer (groin), and defensive tackles Tommie Harris (knee) and Israel Idonije (knee). Tackle Orlando Pace (groin) was limited for the second straight day, and receiver/punt returner Devin Hester (calf) sat out again.

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