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Packers defense seeks four-quarter performance

Undrafted rookies begin to help up front


GREEN BAY—The second halves against the Jets and Bears were impressive, and the first three quarters against the Lions and Vikings were solid, too.

The logical next step for the Packers defense then is to put together a consistent, steady four quarters of resistance.

"That's definitely where we'd like to get to," defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. "That just comes with continuing with the preparation. It feels like we're doing some good things. If we stick the course, I'm pretty optimistic about it."

Up-and-down results can stem from various factors, be they injuries, turnovers, time of possession, penalties, etc. Whatever the reasons, the defense's Jekyll-and-Hyde personality was most evident against the Jets and Bears, when the Packers gave up a combined 515 yards and 38 points in the first halves and just 293 yards and three points in the second halves.

The effort against the Lions had a bend-but-don't-break quality to it, and the defense finally broke in the fourth quarter when the lopsided time of possession did the Packers in. There wasn't much to quibble about against the Vikings, because the 10 fourth-quarter points allowed came after the Packers had built a 42-0 lead.

Even though facing a third-string quarterback gives all the lofty stats from the Minnesota game an asterisk, the formula for dominating the Vikings – containing the run, constantly pressuring the quarterback, and generating turnovers – will get the job done against any team.

The turnovers began with two interceptions of Jay Cutler in the second half the previous week in Chicago, where the combination of rush and coverage started to come together.

"If he knows he's going to be uncomfortable and doesn't have a bunch of time," linebacker A.J. Hawk said of the opposing QB, "we can trust the guys in the back end that they're going to do the job.

"Not only are they going to be making big hits and making receivers and tight ends look around, they're going to take the ball away, too. It's 11 guys, and we really count on everybody."

Two undrafted rookies may be counted on even more in the coming weeks. With injuries to defensive lineman Datone Jones (ankle) and Josh Boyd (knee) leaving their status uncertain at the moment, Mike Pennel and Luther Robinson could be taking even more snaps up front.

Both took an interesting route to an NFL roster, with Pennel going from community college (Scottsdale, Ariz.) to Division I (Arizona State) to Division II (Colorado State University-Pueblo) to an NFL roster berth at the conclusion of training camp.

Robinson's story is perhaps even more unlikely, following a college career at the University of Miami during which he started just three games and played 30 others coming off the bench. He got a tryout with the Packers on rookie orientation weekend, then a free-agent contract, then a spot on the practice squad and finally a promotion to the active roster right before the Minnesota game last Thursday, when he got a deflection of Christian Ponder's pass that became a pick-six for teammate Julius Peppers.

"It was a big challenge," Robinson said of making his pro debut on such short notice. "It was moving pretty fast out there."

If the last game and a half is any indication, this Packers defense appears to be picking up the pace, too. What remains is keeping it up for a full four quarters.

"If we just continue to feed off of each other and put this thing together, I'm very optimistic about it," Daniels said. "It's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to the next contest." ADDITIONAL COVERAGE - OCT. 6

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