Packers' Second Half Takes Roar Out Of Lions


An old adage says that when you're down, you can't give up. That theory holds true in everyday life and it also comes into play in the sports world. If you need proof, just take a look at the Green Bay Packers' latest game.

Despite playing very poorly and finding themselves in a 13-0 hole at halftime against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the Packers somehow found a way to come out with a 16-13 victory. It may not have been pretty, but at the end of the day the Packers were all alone at the top of the NFC North Division with an 8-5 record.

Battling cold temperatures - including a swirling wind - and a difficult divisional opponent, the Packers committed six first half penalties for 74 yards. The offense had difficulty moving the ball, going three-and-out on their first three drives and gaining only four first downs in the opening half.

The defensive unit also had its share of difficulties allowing Lions running back Kevin Jones to rush for 118 yards on 23 carries in the first half. To make matters worse, the defense was on the field for nearly double the amount of time as the offense, which gave Brett Favre and company little opportunity to get into a flow.

However, the Packers trotted out for the second half as a different team. Instead of starting slowly and playing sloppy, the Packers were crisp, aggressive and playing with a sense of urgency.

So what really did the trick for the Packers identity change? It's difficult to say for sure, but there certainly was no shortage of theories going around in the locker room for the team's second half resurgence.

"We weren't playing well," guard Mike Wahle said. "They were outplaying us. We had tons of penalties, we couldn't convert a third down, and we had terrible field position.

"Everything that could go wrong went wrong and it was really just a matter of coming back in to regroup. We had to take a couple deep breaths. We knew were capable of beating that football team, we just weren't playing that way."

It didn't take long, however, for the Packers to get untracked and the solution was rather simple, according to Wahle.

"We have to go out there and play intense and play smart," Wahle explained. "Once we started doing that, we started moving the football and getting first downs. Our field position in the first half was terrible and mostly because of us. Second half we had great field position most of the time.

"It was just a question of making plays. We made some plays in the second half that we didn't make in the first half. The defense stepped up - shut their offense down - and got us the ball back in good field position. It makes all the difference in the world."

The defense certainly stepped up their game in the second half. Jones was limited to 38 yards on 10 carries after a stellar performance in the opening two quarters. The Packers also limited quarterback Joey Harrington to just five completions on 22 attempts for the game.

Those numbers speak volumes of the defensive turnaround, which ended up being the key to the game.

"I think we were asleep the first half," nose tackle Grady Jackson said with a chuckle. "Second half we came out and played ball the way we were supposed to play. We came out and shut everything down the way we were supposed to."

Linebacker Nick Barnett, who had 14 tackles, echoed Jackson's sentiments.

"It was simple as 1, 2, 3, and A, B, C," Barnett said. "Just go out there and hit your gaps, make plays and make the tackle. That's all we had to do to stop them. We went out there and we did that.

"We knew that we could win this game. It wasn't too far away. We made some mistakes but we came in here and Coach Slowik got a little fired up and got us fired up. We went out there and did what we had to do."

Barnett also passed along credit to his interior line, especially the effort of Jackson.

"Grady told me to go out there and keep playing," Barnett said. "He said, 'I am going to do what I have to do to let you be free and make plays,' and that's what he did. That's all about being a team."

Brett Favre also overcame a difficult start and finished 19-for-36 for 188 yards and a touchdown. He knew GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman's speech at halftime wouldn't be kind.

"I was talking with the quarterbacks and as I was coming out I could here him (Sherman) ranting and raving," Favre explained. "That was about all I could hear. I usually try to stay out of all that but whatever he said worked.

"We knew what was in front of us and what we had to do. Up to that point, we hadn't taken care of it. That was basically what he said. He may have gotten sidetracked a little bit but whatever he said, it worked I guess."

Sherman admitted that his team just didn't execute in the first half, but he was very proud of how they responded in the second half to take control and eventually win on a Ryan Longwell 23-yard field goal.

"On both sides of the ball and special teams we didn't play well in the first half," Sherman said. "But in the second half we came in here and did some soul searching and the guys came out and did what they had to do. We averted the senseless penalties and were able to convert some third downs. I thought all around we just played better in the second half.

"I am real pleased with that because a lot of times you go in there in halftime and nothing is going well - offense, defense or special teams. I just thought the guys got their thoughts together and the coaches, and the coordinators - Bob Slowik and Tom Rossley - got their points across on what has to get done and we got it done in the second half."

The Packers certainly got it together just in time to earn a very crucial victory. It's just further evidence that although the outlook may sometimes appear bleak, good things happen to teams that refuse to give up.

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