*Two years after he co-founded the Packers with Curly Lambeau, George Calhoun began writing a piece called The Dope Sheet, which served as the official press release and game program from 1921-24.
Honoring Calhoun, the first publicity director, the Packers are running this weekly feature as their release, which is being made available to fans exclusively on Packers.com.
A complete edition of the Dope Sheet will be available each week during the season in PDF format, located in the Packers.com Game Centers.
This is an abbreviated version of the Packers-Steelers Week 15 Dope Sheet. To read the full version, download the PDF by clicking here.
Here are some highlights from the Packers-Steelers Week 15 Dope Sheet:*
**GREEN BAY (9-4) at PITTSBURGH (6-7)
Sunday, Dec. 20 - Heinz Field - 3:15 p.m. CST**
PACKERS HEAD TO PITTSBURGH
- Two of the NFL's most storied franchises square off in Pittsburgh for an inter-conference game with playoff implications for both teams.
- The two clubs come into play Sunday on the opposite side of streaks. Green Bay has reeled off five consecutive victories, while Pittsburgh has dropped its last five.
- Though the Packers played a preseason game in Pittsburgh in 2007, Sunday will mark the team's first-ever regular season game at Heinz Field since its opening in 2001. Green Bay's last game in Pittsburgh came in 1998 at Three Rivers Stadium.
- The two teams first met in 1933, when the Packers soundly defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 47-0. They have since played 30 times, with the Packers holding an 18-13-0 advantage in the all-time series. Included in that record is a 9-6 mark in the city of Pittsburgh.
- The two historic franchises have combined for 18 NFL championships and 39 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No franchise has captured more NFL titles than Green Bay (12), while Pittsburgh has a league-best six championships in the Super Bowl era.
- The Packers finished their division slate with a 21-14 victory over the Bears in Chicago last Sunday. Their five consecutive victories is the fourth-longest active streak in the league.
- With a win Sunday, Green Bay would achieve double-digit victories for the 24th time in Packers' history. A win would also go a long way in the team's bid to play in the postseason for the 25th time in team history.
- Pittsburgh still remains in the picture in the AFC Wild Card hunt despite its five-game losing streak. Also, the Steelers come into play against the Packers as a rested team, having last played on Dec. 10, when they dropped a 13-6 contest in Cleveland.
WITH THE CALL
- FOX Sports, now in its 16th season as an NFL network television partner, will broadcast the game to a regional audience.
- Play-by-play man Joe Buck and color analyst Troy Aikman will have the call from the broadcast booth with Pam Oliver serving as the sideline reporter.
- Milwaukee's WTMJ (620 AM), airing Green Bay games since 1929, heads up the 53-station Packers Radio Network, with Wayne Larrivee (play-by-play) and two-time Packers Pro Bowler Larry McCarren (color) calling the action. The duo enters its 11th season of broadcasts together across the Packers Radio Network, which covers 43 markets in five states.
- Westwood One Radio will air the game across the country. Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) and Mark Malone (analyst) will call the action. Scott Graham hosts the pregame and halftime shows.
- For out-of-town listeners, the broadcast is available to NFL Field Pass subscribers on www.packers.com as well as on Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 130 WTMJ feed) as part of the network's NFL Sunday Drive.
- DIRECTV subscribers can watch the game in HD on channel 710.
HOMECOMING FOR McCARTHY
- Head Coach Mike McCarthy, the 14th coach in Green Bay Packers history, returns to his hometown for the first time in his NFL career.
- As an assistant coach with Kansas City, Green Bay, New Orleans and San Francisco, he faced the Steelers six times – each time at home. The Packers did make a preseason trip to Pittsburgh in 2007.
- McCarthy grew up one of five children in the Irish Catholic family of father Joe and mother Ellen in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Greenfield. His father was a longtime firefighter and police officer.
- He graduated from Bishop Boyle High School in Homestead, Pa., and later served on Paul Hackett's staff at the University of Pittsburgh for four seasons (1989-92).
- In both 2008 and '09, McCarthy partnered with the Packers to make donations of $100,000 to Pittsburgh's Greenfield Neighborhood to benefit youth and community programs.
- McCarthy will have over 30 family and friends in attendance.
**THE DOPE ON THIS WEEK'S OPPONENT:
Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
All-time, regular season: **18-13-0
All-time, in Pittsburgh:9-6-0
Streaks:The Steelers have won six of the last eight games.
Last meeting, regular season: Nov. 6, 2005, at Lambeau Field; Steelers won, 20-10
Last meeting, in Pittsburgh:Nov. 9, 1998; Steelers won, 27-20
Mike McCarthy: 37-26-0, .587 (incl. 1-1 postseason); 4th NFL season
Mike Tomlin: 31-18-0, .632 (incl. 3-1 postseason); 3rd NFL season
Head to Head:Never met
vs. Opponent: McCarthy 0-0 vs. Steelers; Tomlin 0-0 vs. Packers
MIKE McCARTHY…Is in fourth year as the Packers' 14th head coach.
- Was named Packers head coach on Jan. 12, 2006, his first head coaching job after 13 years as an NFL assistant.
- Honored as the 2007 Motorola NFL Coach of the Year and NFL Alumni Coach of the Year.
- Became the first Packers coach since Vince Lombardi to lead the team to a championship game in his second season.
- One of only three head coaches to lead an offense ranked in the top 10 in the league each of the past three years.
MIKE TOMLIN…Is in third year as the Steelers' 16th head coach.
- Became the youngest head coach (36 years, 323 days) in NFL history to win a Super Bowl when the Steelers defeated the Cardinals, 27-23, in Super Bowl XLIII.
- Is the only coach in Steelers' history to win division titles in each of his first two seasons.
- A three-year starter at wide receiver at William & Mary, was a teammate of former Packers safety Darren Sharper there.
THE PACKERS-STEELERS SERIES
- Sunday marks Green Bay's first regular-season trip to Heinz Field, following a preseason visit in 2007.
- The Packers lead the all-time regular-season series with an 18-13 edge, having won the first 12 contests between the two teams from 1933-46.
- Pittsburgh played its first-ever road game in the NFL at City Stadium on Oct. 15, 1933, a 47-0 Packers victory.
- The Packers' last win in the series was a memorable won, coming on Christmas Eve 1995. Pittsburgh receiver Yancey Thigpen dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone in the closing moments to give the Packers a 24-19 victory and the NFC Central Division title.
Several Packers coaches have ties to the Pittsburgh area...Head Coach Mike McCarthy grew up in Greenfield, a neighboorhood just outside of downtown, and is making his first regular-season appearance in Pittsburgh as an NFL coach. He also coached at the University of Pittsburgh for four seasons...Defensive coordinator Dom Capers held the same job with the Steelers from 1992-94, and outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene played for the Steelers during that same time...Safeties coach Darren Perry played seven seasons (1992-98) with the Steelers, starting in Super Bowl XXX, and he also coached defensive backs for Pittsburgh for four seasons (2003-06)...Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin spent four years coaching at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. ...Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, who was born in McKees Rocks, Pa., an area on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, served as quarterbacks coach for the Steelers for three seasons under Bill Cowher (2001-03)...Tight ends coach Ben McAdoo, a Homer City, Pa., native, graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and coached at the University of Pittsburgh as an offensive assistant in 2003...Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum was a graduate assistant for the defense at the University of Pittsburgh in 1990...Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau coached defensive backs for the Packers for four seasons (1976-79)…Packers safeties coach Darren Perry's first NFL coaching job was with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2002 when LeBeau was the head coach there…Packers FB John Kuhn entered the NFL as a non-drafted free agent with the Steelers in 2005 and played nine games for Pittsburgh in 2006; he is also a York, Pa., native and played his college ball at Shippensburg University (Pa.)…Packers director of player development Rob Davis also played at Shippensburg…Packers defensive quality control coach Scott McCurley was a four-year letterman (1999-2002) at linebacker at the University of Pittsburgh, and was born in New Castle, Pa. …Former college teammates include Packers G Josh Sitton and Steelers CB Joe Burnett (Central Florida), Packers T Breno Giacomini and Steelers CB William Gay (Louisville), and Packers LB A.J. Hawk and Steelers WR Santonio Holmes (Ohio State)...Packers TE Jermichael Finley and Steelers LS Tony Hills and WR Limas Sweed were also college teammates, at Texas, and were all 2008 draft picks...Steelers rookie G Kraig Urbik is originally from Hudson, Wis., and played collegiately at Wisconsin.
INDIVIDUALLY VS. STEELERS
WR Donald Driver caught five passes for 64 yards (12.8 avg.) in his only game against the Steelers (Nov. 6, 2005). In that same game, LB Nick Barnett recorded a game-high 13 tackles (nine solo) and DE Cullen Jenkins blocked a field-goal attempt.
LAST MEETING, REGULAR SEASON
- Nov. 6, 2005, at Lambeau Field; Steelers won, 20-10.
- Troy Polamalu's 77-yard touchdown return of a Brett Favre fumble set the stage for Pittsburgh's win.
- Polamalu's TD return came in the first half, when Green Bay trailed 6-3 and had the ball at the Pittsburgh 3-yard line.
- Green Bay held the Steelers without a single third-down conversion, allowed just two field goals and a 20-yard TD drive.
- The Packers finally punched it in when Samkon Gado (26 carries, 62 yards) scored his first career TD to pull Green Bay within three points, 13-10, with 7:26 left in the third quarter.
- Duce Staley (15 carries, 76 yards) scored from 3 yards out with 6:16 left in the game to round out the scoring.
LAST MEETING, IN PITTSBURGH
- Nov. 9, 1998, at Three Rivers Stadium; Steelers won, 27-20.
- In prime time on a Monday night, the Steelers held off a late Packers rally to get the victory.
- Behind a TD pass and TD run by Kordell Stewart and 100 yards rushing by Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh took a 27-0 lead in the third quarter.
- But with the help of an 88-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Keith McKenzie in the fourth quarter, the Packers came back. Raymont Harris' 2-yard TD run, followed by a successful onside kick and field goal, cut the deficit to just seven points with 2:40 left.
- Bettis iced the game for the Steelers with a 12-yard run on third-and-5 with two minutes to go.
COULD THEY CLINCH?
- Winners of five consecutive games, including a three-game stretch in 12 days against NFC opponents, Green Bay stands in prime position for one of the conference's Wild Card berths.
- There are three scenarios in which Green Bay could clinch a playoff spot this weekend: 1) Packers win AND Cowboys loss; 2) Packers win AND Giants loss or tie; 3) Packers tie AND Giants loss.
- At 9-4, Green Bay stands ahead of Dallas (8-5) and the New York Giants (7-6) for the top NFC Wild Card seed. By virtue of its Week 10 win over the Cowboys, Green Bay holds the first tiebreaker over Dallas.
- Wild Card playoff berths are given to the conference's top two teams that do not win a division. If teams within the same division are fighting for those spots, division tiebreakers apply. Should teams be competing against teams from another division, conference record is the second tiebreaker after head-to-head matchups. Green Bay is 7-3 against the NFC so far this season with two conference games remaining.
'BLITZBURGH' RETURNS IN GREEN AND GOLD
- In addition to a head coach with Pittsburgh ties, a number of coaches on the Green Bay staff have ties to the area and the Steelers organization.
- Defensive coordinator Dom Capers, now in his 24th NFL season, got his first chance to run a defense in Pittsburgh when he served as defensive coordinator for three seasons (1992-94) with the Steelers. The team earned postseason berths in all three years of Capers' tenure and ranked among the league's top 3 in overall defense each of his last two years.
- Two of Capers' leaders on defense with the Steelers are now on the defensive staff with Capers in Green Bay. Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, No. 3 on the league's all-time list with 160 career sacks, played two of his three seasons in Pittsburgh under Capers' tutelage. In '94, he was named a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler after leading the league with 14 sacks.
- Also on staff in Green Bay coaching safeties is Darren Perry, who played seven seasons (1992-98) and coached for four seasons (2003-06) with the Steelers organization. An immediate starter at safety as a rookie in 1992 under Capers, Perry went on to start all 110 games he saw action in as a member of the Steelers and tallied 32 career interceptions. As an assistant under Bill Cowher, he was credited for helping the rapid development of perennial All-Pro honoree Troy Polamalu.
- Quarterbacks coach Tom Clements was born in McKees Rocks, Pa., and spent three seasons coaching QBs (2001-03) under Cowher. Tight ends coach Ben McAdoo is a native of Homer City, Pa., and spent a season on staff at the University of Pittsburgh (2003). Defensive quality control coach Scott McCurley, a Bessemer, Pa., native, was a four-year letterman at the University of Pittsburgh (1999-2002) and spent three seasons (2003-05) there as a graduate assistant.
THE LEAGUE'S TOP-RANKED DEFENSE
- Despite surrendering just 254 total net yards to the Bears, the Green Bay defense fell to the No. 2 spot in the league's overall defensive rankings. Still, it hasn't been since 1996, when it finished the year No. 1 overall and went on to win Super Bowl XXXI, that the Packers' defense has ranked among the league's top units this late in the season.
- Another solid defensive outing sparked Sunday's win in Chicago, in which the team added two interceptions and three sacks to its resume.
- Behind new defensive coordinator Dom Capers and all-everything CB Charles Woodson, the Packers have thrived in their new 3-4 scheme. The team ranks No. 2 against the run and No. 3 against the pass.
- Green Bay is allowing 272.0 yards per game, joining the N.Y. Jets (264.7) as the only teams to surrender less than 290 yards per outing.
- Some would argue that a more important and telling statistic is points allowed, and not how many yards a team has yielded. With 243 points against it this year, Green Bay ranks tied for ninth with Minnesota.
- Green Bay's improved defense against the run has kept opponents in long down-and-distances, enhancing the defense's ability to get off the field on third down. Through the first four games, the unit ranked No. 28. As soon as Green Bay began to stop the run, it shot up the league rankings in third-down defense, now at No. 6. This week's opponent, Pittsburgh, ranks 17th in third-down offense.
- One constant for the defense has been its ability to take the ball away, registering 32 of the team's 33 takeaways. The Packers rank only behind the Saints (37) in total takeaways in 2009 and own the league's second-longest active streak with a takeaway in 16 straight games.
- Whether they be caused by pressure from a deep and talented front seven, or a fantastic read by a ball-hawking secondary led by Pro Bowlers Nick Collins (six INTs) and Woodson (eight), those 33 turnovers have led to 113 points, the second-most points-off-turnovers total in the NFL. New Orleans leads the category with 134 points.
- In the first two years of the Mike McCarthy tenure, Green Bay's defense was close to being a top-10 unit, finishing at No. 12 in 2006 and No. 11 in 2007. Last season, it slipped to No. 20.
- In Capers' previous stints as a coordinator, his units have made a jump in the rankings in his first season. In Pittsburgh, the defense went from No. 22 to No. 13 in '92 under Capers, then continued to rise to No. 3 in '93 and No. 2 in '94. In Jacksonville, the defense climbed to No. 4 under Capers in '99 after ranking 25th the previous season. The Dolphins ranked No. 4 in 2006, Capers' first year, after ranking No. 18 in '05.
TAKING HIS PLACE AMONG THE GAME'S BEST
- Now firmly entrenched in his role as the face of the franchise, QB Aaron Rodgers is a prime candidate to be named to his first Pro Bowl team when the rosters are announced later this month.
- Rodgers ranks near the top of the NFL in most passing categories and was honored as the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for October, the first such award of his career.
- He has engineered one of the NFL's most potent offenses, ranked No. 7 overall, and avoided costly mistakes, spearheading a unit that has just 15 giveaways, third fewest in the league.
- Through 13 games, his 102.5 passer rating ranks fourth in the NFL. In addition, he is the game's top-ranked passer on third downs (127.9).
- The fourth-year pro has thrown for 3,579 yards, sixth most in the league. At his current pace, Rodgers could end up challenging Lynn Dickey's franchise record (4,458, 1983) for passing yards in a single season in the final weeks.
- In addition to QB rating and passing yards, Rodgers ranks among the top 10 in TD passes and both completion and interception percentage.
- And just for good measure, the Cal product tops all QBs with 271 rushing yards on 53 carries (5.1 avg.).
- Elias Sports Bureau never intended for passer rating to measure the effectiveness of a signal caller in one game, but rather over the course of a group of games or entire season.
- Having said that, Rodgers' performance in Week 7 in Cleveland (15-of-20, 246 yards, 3 TDs) earned him a passer rating of 155.4, the highest single-game rating (minimum 20 attempts) in the history of the franchise. It bested the previous high, Brett Favre's 154.9 rating set in Oakland on Dec. 22, 2003.
- It was Rodgers' fourth consecutive game with a passer rating over 110.0, becoming only the second signal caller in team history to eclipse the mark four straight times in a single season. The legendary Bart Starr accomplished the feat four straight weeks during the 1966 season (Sept. 18-Oct. 9) en route to an NFL Championship and Super Bowl title.
- Rodgers just missed becoming the first to do it in five straight games, registering a 108.5 rating against Minnesota the following week.
- Not only does the statistic explain his play this season, but just how efficient he has been since becoming a starter. In 29 career starts, Rodgers has eclipsed the century mark in passer rating 15 times.
TURNOVER RATIO TOPS THE LEAGUE
- While many football statistics don't have far-reaching implications through a sampling of the season, turnover ratio is always a telling statistic when it comes to a game's final outcome.
- The Packers' 33 takeaways ranks second in the NFL. New Orleans leads the league with 37 takeaways.
- The offense is doing its part as well, as its 15 giveaways on the year ranks only behind San Diego (13) and Minnesota (14).
- While Rodgers has always been careful with the ball in the passing game, credit must be given to the Packers running backs, who have carried the ball 307 times without a fumble in 2009.
- With a defense that excels at the takeaway and an offense that protects the football as well as it does, it is no surprise Green Bay's plus-18 turnover ratio tops the league.
- This week's opponent, Pittsburgh, stands at minus-five, which ranks tied for 25th in the NFL. It has 16 takeaways (eight interceptions, eight fumble recoveries) and 21 turnovers (12 interceptions, nine fumbles).
- Of the Packers' takeaways, 23 have come via the interception, third highest in the league behind Buffalo (25) and New Orleans (24). The Packers also have 10 fumble recoveries.
- Every single Packers practice, be it during OTAs, training camp or the regular season, has a period devoted to ball security.
- Headed by assistant head coach/inside linebackers Winston Moss, the drill has offensive skill players carry the ball while two defenders (linebackers and defensive backs) try to strip the ball. Once free, the offensive player then must run through a gauntlet of offensive and defensive linemen attempting to strip the ball loose.
- The drill puts an emphasis on ball security to offensive players. For defensive players, the drill keeps the focus on stripping the ball from opposing players.
- Overall, the team has 11 forced fumbles on the year (one on special teams), 10 of which it has recovered.
- Offensive skill players need only to look at RBs Ryan Grant and Ahman Green for two players who exemplify ball security. Green currently has 373 consecutive rushes without a fumble, the longest active streak in the league, while Grant has a streak of 256 consecutive carries without a fumble, fifth longest among active streaks. Both streaks are individual career highs.
- While the Packers can be proud of their place atop the league in turnover margin, it is a statistic that has trended upwards in each of McCarthy's three seasons.
- In 2006, the team finished at even in the category but improved to plus-four in 2007. Last season's plus-seven margin, No. 6 among NFL teams, was the franchise's best mark since 2002 (+17).
- Prior to McCarthy's arrival, the team had a franchise-worst turnover ratio (-24) in 2005.
AS GOOD AS HE'S EVER BEEN
- With Pro Bowl balloting nearing its finish, it'd be hard to imagine CB Charles Woodson not being named to the NFC squad later this year.
- In fact, Woodson is being talked about as one of the leading candidates for The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year.
- Woodson is the eighth player in NFL history since sacks became an official statistic to record at least eight sacks and two interceptions in a single season. Two of the players who previously accomplished the feat (Ed Reed - 2004; Rod Woodson - 1993) went on to win Defensive Player of the Year. Woodson also leads the Packers with four forced fumbles.
- Against Dallas, Woodson became the first NFL player to record two forced fumbles, an interception and a sack in a game since Steelers linebacker James Harrison accomplished the feat two years ago to the day vs. Baltimore on Nov. 15, 2007. In that contest, Harrison posted three forced fumbles, 3½ sacks and an interception.
- Against the Lions in Week 12, Woodson tallied two interceptions, including one he returned for a score, a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery, and held Calvin Johnson to two catches for 10 yards.
- Woodson was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for both his Dallas (Week 10) and Detroit (Week 12) performances, and naturally won NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November. Woodson also was honored as the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September.
- His Detroit performance marked the fifth multi-interception game of his career, and his fourth since coming to Green Bay.
- Woodson's sixth INT return for a score moved him into second place on the franchise's all-time list behind Hall of Famer Herb Adderley (seven).
- Woodson's six INT returns for a TD since 2006 leads all NFL players. Overall, he has eight career.
- In addition to his team-high eight interceptions, he has been credited with 67 tackles through 13 games, third most on the team. That pace would have him surpass his career high (79) before season's end, a total he has accomplished twice before (OAK, 2000; GB, 2008).
- A skilled blitzer, Woodson has two sacks on the year. His five sacks since 2008 lead all NFL defensive backs (safeties and corners).
- His four forced fumbles ranks second among all NFL defensive backs.
- There's no doubt Woodson's career has undergone a revitalization since coming to Green Bay. He now has 44 career interceptions, tied for fourth among active NFL players. For his career, 27 have come in 59 games with the Packers. In 106 games with the Oakland Raiders, he had 17.
D-LINE HEADLINES STOUT RUN DEFENSE
- With each player adjusting to new responsibilities in the 3-4 scheme, Green Bay's defensive line has created an imposing presence as the first line of defense and is the main reason the team ranks No. 2 against the run.
- DE Cullen Jenkins, who played both inside and outside in the old scheme, has 42 tackles and ranks second on the team in sacks (4.5) and forced fumbles (three).
- Against Detroit in Week 6, Jenkins recorded his first NFL interception, sniffing out a screen pass to RB Kevin Smith.
- Making the transition from an inside defensive tackle in the old scheme to an end this season, DE Johnny Jolly leads all defensive linemen with 61 tackles and also has a sack and forced fumble. His eight passes defensed show his ability to be a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage. Jenkins (nine in 2007) has the most for a defensive lineman since the team began recording the statistic in 1980.
- Displaying rare athleticism for a 6-foot-3, 320-pound man, Jolly made a highlight-reel one-handed interception in the red zone against Jay Cutler and the Bears in Week 1. He also plucked another ball out of the air on a dive against St. Louis, though the ball was ruled a fumble because of a strip by LB Aaron Kampman.
- That play came just minutes after Jolly blocked a field-goal attempt on the Rams' opening drive. It was the second block of his career.
- It had been awhile since a Packers player recorded an interception, fumble recovery and blocked kick in the same season. That was CB Doug Evans in 1993.
- Coupled with Jenkins' interception, the duo became the first pair of Packers linemen to record interceptions in the same year since 2002, when Kabeer Gbaja-Biamilia and Vonnie Holliday both had picks.
- NT Ryan Pickett, playing the position for the first time, has been a disruptive force in the middle with 46 tackles and a pass deflection. The recent emergence of rookie B.J. Raji should keep all four players in the unit fresh down the stretch, which should maintain their ability to penetrate opponents' backfields and stop the run.
- Since the Packers gave up 117 yards to RB Steven Jackson in Week 3, they have allowed 719 yards in 10 games (71.9 yards a game), the fewest allowed in the NFL over that span.
- Over that time, opponents' average of 3.4 yards per carry is the best in the NFL. Green Bay has allowed three rushing TDs over that span, tied for second-fewest in the league.
GRANT AND THE GROUND GAME
- RB Ryan Grant is having one of the better seasons among running backs in the NFC and is a prime candidate to earn his first career Pro Bowl selection.
- Against the Bears, Grant rushed for his first 50-plus yard TD since 2007 and finished the game with 137 yards on 20 carries. His 6.9-yard average established a new career high in games with at least 20 rushes.
- It was the third 100-yard performance on the season for Grant, who also has surpassed the 90-yard mark on three other occasions.
- Without much fanfare, Grant's numbers rank among the leaders in the NFC. His rushing total (1,068 yards) ranks fourth in the NFC and seventh overall in the NFL. Utilized more in the screen game this season, his 197 receiving yards already is a career high.
- Grant's 1,265 total yards from scrimmage ranks fourth in the NFC and seventh in the NFL.
- McCarthy has consistently stated in his time in Green Bay that the most important rushing statistic to him is attempts, and there is no doubting the team's success when the attempts are up, specifically for Grant.
- When Grant gets 22-or-more carries, the team is 9-1 (10-1 with playoffs).
- With veteran RB Ahman Green back in the fold, not to mention a quarterback whose feet are a weapon opposing defenses must account for, Green Bay has totaled over 100 net yards on the ground seven times in 2009. Its record in those contests is 6-1.
- RB Brandon Jackson still sits at No. 2 on the depth chart and has served as the team's third-down back in his two-plus seasons.
- Jackson has worked his way back into form after missing the first four games with an ankle injury, while Green returned to game action after being sidelined by a groin injury. Both could begin to spell Grant from scrimmage down the stretch run and keep all three backs fresh as the team makes its push for a playoff spot in the NFC.
- Traditionally the Packers have run more over the second half of the season as the weather turns. With one remaining home game, not to mention another potential cold-weather game in Pittsburgh on Sunday, the offense may shift to a more ground-based attack.
QUITE THE PAIR
- S Nick Collins and CB Charles Woodson tied for the NFC lead with seven interceptions last season and both were named to the Pro Bowl.
- The pair continues to give opposing quarterbacks fits and should make another Pro Bowl trip this winter as both remain among the league leaders in interceptions. With eight, Woodson has tied a career high and stands one behind the NFL lead. Collins, with six interceptions, is tied for fifth most in the NFL. They are the only teammates in the NFL with six or more interceptions.
- Woodson's 15 interceptions since 2008 lead all NFL players, while Collins' 13 picks since '08 ranks second. Baltimore's Ed Reed, with 12, ranks third.
- In terms of the franchise records, Woodson became only the second player in team annals to record at least eight interceptions in two or more seasons. Woodson also had eight in 2006.
- The franchise's all-time leader in interceptions, Bobby Dillon, had nine interceptions in three different seasons (1953, '55, '57). His finished his career with 52 interceptions.
- In addition to a Pro Bowl pair of skill players on defense, WR Donald Driver and WR Greg Jennings continue to pace one of the league's most dominant offenses. They are the only teammate tandem in the NFC to each have 850 receiving yards. The AFC has four pairs: Indianapolis' Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne, Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward, New England's Randy Moss and Wes Welker and San Diego's Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson.
- The skill of Driver and Jennings on the perimeter have opened things up in the middle of the field for TE Jermichael Finley and RB Ryan Grant, each of whom has had big performances in the team's current five-game winning streak.
'PSYCHO' D DEBUTS
- Kept under wraps throughout the season but still in the legendarily thick playbook of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the 'Psycho' defensive package made its debut in Chicago.
- On the third play from scrimmage, with Chicago facing a third-and-3 deep in its own territory, the Packers went to the package, an alternative version of the nickel defense which includes one down lineman, five linebackers and five defensive backs.
- A previously unscouted look, the scheme worked to perfection as DE Cullen Jenkins and LB Desmond Bishop stopped Bears RB Matt Forte for a loss of three yards.
- Along with Bishop, the five linebackers included Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar, A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews. The five in the secondary was its starting four along with nickel CB Jarret Bush.
- It wasn't the first time Green Bay has come out with a varied sub-package on defense. In Week 3 at St. Louis, it came out in its 'Big Okie' formation, which substitutes Chillar in as a fifth linebacker for S Atari Bigby.
- The package was shelved for a time when Chillar was recovering from a broken hand but did see its most extensive use in weeks in Chicago.
- No matter what the defense was, be it 'Psycho', 'Big Okie' or base, the Bears had trouble finding any light in the run game. Green Bay held the Bears to 59 total net yards rushing, the second-fewest rushing yards allowed by the Packers in 2009.
THE EFFECTS OF CONTINUITY
- The Green Bay Packers' offensive line, the most maligned position group through the first half of the season, has turned it around thanks to the continuity it has been able to maintain.
- Having constantly shuffled the lineup due to injury and performance issues early in the season, Green Bay has settled on its starting five of LT Chad Clifton, LG Daryn Colledge, C Scott Wells, RG Josh Sitton and RT Mark Tauscher.
- That unit has started the past four contests, the only time this season Green Bay has gone more than two games with the same starting five. All emerged relatively healthy from the Bears contest and the unit is expected to make its fifth consecutive start together Sunday in Pittsburgh.
- The results speak for themselves, as the group has produced the best results of the season in pass protection and big production in the run game.
- Against San Francisco, the first of the unit's four-game streak together, the team produced 158 net rushing yards. It paved the way for another 146 yards on the ground against Chicago on Sunday.
- Over the past four games, QB Aaron Rodgers has been sacked six times, the best streak of the season in pass protection.
- The six sacks over the past four games is tied for the 10th fewest in the NFL over that span.
- One of the game's most talented passers, Rodgers has no shortage of weapons to deliver the ball to if afforded enough time.
EXCELLING ON THIRD DOWN
- Part of Green Bay's recent success in a five-game winning streak has been due in part to its ability to win the third-down battle on both sides of the ball. Both the offense (No. 5) and defense (No. 6) rank among the league's best in third-down efficiency.
- It would be hard to imagine a better performance on third down than what QB Aaron Rodgers did in Detroit on Thanksgiving.
- He finished 11-of-13 passing, good for eight first downs and two touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
- That's not all that surprising when you consider Rodgers is the league's top-ranked passer (127.9) on third down. No other quarterback has thrown for as many yards (1,295) on third down as Rodgers, who also shares the lead in TD passes (11) on third down. In 131 third-down attempts, he has a 67.9% completion rate and has yet to throw an interception.
- The last quarterback to finish the season with a 135-plus rating on third down was Kurt Warner (137.3) in 1999.
- Now in his second season as a starter, his third-down success is becoming a trend. He finished 2008 as the league's third-ranked passer on third down with a passer rating of 105.8. Of his 28 TD passes last season, 14 came on third down.
- As for the defense, it ranked No. 28 in the league on third down after Week 4. Whether it was bye-week adjustments or players settling into the scheme, the unit now ranks No. 6.
- Some of the success can be attributed to the Packers' improved run defense. Starting with Week 4, it has allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL.
ANOTHER FRANCHISE MARK
- WR Donald Driver, now in his 11th season with the Packers, established yet another team mark against the Ravens. This season, it seems as though franchise records fall on a weekly basis for Driver.
- Driver became the 10th player in franchise history to reach the 50-touchdown plateau. No other NFL franchise has 10 players with 50-plus TDs.
- Earlier, Driver topped the 50-catch plateau for an eighth straight season (2002-09), a new franchise record. The only other players to accomplish that feat from '02-'09 are Tony Gonzalez, Chad Ochocinco, Derrick Mason and Hines Ward.
- Though he is the oldest player on the active roster at age 34, Driver has shown no signs of slowing down in 2009. He leads the team in catches (58), receiving yards (887), and touchdown catches (6). Those numbers certainly put him in the conversation for a fourth career Pro Bowl selection.
- By the end of the season, the most significant record still within Driver's grasp will be career receiving yards. Lofton ranks No. 1 with 9,656 yards. Driver is at No. 2 entering play Sunday with 8,876.
- Driver has been the model of consistency for the Packers, catching at least one pass in 124 consecutive games, also a franchise record. His consistency also serves as a great example for younger teammates, as Driver has rarely missed a practice in his NFL career.
- While his reputation is as a slot guy who will make the tough catch over the middle, Driver has made his share of big plays this season. His 14 catches of 20-plus yards is tied for 10th in the NFL.
FINLEY'S RETURN A WELCOME SIGHT
- Anyone needing to know how much the Packers missed TE Jermichael Finley in his three-game absence need only to watch the game tape from the last four contests.
- Over the last four games, he has caught a team-high 22 passes for 228 yards and two TDs, with both scores coming against the Ravens. In fact, all three of Finley's touchdowns in 2009 have come on MNF.
- Rodgers clearly loves his athletic ability down the middle of the field, as evidenced by his seven catches of 20-plus yards. And in goal-line situations, as was seen against the Ravens, Rodgers is confident in Finley's ability to win a one-on-one battle on a fade route.
- Though a knee sprain caused him to miss the better part of four games, he has already set career highs in nearly every statistical category.
- Finley's coming-out party came on the team's first appearance on Monday Night Football in front of the largest television audience in cable history. That night, he set a new career high in receiving yards (128), highlighted by his 62-yard catch-and-run for a score. The catch marked the longest reception by a Green Bay tight end since Jackie Harris caught a 66-yard scoring pass against Denver on Oct. 10, 1993.
- Finley's day also stands tied for the most productive day by a tight end in team history. His 128 yards matched Harris' output from that Broncos contest, tying the franchise high for most receiving yards by a tight end.
- There's no doubting the Packers' depth at the position. TE Donald Lee remains a favorite target of Rodgers, ranking fourth on the team with 33 catches, and TE Spencer Havner filled in nicely in Finley's absence. Of Havner's seven catches on the year, four have gone for scores.
- The team often likes to go with multiple-tight end sets, which should exploit the mismatches against linebackers and defensive backs this group is able to create.
AROUND THE 'BLACK AND BLUE'
- At 9-4, Green Bay stands solidly in second place in the NFC North with three games remaining on the schedule. It will need considerable help from Minnesota's opponents, not to mention a perfect record in its final three games, to challenge for the division crown.
- Green Bay finished the year 4-2 in division play with its 21-14 victory over the Bears in Chicago.
- Minnesota, off to a 11-2 start, beat Cincinnati this past weekend at the Metrodome. It will be on the road for two consecutive weeks, first traveling to Carolina before playing in Chicago.
- The defending division champion Vikings broke a string last season of seven straight years when either the Packers or Bears won the NFC North/Central. This year, Minnesota is working against history again, trying to become the first team other than Chicago or Green Bay to win back-to-back division crowns in three decades. The Vikings were the last to do it, in the 1977-78 seasons, which concluded a string of six straight division championships for Minnesota in the Bud Grant era.
- Chicago has lost seven of its last nine games and was officially eliminated from postseason contention by the Packers last weekend. The Bears will travel to Baltimore before finishing the season with two division games against the Vikings and Lions.
- Detroit dropped a road contest in Baltimore over the weekend to fall to 2-11 on the year. The Lions will host Arizona this weekend before traveling to San Francisco next weekend.
- Head Coach Mike McCarthy has always stressed the importance of division play. Through the first 13 games of the '09 season, the Packers own the best division mark over the three-plus seasons of McCarthy's tenure at 17-7. The Packers are trailed by Minnesota (14-9) and Chicago (13-9) over that period.
- Not to be overlooked in the Packers' ascension to the top of the league rankings in overall defense are the contributions of three rookies.
- LB Brad Jones, who had to fill the rather large shoes of Pro Bowl honoree Aaron Kampman after a season-ending knee injury, collected his first career sack against the Ravens.
- Jones became the third Packers rookie to collect a sack this season, joining first-round picks NT B.J. Raji (1.0) and LB Clay Matthews (8.0). The last time three Packers rookies recorded sacks was 1987.
- Joining Jones with a sack against Baltimore was Matthews, who recorded the second multi-sack performance of the season. It marked the first time two Packers rookies have recorded sacks in a single game since Nov. 15, 1998, when Vonnie Holliday (2) and Jude Waddy both had sacks against the New York Giants.
- With another sack against the Bears, Matthews became the first rookie in Packers history to record a sack in three consecutive games.
- Raji saw his most extensive action of the season at nose tackle in Chicago, as starter NT Ryan Pickett missed the game with a hamstring injury.
- All three missed time during training camp due to various injuries, meaning none of the three may hit the supposed "rookie wall" that sometimes plagues first-year players this time of year.
DOMINATING TIME OF POSSESSION
- Time of possession is a seldom-quoted statistic, but one that easily can underscore how a football game was played out.
- For a team that is in the thick of the NFC playoff chase, the Packers' current ranking near the top of the time-of-possession chart bodes well. Of the teams that finished the season in the Top 3 in the category this decade, 21 of those 27 teams made the playoffs.
- Of the six that didn't qualify for the postseason, only one, the 2004 Kansas City Chiefs (7-9), finished with a record below .500.
- In Green Bay's 30-24 win over San Francisco in Week 11, it controlled the ball for 41 minutes, 39 seconds. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, time-of-possession statistics have only been kept since 1977, but that mark for the Packers was a franchise record.
- Combined with the Packers' 40:48 time of possession against the Lions in Week 6, it gives the team two games with 40-plus minutes of controlling the ball, which is also a single-season franchise record.
- Thanks to two turnovers, Green Bay did not have a decided advantage in the category in Chicago, holding the ball for 31 minutes and 12 seconds.
- Entering Week 15, the Packers rank No. 2 in the league with a time-of-possession average of 33:25, trailing only New England (33:48). Minnesota (33:06), Cincinnati (32:51), and Miami (32:21) round out the league's Top 5.
- The stat could prove interesting this Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Steelers rank No. 6 in the category with an average time of possession of 32 minutes and 20 seconds.
- The Packers might get the opportunity to improve upon their average next week against the Seahawks. Seattle ranks No. 31 in the category with an average of 27 minutes and 27 seconds.
- Green Bay's best single-season mark came in 1992, when it posted an average of 32:30 per game.
- In the past eight games, the Packers have controlled the ball for just under 37 minutes per contest, nearly a full quarter more than their opponents, and have posted nine drives of 10-plus plays in the past four games compared to just nine in the first nine games.
- As the weather turns at Lambeau Field, plus an outdoor game Sunday in Pittsburgh, Green Bay will most likely enter each game with time of possession goals as it becomes a more ground-oriented team. Though the nature of a "big-play" offense suggests quick strikes, the Packers could very well produce multiple 10-play drives in the games to come.
MATTHEWS CONTINUES TO IMPRESS
- Rookie LB Clay Matthews seems to have a knack for the football, twice pouncing on fumbles forced by CB Charles Woodson against Dallas.
- Matthews is tied for second in the NFL with three fumble recoveries.
- According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last Green Bay rookie to recover two opponents' fumbles in a game was DB Val Joe Walker on Nov. 26, 1953, against the Detroit Lions.
- If Matthews can recover another fumble over the final three games, he will tie the franchise's rookie record held by S Johnnie Gray (1975).
- The first recovery of his career was in Week 4, when he forced a fumble on Vikings RB Adian Peterson and raced the ball 42 yards for a touchdown, the longest fumble return for a TD by a rookie in team history.
- Matthews recorded the second multi-sack game of his career against the Ravens and has eight sacks on the season. In addition to leading the Packers, his eight sacks ranks second behind Washington's Brian Orakpo (11) for the lead among all rookies.
- The last rookie to finish as the team leader in sacks was LB Tim Harris in 1986. Harris, Vonnie Holliday (eight in 1998) and Matthews now share the franchise mark for sacks by a rookie (eight) since the statistic became official in 1982.
PACKERS GRIND OUT FIFTH STRAIGHT WIN
- Nothing has come easy for the Packers during their now five-game winning streak, and that didn't change on Sunday against the archrival Chicago Bears.
- But in a see-saw game that saw the Packers blow a 13-point advantage, fall behind by one point, re-take the lead and then hold on down the stretch, Green Bay's 21-14 victory at Soldier Field proved to be a lot like the four that immediately preceded it - imperfect to be sure but noteworthy for what needed to be overcome to get it.
- "That momentum, there are going to be opportunities where it's going to swing back at you," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "You have to keep stepping up and swing it back the other way, and our guys did for four quarters."
- With the win, the Packers posted their first season sweep of the Bears since 2003. More important, they improved to 9-4 and took an even stronger hold on a potential NFC Wild Card playoff spot.
- The Packers controlled the game early, grabbing a 13-0 lead just two minutes into the second quarter. Ryan Grant's 62-yard touchdown run on the offense's first play from scrimmage was followed by a pair of field goals, one set up by a Charles Woodson interception.
- But the Packers would regret not turning those two red-zone possessions into touchdowns, as the Bears finally got going midway through the second quarter with a 13-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Quarterback Jay Cutler hit Johnny Knox for a 19-yard score with 1:48 left in the half to make it 13-7.
- Then the Packers got a bit sloppy. With time winding down in the first half, the offense was looking to tack on points when a 19-yard completion from Aaron Rodgers to Jermichael Finley got the ball to the edge of field-goal range, but Finley (five catches, 70 yards) fumbled at the end of the play and Chicago's Danieal Manning recovered.
- Another turnover on the opening possession of the second half proved even more costly. One play after a 24-yard pass to Greg Jennings got the Packers near field-goal range once again, Rodgers lost the handle on the ball not once, but twice. He grabbed his first flub in mid-air but then still tried to throw the ball again, only to have it squirt even higher into the air and fall into the arms of Chicago defensive tackle Anthony Adams.
- "It was one of those slow-motion deals where the ball floats in the air and as I'm going down, I'm hoping someone gets slowed down or tackled so he doesn't run it all the way down for a touchdown," said Rodgers, who finished 16-of-24 for 180 yards for an 88.9 rating. "That was definitely one of the more embarrassing plays of my career."
- The Bears turned the mistake into a 56-yard touchdown drive, capped by Cutler's 10-yard pass to Devin Aromashodu, for a 14-13 lead midway through the third quarter. Suddenly, the Packers' early domination was seemingly all for naught.
- "We kind of got on our heels a little bit when they went up," Woodson said. "But I think we all felt the offense would put some more points up. We just kind of figured that would happen. That's the way we've been playing this year. Get points when we need to and get stops when we need to."
- The two converged nicely early in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead score. Under heavy pressure from a blitzing Tramon Williams, Cutler (23-of-36, 209 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 74.9 rating) threw woefully short down the left sideline to Knox and Nick Collins intercepted, returning it 31 yards to the Chicago 11-yard line.
- "We had a trap coverage over there," Collins explained, as Cutler tried to throw too late to the area vacated momentarily by Williams on the blitz. "I had a safety over the top so I was able to play underneath, and he just threw it right to me."
- After a pass-interference call in the end zone on cornerback Zackary Bowman against Donald Driver, Grant took it in from the 1 for his second touchdown of the game. A 2-point pass from Rodgers to Jennings made it 21-14 with 12:39 left.
- "You have to be able to keep fighting and understand it's not over -- grab the momentum back," Grant said of the roller-coaster affair, which he finished with 137 rushing yards on 20 carries (6.9 avg.). "Guys stepped up when we needed it most and we were able to finish it through."
- The Packers could have made it easier on themselves by getting a two-score lead, but running back Brandon Jackson dropped a short dump-off pass on third down that at a minimum would have made for a much shorter field goal try. Kicker Mason Crosby then missed from 42 yards anyway with 6:05 left, keeping the Bears in it.
- But the defense held firm, not allowing Chicago a first down on either of its last two possessions. Williams had a big sack just after the 2-minute warning, and when Cutler's fourth-down pass from his own 10 was incomplete with 1:08 left, the game was finally over.
- "Dom (Capers) was very aggressive throughout the day, and you could see that all the way up to the last play," McCarthy said, referring to his defensive coordinator. "Dom is keeping his foot on the gas. There is a confidence, there is a trust there, and once again I think this game started and ended with our defense. I'm very pleased with the way we're playing on defense."
- And pleased with racking up yet another win, albeit similar to many of the others in not being secured as quickly and comfortably as it could have been.
- "Guys are feeling confident, and it's legit confidence and it should be," Grant said. "Because we're playing better football as a team. There are lulls here and there throughout the game, and we have to take care of that. We can't have those and let teams stay in the game like that.
- "But we'll take wins and keep moving forward."
TAKEAWAY POINTS KEY FOR PACKERS
- Green Bay has continued to show its knack for the takeaways in the first 13 games with 23 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries, which it has turned into 113 points.
- Green Bay's 33 takeaways rank second behind only New Orleans, which has 37 takeaways.
- The Packers' 113 points scored off those 33 takeaways also ranks second, again to New Orleans (134).
- With two takeaways against the Bears (both interceptions), Green Bay extended its own streak to 16 straight games with a takeaway. That is the second-longest active streak in the NFL behind Houston (19).
- Last season, the Green Bay defense led the NFL in defensive touchdowns (7) and interception returns for touchdowns (6).
- Green Bay had 28 takeaways (22 interceptions, six fumble recoveries) on the season against 21 turnovers (13 interceptions, eight fumbles). The 21 turnovers tied the second-lowest total in franchise history.
- Thanks to an opportunistic defense, with its seven touchdowns, and an offense that was able to capitalize after an opponent's mistake, Green Bay led all NFL teams with 124 points off takeaways. Baltimore (123) finished just behind the Packers at No. 2.
- If the Packers don't commit a turnover, they're almost guaranteed to win – the lone exception being games against the Vikings. They have now won 37 of 40 games playing turnover-free football, since a loss at Dallas, Nov. 18, 1996. Green Bay's only losses in such games during that stretch came against Minnesota: twice in Minneapolis (2005, '08) and once at home (2009).
- Including playoffs, the Packers have won 40 of their last 43 games without a giveaway.
INT RETURN YARDAGE CLIMBING AGAIN
- The Packers finished 2008 with an astounding 685 return yards on their 22 interceptions, tops in the NFL. That was over 200 yards better than the next closest team, Baltimore, which finished the year with 477 return yards on 26 interceptions.
- The 685 return yards set a new franchise record, besting the previous record established in 1943, when the team had 616 yards on 42 interceptions. In the modern era, the two previous highs were 561 return yards on 27 interceptions in 1965, and the following season when Green Bay had 547 return yards on 28 interceptions. The Packers won the NFL Championship both seasons.
- While it may not be on a franchise-record-shattering pace this season, it still ranks among the top teams in the NFL when its defenders have the ball in their hands. With 365 return yards on 23 interceptions, Green Bay ranks third in the NFL behind New Orleans and Tennessee.
- McCarthy has said his team's ability to make a play after an interception is something the team has repped after every turnover in practice since he arrived in 2006. Every offensive player, whether part of the 11 on the play or the group on the sidelines, attempts to catch the defender before he can advance up the field.