Rouse's INT Turned The Tide

One play still sticks out in Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s mind as the biggest of Thursday’s game - rookie Aaron Rouse’s interception - for reasons on both sides of the ball. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Lions Game Center Notebook: Woodson Has Toughed It Out Before Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 23


There were numerous big plays in the Packers' Thanksgiving Day victory in Detroit. Brett Favre had six pass completions of at least 20 yards. He threw three TD passes. Ryan Grant broke off two runs longer than 25 yards. The defense recorded four sacks.

But one play still sticks out in Head Coach Mike McCarthy's mind as the biggest of the game - rookie Aaron Rouse's interception - for reasons on both sides of the ball.

Rouse picked off a deep pass over the middle intended for Calvin Johnson on the first play of the second quarter. The interception and 34-yard return put the ball on the Detroit 11-yard line, and the Packers needed just one play to score on a TD pass from Favre to Greg Jennings.

"It was a big play, in my view maybe the biggest play in the game," McCarthy said. "Because it gave the offense a chance to go down there and score, and we're winning 7-6 and really didn't do anything on offense to that point. That play there really turned things around."

It certainly kept the Packers' early 6-0 deficit from getting any worse. But perhaps more importantly, as McCarthy said, it helped pull the offense out of its early-game malaise that included a fumbled handoff exchange on the first snap from scrimmage.

Beginning with Jennings' touchdown, the Packers scored on six of seven possessions (four TDs, two FGs) and outscored the Lions 34-6 from the start of the second quarter through the opening minutes of the fourth.

"That really kind of got us jump-started there," defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said.

In the first quarter, Detroit's offense produced six first downs to Green Bay's zero. The Packers had run just seven plays, plus two punts, and possessed the ball for only 2 minutes, 56 seconds to the Lions' 12:04. The Packers' defense had given up two long drives out of three Detroit possessions, and could have faced fatigue issues very early in the game had the Lions started marching again.

But that all changed on the opening snap of the second quarter, when Rouse instinctively jumped Johnson's route and was on his way to the ball practically before it left quarterback Jon Kitna's hand.

It's not the kind of timing rookies necessarily possess, and Rouse was making just his third NFL start in place of Nick Collins, who injured his knee at Kansas City on Nov. 4.

"He just was in good position," Sanders said. "He felt the route coming, and Kitna does a good job of throwing to spots, and he just stepped in front of it.

"It was a nice play. It was a nice play for anybody (rookie or not), and it was a big play in the game at that time."

It was Rouse's second interception in as many games, having recorded his first NFL pick last week against Carolina. He didn't play flawlessly on Thursday, losing outside containment on a back-side cut by Detroit running back Kevin Jones that went for 23 yards in the first quarter, but he's shown steady improvement with each passing week.

{sportsad300}Unfortunately, Rouse injured his knee in the game and his status for this week is unclear at this point. McCarthy said he took an awkward step when closing on the ball to finish a tackle, and he tried to continue but couldn't.

The good news is McCarthy said Collins could be close to returning this week, though that remains undetermined as well. But Rouse has proven to be more than capable as a fill-in, and that bodes well for this season as well as the future.

McCarthy did not say Rouse was making a move to take Collins' job. If Collins is fully healthy, he remains the starting free safety, but McCarthy indicated health would be a deciding factor in whether Collins, Rouse, or backup Charlie Peprah gets the start in Dallas.

"That's something that we'll take the week in practice (to decide)," McCarthy said. "But I'm very pleased with the way Aaron has played."

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