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Takeaways Loom Large In Victory

Forcing opponents to turn the ball over has been one of the keys to the Packers’ defensive success this season, and the ability to do so came through when it mattered most on Monday night against Baltimore. - More Packers-Ravens Game Center

Forcing opponents to turn the ball over has been one of the keys to the Packers' defensive success this season, and the ability to do so came through when it mattered most on Monday night against Baltimore.

Green Bay picked off Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco three times, highlighted by fourth-quarter interceptions from linebacker A.J. Hawk and cornerback Tramon Williams that helped seal the 27-14 win over the Ravens. It was only the second time in Flacco's career (at Indianapolis, Oct. 12, 2008) that he was intercepted three times.

Add those three picks to a first-quarter fumble recovery, and the Packers boosted their season takeaway total to 31 (21 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries). That number ranks second only to the undefeated New Orleans Saints' 36 (23 interceptions/13 fumble recoveries) and tops the Packers' total of 28 takeaways in 2008 with four games remaining.

It was also the third time this season the Packers have posted four or more takeaways in a game, something they haven't done since the 2002 campaign. During Green Bay's four-game winning streak, they have forced opponents to turn the ball over 13 times.

After the Packers took a 3-0 lead on a Mason Crosby field goal on the opening drive, Flacco quickly moved the Ravens inside the Green Bay 20. But on first down from the 17, linebacker Clay Matthews stripped running back Ray Rice, and Nick Collins recovered to stop the drive. It was the first defensive fumble recovery of the fifth-year safety's career.

But Collins wasn't done. After a 43-yard pass interference penalty on Williams on a third down put Baltimore into Green Bay territory, Flacco's flea-flicker pass deep down the right sideline intended for wide receiver Derrick Mason was picked off by Collins, his fifth interception of the season.

"I knew from looking at the formation...I knew they were going to do some kind of trick play," said Collins, who returned the interception 25 yards. "I know they like to do deep routes, so I just stayed in my half and made a play on the ball."

The Packers pushed their lead to 24-14 with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game, but Baltimore swung the momentum back with a 68-yard kickoff return by Lardarius Webb to Green Bay's 26. On second down from the 23, Williams was flagged once again for pass interference, this time on wideout Demetrius Williams in the end zone to put the ball at the 1-yard line.

After running back Willis McGahee was tripped up for a 2-yard loss by cornerback Charles Woodson on first down, Flacco scrambled to his right, eluded defensive end Johnny Jolly, and then lofted a pass back across the field intended for Williams in the end zone. But Green Bay's Williams stepped in front of him to make a leaping interception.

"I actually saw Demetrius try to turn around and go back the other way, and then I made eye contact with Flacco and I saw him looking that way," said Williams, who was also flagged for a 41-yard pass interference penalty in the end zone in the third quarter to set up a Ravens touchdown. "I said, 'He's fitting to throw the ball,' and I've got a pretty good vertical so I thought I could get it.

"I felt good. I can't lie to you. I felt good about that play. When you go through so much adversity and you come out and you make a play for your team at a critical time, it feels great."

{sportsad300}Even after Williams' interception, the defense still had one more takeaway in it. The Packers' offense went three-and-out on the ensuing possession to give the Ravens the ball back, down 10 with seven minutes remaining.

On first down, Flacco threw deep down the middle for tight end Todd Heap, but Hawk made an athletic play in coverage, leaping up to make the interception. It was Hawk's first pick since Nov. 4, 2007, at Kansas City, and Baltimore never threatened again.

On offense, the Packers had three turnovers of their own, but the defense allowed the team to come out on the right side of the equation at plus-one. The Packers are now a league-best plus-18 on the season.

"That's the way we play," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "Our turnover ratio is something that's coached every single day. We're disappointed with the giveaways, I can tell you that right now. That's not who we are. That's not the way we're going to play down the stretch. We need to make sure that doesn't happen. But our guys do an outstanding job of going after the football.

"They're playing with a lot more vision with our defense here than in the past. That's something that we want to show up every time we play a game. Every team is noted for something, every team has strengths, and that's been a strength of ours and needs to continue to do so down the stretch."

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