Time And Again, Defense Comes Up Big Late

CHICAGO - The Packers’ defense was not happy that it gave up a long touchdown drive at the end of the first half, and then allowed the Bears to convert an early third-quarter turnover into another seven points. But from that point on, the defense was nothing short of stellar, shutting down the Bears and getting the key turnover that resulted in Sunday’s 21-14 win in Chicago. - More Packers-Bears Game Center

CHICAGO - The Green Bay Packers' defense was not happy that it gave up a long touchdown drive at the end of the first half, and then allowed the Bears to convert an early third-quarter turnover into another seven points.

But from that point on, the Packers' defense was nothing short of stellar, shutting down the Bears with big play after big play and getting the key turnover that resulted in Sunday's 21-14 win in Chicago.

The defensive domination started late in the third quarter. Leading 14-13, the Bears faced a crucial third-and-1 at the Green Bay 45-yard line and tried a handoff to rookie running back Kahlil Bell up the middle.

Safety Atari Bigby knifed through to undercut Bell, and linebacker Nick Barnett burst through the line to help clean up, stopping Bell for no gain and forcing a punt.

It was a play that seemed to fire up the defense and set the stage for a slew of big plays to come.

"I think it definitely did," Barnett said. "They were going for it in a big part of the game, third-and-1. I was able to get a good read, Atari was able to come down fast and make a big play. I thought we were playing well defensively all game, but that was a good play for us."

From there, the defense took over.

Following that third-and-1 stop, Chicago's offense produced just two first downs and 49 yards of total offense on its final four possessions. The Bears crossed midfield just once down the stretch, mostly due to a 15-yard facemask penalty on Johnny Jolly's sack of Jay Cutler in the fourth quarter.

The Bears hurt themselves with penalties as well, and the last two possessions - which ended with a punt and turnover on downs with 1:08 left - produced just 3 net yards.

"When you have a game like that, you have to focus late in the game," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "And we focused and made the plays we needed to make."

The defense also got the key turnover to set up the winning points.

On Chicago's ensuing possession after the third-and-1 stop, blitzing cornerback Tramon Williams got in Cutler's face and helped force a bad throw that Nick Collins intercepted and returned 31 yards to the Chicago 11.

A couple of snaps later, the Packers were in the end zone and had a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

"That interception turned the tide back to our side," Williams said.

And the defense didn't let up, with a handful of players chipping in at key moments.

After the Bears crossed midfield early in the third quarter, the defense yielded no yards on three straight passes. Linebacker A.J. Hawk brought down fullback Jason McKie for no gain on a dump-off pass, and Cutler was incomplete on his next two throws with Williams knocking down the second one, forcing a punt.

Then with the Bears facing second-and-22 on their own 20, Cutler appeared to hit tight end Greg Olsen over the middle for a sizeable gain, but Collins laid a big hit on Olsen and knocked the ball out as he came to the ground. Chicago challenged the incomplete pass ruling, but it was upheld after a replay review, and the Bears punted again.

{sportsad300}Finally, on the Bears' last chance with two minutes left, Williams got a big sack of Cutler on second down, attacking with the same blitz that helped force the Collins interception earlier. Two plays later, on fourth-and-9, Woodson nearly got his second interception of the game in breaking up a pass to Earl Bennett, closing out the win for the Packers.

Bigby, Barnett, Collins, Hawk, Williams, Woodson. They all made at least one key play, and that was just in the final 17 minutes of the game. The number of players the defense can count on keeps growing and growing.

"We have playmakers all over this defense," said rookie linebacker Clay Matthews, who got his team-leading eighth sack earlier in the contest. "Guys understand their roles in this defense and it's really starting to click this late in the season. The new system, we're in the fourth quarter of the season, and we understand what guys' roles are on this team, and we're making plays all over."

The defense couldn't have played more confidently when it mattered most, and even though the unit lost its No. 1 overall ranking in yards allowed to the New York Jets following Sunday's action, the performance in the clutch counted for a lot more.

"I think we know that when we go out there we have something truly special out there," Matthews said. "It's something that comes with repetition. You keep winning game after game and you keep making plays, all of a sudden you buy into it, you've got a swagger about yourself and you're digging in week in and week out."

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