GREEN BAY — Darren Perry’s words were fresh on Morgan Burnett’s mind as the Packers safety saw the ball come out of the hand of Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.
“If you undercut a route, you better make sure you get your hands on the ball,” the safeties coach often tells his players.
Burnett, recognizing the route Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham was running, lunged in front of the pass to secure his second interception of the season and returned the ball 19 yards.
Burnett didn’t know it at the time, but his second-quarter pick was the first of six turnovers the Packers’ defense would generate in a dominating 38-10 win over the Seahawks at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Packers forced Wilson into a career-high five interceptions with Damarious Randall (two), Quinten Rollins and Micah Hyde all getting in on the action throughout the course of the game.
The secondary’s five interceptions not only matched its previous total through the first 12 regular season games, but also that of Wilson. Prior to Sunday, the Seahawks quarterback had thrown only five picks on 404 pass attempts this season.
“It was a great performance,” Burnett said. “DBs have a saying, ‘When picks come, they come in bunches.’ It was a good night for us tonight.”
There was some uncertainty entering the game on the Packers’ defense with outside linebacker Nick Perry out with a hand injury, and linebackers Clay Matthews (shoulder) and Jake Ryan (ankle) limited with injuries.
However, their next-man-up philosophy resulted in Burnett rotating next to inside linebacker Joe Thomas for most of the game to relieve the injured linebackers and help defend against Graham, who finished with only one catch for 16 yards on four targets.
Without Perry – who leads the defense with eight sacks – the Packers turned to their reserve rushers for contributions. Datone Jones, making his first start at outside linebacker, and Jayrone Elliott responded with their first sacks of the season.
Rookie fourth-round pick Dean Lowry also had his second sack in as many weeks as the Packers hit Wilson nine times and limited him to only 19 yards on four scrambles.
Before the game, Perry gave an impromptu pep talk to the Packers’ outside linebackers, challenging them to step up in his absence.
“He was telling us, ‘Hold it down for me out there,’” Elliott said. “That was one thing we take pride in is taking up for our brothers. … We’re trying to pick up the slack for him and try to hold it down until he gets back.”
Thomas, making his fourth start of the season at inside linebacker, drew the primary duty of spying Wilson, but also contributed a career-high 10 tackles to help the defense.
Seattle struggled to move the ball after getting on the board with a Steven Hauschka field goal on the opening drive. In addition to Burnett’s pick, the Seahawks punted three times in the first half and had a drive before halftime end with a Randall interception.
It was the first of three consecutive drives where Wilson threw an interception, with Rollins picking him off in the Packers’ end zone to start the third quarter and Randall snatching another on the Seahawks’ next drive.
The Packers’ secondary has endured a litany of injuries this season with Sam Shields (concussion), Randall (groin) and Rollins (groin) each missing extensive time.
Sunday’s performance was a reminder that a Green Bay secondary viewed as one of the team’s strongest positions coming into the season is still a unit to be reckoned with.
“It was a statement win,” Randall said. “They had us favored to lose at home. That was disrespectful. We really took that disrespectfully. Just to let people know we are not going nowhere.
“The Packers aren’t going nowhere.”
The Packers secured their final two turnovers on Seattle’s last two possessions with Hyde grabbing a high swing pass intended for backup running back Troymaine Pope and defensive lineman Christian Ringo forcing a fumble on running back Alex Collins.
Wilson completed 22-of-39 passes for 240 yards, a touchdown and the five interceptions to finish with a 43.7 passer rating despite Matthews playing mostly in obvious passing situations.
“I think, for the most part, we got a lot of hits on him, making him uncomfortable,” Matthews said. “I’m sure it weighs on a quarterback heavily when the interceptions start happening. Some are his fault, some are the receivers. It just snowballed for him.”
The Packers’ defense knows the work isn’t done. While Green Bay is back above .500, it now enters a stretch of three consecutive NFC North games to finish out the regular season.
Three weeks after quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the Packers had the potential to run the table, they took a big step on Sunday to making that happen.
“Aaron said it, we’re going to run the table. That’s what we’re going to do,” Jones said. “If he’s coming in that confident, shoot, we have to come in even more confident to back him up. That’s what it’s all about. It’s about playing with our teammates and executing to get to the Promised Land.
“We showed what we can do now. Now, we have to keep it up as a team.”
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