The Packers came into Sunday’s game with six more interceptions than any other team in the league, and there’s even less chance anyone will catch them now.
Green Bay intercepted Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer four times in the 46-16 victory, giving the Packers a league-best 27 interceptions with three regular-season games remaining.
“We’ll continue to try to go up,” said veteran cornerback Charles Woodson, who had one of the four picks. “Especially secondary-wise, we expect to get our hands on the ball.”
The game started, fittingly, with an interception on the Raiders’ first drive. Rookie inside linebacker D.J. Smith, starting his second straight game in place of the injured Desmond Bishop, juggled and then snagged a poorly thrown Palmer pass on the sixth play of the game. It was Smith’s first career interception and the Packers immediately capitalized with a 47-yard touchdown run by Ryan Grant.
Woodson got his midway through the second quarter, setting up another Grant TD. The interception was Woodson’s team-leading seventh on the season, and the fourth time as a Packer that Woodson has posted at least seven interceptions in a season (also 2006, ’08, ’09). Bobby Dillon (1952-59) is the only other Green Bay player to accomplish that.
The Packers got a third interception just before halftime, as inside linebacker Robert Francois leaped to snare Palmer’s deep throw into the end zone for tight end Kevin Boss. Like Smith, Francois was starting a second straight game but in place of A.J. Hawk, who dressed but didn’t play.
It was the second interception in three games for Francois, who also made a leaping interception in Detroit on Thanksgiving when he first showed off his good hands.
“People were sleeping on me,” Francois joked. “I played receiver back in the day, so I’ve got the hands.”
Francois later forced a fumble on a short pass reception that teammate Erik Walden scooped up and returned for a touchdown. That gave the two backup inside linebackers three turnover plays in one game, reinforcing the confidence their defensive mates have had in them since Bishop and Hawk got hurt.
“That goes to the mindset of this team,” Woodson said. “No matter who’s in there, a backup or what have you, you’re expected to play well. Those guys came up with two big plays today, which were huge for us.
“We expect them to play well, they have played well, and if they’re asked to play any more, then we’ll ask them to play better. We’re comfortable with those guys out there.”
Cornerback Sam Shields closed the pick party with the team’s fourth interception late in the fourth quarter. It was Shields’ third on the season, giving the Packers five defenders with at least three interceptions and now seven with at least two.
“We watch enough film to understand what teams are trying to do,” Woodson said. “We’ve played enough football as a group to know where we’re supposed to be, and we feel like we should make plays on the ball, and when we do, come up with it. We expect to have many more.”
First snap counts: Rookie tight end Ryan Taylor, a special-teams regular, had not taken a single snap on offense all season until late in the first quarter, when he lined up in a bunch formation on the right side on first-and-goal from the 4-yard line.
Taylor ran a short route right to the goal line, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw it to him for both his first pro reception and first career TD.
“I’m just glad I had Aaron’s confidence enough that he would throw me the ball,” Taylor said. “I think I’ve been building that over these past couple weeks, and it felt great.
“Gotta work on the Lambeau Leap a little bit. I think I made it about chest high up there.”
Taylor, and fellow rookie tight end D.J. Williams, could get more offensive snaps down the stretch with Andrew Quarless (knee) out for the season.
Taylor is the 15th different player to catch a pass for the Packers this season, and the ninth different player to catch a touchdown pass.
Team records: With 46 points on Sunday, the Packers set a franchise record with 466 points on the season, topping the 461 scored in 2009. The Packers also have 57 touchdowns on the year, another team record, beating the 56 touchdowns scored in 1996.
The Packers also scored 42 points or more for the fifth time on the season, joining the 1971 Dallas Cowboys as the only teams since the 1970 league merger to accomplish that.
With Grant, Taylor and Walden all scoring their first TDs of the season, the Packers have had 19 different players find the end zone. That tops the previous franchise mark of 18, set in 2008.
Rodgers topped 4,000 yards passing on the season and became the fastest quarterback to 4,000 yards in franchise history. He’s the second-fastest to 4,000 yards in league history, behind New Orleans’ Drew Brees, who got there in 12 games this season.
Rodgers also threw his 39th TD pass on Sunday, tying Brett Favre’s single-season franchise record, set in 1996. Rodgers threw two TD passes in a game for the 13th straight time, extending his own franchise mark.
Long time ago: Kicker Mason Crosby had an extra point blocked late in the third quarter, and it was his first missed PAT since Sept. 27, 2009, at St. Louis.
That broke a string of 165 consecutive made PATs for Crosby, including playoffs. Not including playoffs, he had made 143 in a row, falling 13 short of Ryan Longwell’s franchise record of 156 straight, set from 2001-05. Team records do not include postseason statistics.
Injury update: Receiver Greg Jennings left the game with a knee injury in the third quarter. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said the severity of the injury wasn’t known, and that more testing needed to be done.
Defensive lineman Ryan Pickett and running back Brandon Saine both left the game with concussions. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Raiders