Two years after he co-founded the Packers with Curly Lambeau, George Calhoun began writing a piece called The Dope Sheet, which served as the official press release and game program from 1921-24.
BUFFALO (0-1) at GREEN BAY (1-0)
Honoring Calhoun, the first publicity director, the Packers are running this weekly feature as their release, which is being made available to fans exclusively on Packers.com.
This is an abbreviated version of the Packers-Bills Week 2 Dope Sheet. To read the full version, download the PDF by clicking here.
Here are some highlights from the Packers-Bills Week 2 Dope Sheet:
Sunday, Sept. 19 - Lambeau Field - Noon CDTPACKERS HOST BILLS IN 2010 HOME OPENER
WITH THE CALL
- Green Bay kicks off its 54th season at Lambeau Field by hosting the Buffalo Bills, who are making their first visit to Green Bay since 2002.
- The Packers return home after posting a 27-20 win in their season opener at the Eagles, Green Bay’s first victory in Philadelphia since 1962.
- It will be only the fourth visit to Lambeau Field for the Bills in their franchise history, with the other two meetings in Green Bay coming in 1974 and 1997. The teams also met in Milwaukee in 1982 and 1991.
- The Packers enter Sunday’s contest having won three straight home openers under Head Coach Mike McCarthy, Green Bay’s longest streak since it won three consecutive openers at Lambeau Field under Mike Holmgren from 1996-98.
- Green Bay is just one of six NFL teams to have won their home opener each year from 2007-09, and one of only two in the NFC along with Washington. Baltimore, Denver, New England and Pittsburgh are the other teams to win their first home contest each of the past three seasons.
- The Packers will be looking to join some elite company in franchise annals on Sunday. Only three other times in franchise history has Green Bay won four or more consecutive home openers, with all of them (1923-27, 1929-32, 1938-41) coming under the legendary Curly Lambeau.
- Sunday’s contest will be the first time during McCarthy’s tenure that the Packers open up their home slate with an AFC opponent. The last year Green Bay squared off against an inter-conference opponent to start the season at Lambeau was in 2005 when the Packers hosted the Cleveland Browns.
- Since 1986, only five of the Packers’ 25 home openers have been against a team from the AFC.
- The Bills hold a 7-3 advantage over the Packers in the all-time regular-season series, with the teams splitting the last four meetings.
- Green Bay has a 3-1 mark against the Bills at Lambeau Field, with the lone loss coming in the first-ever meeting between the teams on Oct. 6, 1974, a 27-7 Buffalo victory. The teams split the two meetings at Milwaukee County Stadium. This is the earliest in the season that the teams have met in Green Bay.
- The last matchup between the teams at Lambeau Field came on Dec. 22, 2002, when the Packers blanked the Bills, 10-0. Green Bay didn’t shut out another opponent at home until Nov. 11, 2007, a 34-0 win over Minnesota.
- The most recent meeting between the Packers and Bills came in McCarthy’s first season at the helm, a 24-10 Buffalo win on Nov. 5, 2006, at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
- The Bills dropped their season opener on Sunday against Miami, 15-10, at Ralph Wilson Stadium. WR Roscoe Parrish posted the lone touchdown of the day for the Bills on a 31-yard reception from QB Trent Edwards.
- Next week, Buffalo travels to New England to take on the Patriots in a noon (CT) contest.
THE DOPE ON THIS WEEK’S OPPONENT:Packers vs. Buffalo Bills:All-time regular season:
- The Packers make their first of two appearances this season on CBS. The network will air the contest to a regional audience.
- Play-by-play man Spero Dedes and color analyst Randy Cross will have the call from the broadcast booth.
- In Wisconsin, CBS affiliates around the state, including WFRV (Ch. 5) in Green Bay and WDJT (Ch. 58) in Milwaukee, will carry the contest.
- Milwaukee’s WTMJ (620 AM), airing Green Bay games since 1929, heads up the 53-station Packers Radio Network, with Wayne Larrivee (play-by-play) and two-time Packers Pro Bowler Larry McCarren (color) calling the action. The duo enters its 12th season of broadcasts together across the Packers Radio Network, which covers 43 markets in five states.
- For out-of-town listeners, the broadcast is available to NFL Field Pass subscribers on www.packers.com as well as on Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 125 WTMJ feed) as part of the network’s NFL Sunday Drive.
- DIRECTV subscribers can watch the game in HD on channel 706.
3-7-0All-time, in Green Bay:
: The two teams have split the last four meetings. Last meeting, regular season
: Nov. 5, 2006, in Buffalo; Bills won, 24-10Last meeting, regular season, at Lambeau Field
: Dec. 22, 2002; Packers won, 10-0COACHES CAPSULESMike McCarthy
: 40-28-0, .588, (incl. 1-2 postseason); 5th NFL seasonChan Gailey:
18-17-0, .514 (incl. 0-2 postseason); 3rd NFL season (1st with Bills) Head to Head:
Never metvs. Opponent:
McCarthy 0-1 vs. Bills; Gailey 1-0 vs. PackersMIKE McCARTHY
…Is in fifth year as the Packers’ 14th head coach.
- Has led his team to the playoffs two of the past three years.
- One of only two coaches, along with New Orleans’ Sean Payton, to have his offense ranked in the top 10 in total yardage each of the last four years.
- Was named Packers head coach on Jan. 12, 2006, his first head coaching job after 13 years as an NFL assistant.
- Honored as the 2007 Motorola NFL Coach of the Year and NFL Alumni Coach of the Year.
- Became the first Packers coach since Vince Lombardi to lead the team to a championship game in his second season.
…Is in first year as the Bills’ 15th head coach.
THE PACKERS-BILLS SERIES
- His previous NFL head-coaching stint was for two years with the Dallas Cowboys (1998-99), leading them to two straight playoff berths.
- Has served as an offensive coordinator with Denver (1989-90), Pittsburgh (1996-97), Miami (2000-01) and Kansas City (2008).
- Was head coach at Georgia Tech from 2002-07, leading the Yellow Jackets to six straight bowl appearances.
- Began his NFL career as an assistant under Denver head coach Dan Reeves in 1985, and has been to four Super Bowls as an assistant coach.
- The two teams have met only 10 times, the first game coming in 1974, a 27-7 Bills victory at Lambeau Field. In that contest, the Packers actually “held” O.J. Simpson to 62 yards on 16 carries, but Bills QB Joe Fergsuon gave the team a lead it would not relinquish with a first-quarter TD pass to Ahmad Rashad, and a back named Jim Braxton punched in three TD runs.
- Buffalo won five of the first six meetings. The teams have split their last four contests.
- Each team has recorded one shutout in the series, the Bills in 1988 at Buffalo (28-0) and the Packers in the teams’ last meeting at Lambeau Field, in 2002 (10-0).
- Seven points is the closest margin of victory in any of the 10 meetings, a 19-12 Buffalo victory in 1979.
Buffalo OLB coach Bob Sanders was the Packers’ defensive coordinator for three years (2006-08) and spent four seasons total in Green Bay...Packers QB coach Tom Clements was Buffalo’s offensive coordinator from 2004-05...Packers S Morgan Burnett was a true freshman at Georgia Tech in 2007 when Bills head coach Chan Gailey held the same position for the Yellow Jackets...Bills TE coach Bob Bicknell was on the coaching staff of the Cologne Centurions in NFL Europe when Packers DE Cullen Jenkins played there in 2004 and was Packers TE Tom Crabtree’s position coach with Kansas City last year...Bills defensive quality control coach Adrian White played safety for the Packers in 1992...Bills QB coach George Cortez tutored Packers QB Aaron Rodgers at California when he served as offensive coordinator/QB coach for the Golden Bears...Bills TE David Martin played for the Packers for six seasons (2001-06) and is a former college teammate of Packers T Chad Clifton and C Scott Wells (Tennessee)...Bills QB Brian Brohm (2008, 2nd round) and OL Jamon Meredith (2009, 5th round) are former Green Bay draft picks...Bills S Jairus Byrd is the son of Gill Byrd, a former director of player programs for the Packers (1999-2001). Jairus also began his prep football career at nearby Pulaski High School...Bills WR Lee Evans and G Kraig Urbik played collegiately at Wisconsin, and WR Paul Hubbard, who is on the Bills’ practice squad, also played at Wisconsin...Packers LB Clay Matthews and Bills CB Cary Harris played on the same defense at USC and were both drafted in 2009...Former college teammates include Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, LB Desmond Bishop and Bills RB Marshawn Lynch (Cal), Packers LB A.J. Hawk, Bills S Donte Whitner and CB Ashton Youbouty (Ohio State), Bills DE Dwan Edwards and Packers LB Nick Barnett (Oregon State), Bills LB Antonio Coleman and Packers CB Pat Lee (Auburn), Bills OL Cordaro Howard and Packers S Morgan Burnett (Georgia Tech), Bills WR Steve Johnson and Packers P Tim Masthay (Kentucky), Bills LBs Aaron Maybin and Paul Posluszny and Packers TE Andrew Quarless (Penn State), Bills NT Kyle Williams and Packers QB Matt Flynn and FB Quinn Johnson (LSU), Bills S George Wilson and Packers LS Brett Goode (Arkansas), and Bills OL Eric Wood and Packers C/G Jason Spitz (Louisville).INDIVIDUALLY VS. BILLS
In three career games against the Bills, WR Donald Driver has 16 receptions for 206 yards and two TDs. LAST MEETING, REGULAR SEASON
LAST MEETING, IN GREEN BAY
- Nov. 5, 2006, in Buffalo; Bills won, 24-10.
- The Packers outgained the Bills 427-184 and held the ball nine minutes longer, but four turnovers to Buffalo’s none decided the game.
- The Packers rallied from an early 10-0 deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter. But trailing 17-10 at the Buffalo 1-yard line with 5 minutes left, QB Brett Favre was intercepted in the end zone when a pass to WR Donald Driver was deflected to S Ko Simpson, who returned it 76 yards to set up the game-clinching points.
- Driver finished with nine receptions for 96 yards and a TD, while WR Greg Jennings added five receptions for 69 yards. WR Lee Evans had a 43-yard TD for Buffalo.
- The Packers recorded five sacks in the game, three by Corey Williams and one each by Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins.
MATTHEWS MAKES UP FOR MISSED TIME
- Dec. 22, 2002; Packers won, 10-0.
- Green Bay DE Vonnie Holliday set a franchise record with five sacks, forcing Buffalo QB Drew Bledsoe to fumble on three of them.
- The first fumble led to Green Bay’s only TD, an 11-yard pass from Favre to Driver midway through the fourth quarter. The last fumble ended Buffalo’s hopes with 1:13 left at the Green Bay 17-yard line.
- With winds at 25 mph and the wind chill at 13 degrees, neither team could sustain much offensively, though Green Bay RB Ahman Green had 26 carries for 116 yards.
- The Bills thought they had a go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter on CB Nate Clements’ long fumble return, but the officials ruled that Green had dropped the pass.
- Holliday’s five sacks topped Bryce Paup’s mark of 4 1/2, set in 1991. Ezra Johnson (1978) and Dave Pureifory (1975) also had five sacks, but the stat didn’t become official until 1982.
GETTING A RETURN
- As a rookie in 2009, LB Clay Matthews was limited to just one preseason game after injuring his hamstring early in training camp. He posted a franchise rookie-record 10 sacks on his way to earning a Pro Bowl berth. After missing the entire preseason this year with the same injury, Matthews doesn't look like he has been affected much by the inactivity during camp.
- In Green Bay’s season opener at Philadelphia on Sunday, Matthews recorded a career-high nine tackles and matched his career best with two sacks. He added a team-high four QB hits along with a forced fumble and a pass defensed.
- Perhaps his biggest play of the afternoon came late in the game with the Packers protecting a 27-20 lead. The Eagles faced a fourth-and-1 at the Green Bay 42 with two minutes remaining and no timeouts left. Michael Vick kept the ball on a quarterback sneak, but Matthews fought off blocks by TE Brent Celek and RB LeSean McCoy to stop Vick for no gain and give the Packers the victory.
- “That’s what we study for,” Matthews said. “We had a high inclination that they were going to be running a quarterback sneak. We knew where we were filling, and fortunately a few guys won their one-on-one battles and we made a play to get off the field and win the game.”
- Matthews’ two-sack game puts him tied for No. 1 in the league rankings in that category after Week 1. It was the fourth two-sack performance for him in just 17 career games.
- He became the first Packer to post two sacks in a season opener since a trio of players, Jim Flanigan (2), Vonnie Holliday (2) and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (3), accomplishd the feat vs. Detroit on Sept. 9, 2001.
- “He is a beast,” cornerback Charles Woodson said. “He is one of those guys that is never going to give up on a play, and it is hard to block him if you try to block him with one guy. If you have got a guy that doesn’t have the speed of Michael Vick, he is going to hunt you down. He is a big part of this defense...We see it every day. He is a monster. He gives people fits.”
- The Packers posted five sacks at Philadelphia, the most by any NFL team in Week 1.
- After taking over the kickoff-return responsiblilities last season following Will Blackmon's knee injury in Week 4, third-year WR Jordy Nelson got off to a fast start in Week 1 at Philadelphia.
- Nelson posted a career-best 31.2-yard average (min. three returns) on five kickoff returns Sunday afternoon, highlighted by a 51-yarder in the third quarter, the longest return in the NFL on Kickoff Weekend, that helped set up 32-yard TD pass from QB Aaron Rodgers to WR Greg Jennings just four plays later.
- That 31.2-yard average was the best by a Packer with five or more returns in a game since WR Roell Preston’s 32.0-yard average on eight returns vs. Minnesota on Oct. 5, 1998.
- Nelson ranks second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL in kickoff return average after Week 1.
- Nelson’s 51-yard return on Sunday at Philadelphia was the second-longest return of his career behind a 54-yard pickup in Week 17 at Arizona last season, the longest return by a Packer all season.
- Sunday was the first time in Nelson’s career that he posted two kickoff returns of 40-plus yards, and he became the first Packer to accomplish that feat since WR Koren Robinson recorded returns of 43 and 66 yards at St. Louis on Dec. 16, 2007.
- Nelson has now posted a kickoff return of 45-plus yards in each of his three seasons in the league. He becomes the first Packer since Corey Harris (1992-94) to record a 45-yard kickoff return in three consecutive seasons.
- Nelson’s 25.4-yard average last season ranked 11th in the NFL, and was the best mark by a Packer (min. 25 attempts) since Allen Rossum registered a 25.8-yard average in 2000.
STAT OF THE WEEK
- Ted Thompson has continued to improve the roster each season since he took over as Green Bay’s general manager in 2005, and that depth will be called upon early this season after the Packers saw a couple of players go down with season-ending injuries on Sunday in Philadelphia.
- RB Ryan Grant sustained a right ankle injury at the end of a second-quarter run, while DE Justin Harrell suffered an ACL injury to his left knee as he was blocking on Mason Crosby’s 49-yard field goal in the second quarter.
- “These are unfortunate injuries for our team,” Thompson said on Tuesday, “but we all know football is a tough game. It’s difficult when you lose players to injury. We felt like Justin was going to make a contribution to our team. The timing of his injury and the way it occurred was unfortunate.
- “When you lose a running back of Ryan’s caliber, it’s a big loss. But this is something we have to deal with and move forward from as a team. We have confidence that our other players will step up and meet the challenge of these losses.”
- With Grant sidelined, the running-back responsibilities will go to fourth-year back Brandon Jackson and fifth-year man John Kuhn. Jackson rushed for 63 yards on 18 carries on Sunday, the second-most attempts of his career, while Kuhn added a 3-yard TD run in the third quarter.
- “Brandon Jackson played extremely well in both the run and the protection, and had the two catches,” McCarthy said on Monday. “I thought it was a good solid performance for Brandon. Broke a lot of tackles. We had four explosive runs, which is outstanding and that’s a big credit to Brandon.
- “I think there’s a lot of evidence right there, recent evidence that he’s able to play all three downs, and he will have that opportunity this week vs. Buffalo.”
- Because of injuries during the preseason, Kuhn, who played fullback almost exclusively his first three seasons in Green Bay, got a chance to show off some of his abilities carrying the ball. He posted 53 yards and a TD on 13 carries, and tied for the team lead with two receiving TDs.
- “John’s done a very good job with his limited opportunities,” McCarthy said. “Every time you put the ball in John’s hand he’s been productive, and we feel very good about him.”
- On Tuesday, the Packers signed DE Jarius Wynn, a sixth-round pick of the team in 2009 who played in 11 games last season. The Packers also signed rookie RB Dimitri Nance from Atlanta’s practice squad.
- DE Cullen Jenkins broke his left hand on the opening series Sunday, but he did return to the game with a club cast to protect the injury, which he will wear again this Sunday.
ROOKIE D-BACK DUO MAKES DEBUT
- By leading the Packers to a win at Philadelphia on Sunday, Mike McCarthy became just the third head coach in franchise history to lead Green Bay to four consecutive wins in season openers.
- The last Green Bay head coach to guide the Packers to four straight wins in season openers was Bart Starr, who accomplished the feat from 1980-83.
- Curly Lambeau, who did it twice (1929-32, 1938-41), is the only other coach in franchise history to lead his team to four straight opening wins.
- It was the first time in McCarthy’s five-year tenure that the Packers opened their season on the road, but the team has had plenty of success under him at the start of the season away from Lambeau Field. With the win on Sunday, the Packers improved to 5-0 under McCarthy in the first road game of the season, and now have a 6-2 (.750) record in September away from home during his tenure.
- The Packers are the only NFC team to win its season opener each of the past four seasons, and one of just three NFL teams, joining New England and Pittsburgh.
ZOMBO NO. 58
- When the Packers lined up in their nickel formation to start the game on Sunday, the defensive backfield featured a pair of rookies for the first time in a Green Bay season opener since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
- Morgan Burnett, a third-round pick out of Georgia Tech, got the nod at strong safety next to veteran Nick Collins. CB Sam Shields, a non-drafted free agent out of Miami, opened up as the third corner with veteran corners Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams.
- Collins was part of the last rookie defensive-backfield tandem to start a game for the Packers. He and rookie nickel CB Mike Hawkins both started on Dec. 19, 2005, at Baltimore on Monday Night Football.
- With the start on Sunday afternoon, Burnett became only the second rookie safety since Chuck Cecil in 1988 to start a season opener for Green Bay. Collins, who started all 16 games as a rookie in ’05 out of Bethune-Cookman, was the only other one.
- “It was a good start for them,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of the rookies after the game. “I don’t think there’ll be many people with more skill than those (Eagles) guys have. The two receivers (DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin) are both first-round picks, and Jackson is a guy you certainly didn’t want to be catching the ball over top and getting 50-yard touchdowns. There’s a lot of corrections to make off of it, but we’re off and running and off to a good start.”
- Jackson, who caught 62 passes for 1,156 yards and nine TDs in 2009, was limited to just four grabs for 30 yards and no TDs. Maclin caught only four passes for 38 yards, but did score on a 17-yard reception in the fourth quarter.
- “I think they played great,” Woodson said. “They did what was asked of them. They continued to grow mentally in this scheme and as young players, we’ve got something good in those young guys.”
- Shields, who played wide receiver in college before making the transition to the other side of the ball as a senior, led the Packers with two interceptions and five passes defensed in the preseason.
ETCHING HIS NAME
- Shields wasn't the only rookie to make an impact on defense on Sunday afternoon. LB Frank Zombo, signed by the team in May as a non-drafted free agent out of Central Michigan, posted his first career sack in the season opener at Philadelphia, bringing down Michael Vick for an 8-yard loss in the fourth quarter.
- With the sack, Zombo became the first Packer rookie to record a sack in his first game since DE Jamal Reynolds did so in his debut on Dec. 3, 2001, at Jacksonville.
- Zombo was one of only five NFL rookies and one of just two rookie linebackers to register a sack on opening weekend. He was the only undrafted one out of the group, joining Jaguars DT Tyson Aloalu, Seahawks DE Dexter Davis, Dolphins LB Koa Misi and Lions DT Ndamukong Suh as the rookies to post a sack in Week 1.
- Zombo played defensive end in college, but made the transition to outside linebacker in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme this offseason. During the preseason, he led the Packers in tackles (18) and sacks (two), and added a forced fumble.
- Packers K Mason Crosby put his name into the franchise record book when he connected on a 56-yard field goal as time expired in the first half at Philadelphia on Sunday.
- Crosby’s kick topped the previous team record of 54 yards held by Chris Jacke (at Det., Jan. 2, 1994), Ryan Longwell (at Ten., Dec. 16, 2001) and Dave Rayner (at Phi., Oct. 2, 2006).
- Crosby’s 56-yarder ranks No. 2 in the history of Lincoln Financial Field behind David Akers’ 57-yarder vs. New England on Sept. 14, 2003, the first year the stadium was open.
- It was the second long field goal of the afternoon from Crosby, as he drilled a 49-yarder early in the second quarter. It was the first time in his career that he made two field goals from 49 yards or more in the same game. He became the first Green Bay kicker to do so since Ryan Longwell posted field goals from 51 and 53 yards out at Atlanta on Nov. 13, 2005.
- Crosby’s 49-yard field goal gave him 400 points for his career. By hitting that mark in just 49 career games, he tied for the second-fewest games needed to reach 400 points in NFL history, behind Jan Stenerud (47) and tied with Gino Cappelletti (49). Crosby’s total of 397 points from 2007-09 were the most in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons.
A LOOK AT THE 53
- One of the areas the Packers were focused on improving this season was cutting down on penalties, and they couldn't have gotten off to a better start on Sunday in Philadelphia.
- The Packers were flagged for just two penalties on Sunday against the Eagles, which tied Cincinnati for the fewest in the league on Kickoff Weekend.
- The two penalties called on the Packers were the fewest in an opening-day contest for Green Bay since Sept. 7, 1986, vs. Houston at Lambeau Field, when they were also called for two penalties.
- Sunday’s penalty number also was the fewest under Head Coach Mike McCarthy since Dec. 30, 2007, vs. Detroit, when the Packers were also flagged twice. The best mark under McCarthy came the week before on Dec. 23, 2007, at Chicago, when the Packers were called for just one penalty.
- Green Bay led the league in penalties last season with 118 while ranking second in penalty yardage with 1,057. There wasn’t much of a correlation between penalties and wins in 2009, with six of the seven most-penalized teams making the playoffs.
PRODUCTION FROM BOTH SIDES IN 2009
- General Manager Ted Thompson and the football operations staff were faced with some of the toughest cuts of his tenure this year.
- Of the 53 players on Green Bay’s roster, 36 of them (67.9 percent) were drafted by the Packers, and 39 of them (73.6 percent) played in a game for the Packers in 2009.
- Six of the team’s seven draft picks from 2010 are on the 53-man roster. The only one that isn’t, sixth-round RB James Starks, is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list due to a hamstring injury. Three non-drafted free agents (G Nick McDonald, CB Sam Shields and LB Frank Zombo) are on the roster.
- 11 players on the Week 1 roster had yet to play in an NFL regular-season game entering this season. That group was comprised of the nine rookies and two first-year players (P Tim Masthay and TE Tom Crabtree).
TURNOVER RATIO TOPS THE LEAGUE IN 2009
- Green Bay was one of two teams in the NFL in 2009 to have both the offense (No. 6) and defense (No. 2) rank among the league’s top 6. Division foe Minnesota (No. 5 offense, No. 6 defense) was the other.
- The Packers offense ranked among the league’s top 10 for the fourth consecutive season and was a unit that seemed nearly impossible to stop towards the latter part of the season. It topped the 30-point plateau in its last four contests and eight times overall in 2009.
- There was no shortage of statistical measures to show its strength, chief among them the 461 points scored, a new franchise record. The 1996 Super Bowl champion Packers had the previous team record at 456.
- It was just the third offense in franchise history to surpass 6,000 total net yards, finishing No. 3 in team annals with 6,065.
- Though its perimeter players are as dangerous in big-play production as any group in the NFL, Green Bay dominated the ball and controlled the clock in its second-half run and finished No. 1 in the NFL with a time-of-possession average of 33:03, establishing a new franchise standard since the statistic began being recorded in 1977.
- Green Bay became the first team in NFL history to have a 4,000-yard passer (QB Aaron Rodgers), 1,200-yard rusher (RB Ryan Grant) and two 1,000-yard receivers (WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings) in back-to-back seasons.
- On defense, veteran coordinator Dom Capers installed the 3-4 defense and led a unit that finished the year with the highest league ranking by a Packers defensive unit (No. 2) since the ’96 Super Bowl team (No. 1).
- For the first time in team history, Green Bay ranked No. 1 in run defense. The unit allowed 83.3 rushing yards per game, the lowest average in franchise history.
- The Packers led the league with 40 takeaways and led the NFL with 30 interceptions, the first time the Packers led the league in interceptions since 1965 (tied with Washington for No. 1 that season with 27).
- Highlighting the defense’s ability to take the ball away also brings the spotlight back onto the offense, which finished the season with 16 giveaways, fewest in the NFL.
285 AND COUNTING
- While many football statistics don’t have far-reaching implications through a sampling of the season, turnover ratio is always a telling statistic when it comes to a game’s final outcome.
- The Packers’ 40 takeaways in 2009 led the NFL, while their 16 giveaways also led the league and established a new franchise record.
- The 1997 New York Giants were the last team to lead the league in most takeaways and fewest giveaways.
- While Rodgers has always been careful with the ball in the passing game, credit must be given to the running backs, who carried the ball 374 times with one fumble, which was recovered by Green Bay, in ’09.
- With a defense that excels at the takeaway and an offense that protects the football as well as it does, it was no surprise that Green Bay’s plus-24 turnover ratio topped the league.
- Of the Packers’ takeaways, 30 came via the interception, most in the NFL. It was the most for the Packers since 1981, when the team also had 30. In 2009, Green Bay also had 10 fumble recoveries.
- Every single Packers practice, be it during OTAs, training camp or the regular season, has a period devoted to ball security.
- Headed by assistant head coach/inside linebackers Winston Moss, the drill has offensive skill players carry the ball while two defenders (linebackers and defensive backs) try to strip the ball. Once free, the offensive player then must run through a gauntlet of offensive and defensive linemen attempting to strip the ball loose.
- The drill puts an emphasis on ball security for offensive players. For defensive players, the drill keeps the focus on stripping the ball from opposing players.
- Overall, the team had 11 forced fumbles on the year (one on special teams), 10 of which it recovered.
- While the Packers can be proud of their place atop the league in turnover margin, it is a statistic that has trended upwards in each of McCarthy’s four seasons.
- In 2006, the team finished at even in the category but improved to plus-four in 2007. In 2008, a plus-seven margin, No. 6 among NFL teams, had been the franchise’s best mark since 2002 (+17).
- Prior to McCarthy’s arrival, the team had a franchise-worst turnover ratio (-24) in 2005.
THE LAMBEAU ADVANTAGE
- Another packed house at Lambeau Field against the Seahawks in the 2009 regular-season home finale brought the stadium’s consecutive sellouts streak to 285 games (269 regular season, 16 playoffs).
- The 2009 home game against Minnesota saw the largest regular-season crowd in Lambeau Field history (71,213).
- The league’s longest-tenured stadium, Lambeau Field will host its 54th season of football starting on Sunday. A total of 565,666 fans made their way through the turnstiles in the eight home contests in 2009.
- Across American professional sports, only Boston’s Fenway Park (1912) and Chicago’s Wrigley Field (1914) have longer tenures.
Team, W-L record (Pct.) Green Bay, 107-37-0 (.743)
- The crown jewel of the National Football League, Lambeau Field has long been known as one of the tougher venues to play in, particularly during the harsh Wisconsin winter.
- Re-establishing home-field advantage after a 4-4 mark in 2008 was one of the goals of 2009, and with the Packers finishing at 6-2 at home, they accomplished that goal.
- Head Coach Mike McCarthy stated consistently upon his arrival in Green Bay that one of the team’s goals would be to reclaim the mystique of playing at Lambeau Field. Mission accomplished. The team is 19-7 at home since 2007, a marked improvement over the prior three seasons (10-14 combined).
- Since Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren began the revitalization of the franchise in 1992, Green Bay owns the best home record in the NFL. A look at the top home W-L records since the ’92 season:
Pittsburgh, 105-39-1 (.728)
Denver, 103-41-0 (.715)
Minnesota, 100-44-0 (.694)
Dallas, 97-47-0 (.674)DOMINATING TIME OF POSSESSION
TAKING HIS PLACE AMONG THE GAME’S BEST
- Time of possession is a seldom-quoted statistic, but one that easily can underscore how a football game played out.
- The Packers’ final ranking at the top of the time-of-possession chart in ’09 should have been a sign the team was due to make the postseason.
- Of the teams that finished the season in the Top 3 in the category from 2000-09, 24 of those 30 teams made the playoffs.
- Of the six that didn’t qualify for the postseason, only one, the 2004 Kansas City Chiefs (7-9), finished with a record below .500.
- In Green Bay’s 30-24 win over San Francisco in Week 11, it controlled the ball for 41 minutes, 39 seconds. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, time-of-possession statistics have only been kept since 1977, but that mark for the Packers was a franchise record.
- Combined with the Packers’ 40:48 time of possession against the Lions in Week 6, it gave the team two games with 40-plus minutes of controlling the ball, which was also a single-season franchise record.
- Green Bay won the time-of-possession battle against the Cardinals in Week 17, helping it achieve the league’s No. 1 ranking in the category and a new franchise record.
- The Packers ranked No. 1 in the league with a time-of-possession average of 33:03, ahead of No. 2 New England (32:55) and No. 3 Minnesota (32:40). Pittsburgh (32:13) and Dallas (32:04) rounded out the league’s top 5, with Pittsburgh being the only team not to make the postseason.
- Green Bay’s previous best single-season mark came in 1992, when it posted an average of 32:30 per game.
- In the first nine games of the season, the Packers had just nine drives of 10 plays or more. Over their last seven games, they had 14 drives of 10 or more plays.
- As the weather turns, Green Bay has traditionally become a more ground-oriented team. Though the nature of a “big-play” offense suggests quick strikes, the Packers’ offense seemed more suited to a controlled offense led by a ground attack, capable of producing multiple 10-play drives in a game.
THE BIG PLAY RETURNS
- Now firmly entrenched in his role as the face of the franchise, QB Aaron Rodgers went from solid first-year starter to one of the game’s top young signal callers in 2009.
- Rodgers ranked near the top of the NFL in most passing categories in 2009 and was honored as the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for October, the first such award of his career. He was the youngest of the six quarterbacks named to the Pro Bowl last season.
- In 2009, he engineered one of the NFL’s most potent offenses, ranked No. 6 overall, and avoided costly mistakes, spearheading a team that had a league-low 16 giveaways (15 on offense).
- His 103.2 passer rating ranked fourth in the NFL. In addition, he was the game’s top-ranked passer on third downs (133.5).
- The fourth-year pro threw for 4,434 yards, fourth most in the league. That total finished just shy of Lynn Dickey’s franchise record (4,458, 1983) for passing yards in a single season.
- In addition to QB rating and passing yards, Rodgers ranked fourth in TD passes (30) and first in interception percentage (1.3).
- And just for good measure, he ranked second among QBs with 316 rushing yards on 58 carries (5.4 avg.), and added five rushing TDs.
- Rodgers joined Steve Young (San Francisco, 1998) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards and 30 TDs and rush for 300 yards and five TDs in the same season.
- The Elias Sports Bureau never intended for passer rating to measure the effectiveness of a signal caller in one game, but rather over the course of a group of games or an entire season.
- Having said that, Rodgers’ performance in Week 7 last year in Cleveland (15-of-20, 246 yards, 3 TDs) earned him a passer rating of 155.4, the highest single-game rating (minimum 20 attempts) in the history of the franchise. It bested the previous high, Brett Favre’s 154.9 rating set in Oakland on Dec. 22, 2003.
- It was Rodgers’ fourth consecutive game with a passer rating over 110.0, becoming only the second signal caller in team history to eclipse the mark four straight times in a single season. The legendary Bart Starr accomplished the feat four straight weeks during the 1966 season (Sept. 18-Oct. 9) en route to an NFL Championship and Super Bowl title.
- Rodgers just missed becoming the first to do it in five straight games, registering a 108.5 rating against Minnesota the following week.
- Not only did the statistic explain his play last season, but just how efficient he has been since becoming a starter. In 33 career starts, Rodgers has eclipsed the century mark in passer rating 18 times.
EXCELLING ON THIRD DOWN IN 2009
- Thanks to a bevy of talent around him at the skill positions, QB Aaron Rodgers did plenty of damage through the air in 2009 in his second season as the quarterback in Green Bay.
- When it comes to the long ball, few are as accurate as Rodgers. His 17 completions of 40-plus yards tied for the NFL lead in 2009 with Dallas QB Tony Romo and then-Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabb.
- In terms of what coaches often classify as ‘big plays’ (gains of 20-plus yards), Rodgers had 55 completions, tied for the ninth-best total in the league and surpassing his 2008 total.
- The big plays have always been a staple of the offense under Head Coach Mike McCarthy, as the team ranked second in the NFL in gains of 20-plus yards when it went to the NFC Championship in 2007. That year, the team racked up 67 such plays, 52 of which came through the air.
- In 2008 when it went 6-10, the team had 58 plays of 20-plus yards, 12th best in the NFL, and 48 came via the pass last season.
- In 2009, the Packers finished 10th overall with 66 plays of 20-plus yards.
ANOTHER FRANCHISE MARK
- Part of Green Bay’s success winning seven of its last eight games in 2009 was due in part to its ability to win the third-down battle on both sides of the ball. The third-down offense topped the NFC final rankings and was No. 3 overall, while the defense ranked No. 9 overall in the category.
- It would be hard to imagine a better performance on third down than what QB Aaron Rodgers did in Detroit on Thanksgiving.
- He finished 11-of-13 passing, good for eight first downs and two touchdowns for a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
- That’s not all that surprising when you consider Rodgers was the league’s top-ranked passer (133.5) on third down. No other quarterback threw for as many yards (1,710) or touchdowns (14) on third down as Rodgers, who threw all three of his scores on third down in Pittsburgh. In 157 third-down attempts, he had a 67.5% completion rate and did not throw an interception. Tom Brady was the only other quarterback to not throw an interception on third down (min. 100 attempts).
- Rodgers’ third-down rating was the best in the NFL since Kurt Warner’s 137.3 rating in 1999 with St. Louis.
- Now after two seasons as a starter, his third-down success is becoming a trend. He finished 2008 as the league’s third-ranked passer on third down with a rating of 105.8. Of his 28 TD passes in 2008, 14 came on third down.
FINLEY BREAKS OUT IN YEAR TWO
- WR Donald Driver, now in his 12th season, established yet another team mark last year in Week 13. Last season, it seemed as though franchise records fell on a weekly basis for Driver.
- Driver became the 10th player in franchise history to reach the 50-touchdown plateau. No other NFL franchise has 10 players with 50-plus TDs.
- Earlier, Driver topped the 50-catch plateau for an eighth straight season (2002-09), a new franchise record.
- Though he was the oldest player on the active roster at age 34, Driver showed no signs of slowing down in 2009. He led the team in catches (70), ranked second in receiving yards (1,061) and first in touchdown catches (6).
- Driver also extended his own franchise record by recording a seventh overall season and sixth straight with 1,000 yards.
- The most significant record still within Driver’s grasp is career receiving yards. James Lofton ranks No. 1 with 9,656 yards. Driver is No. 2 with 9,080. Driver should surpass the mark sometime this season.
- At Philadelphia on Sunday, Driver scored on a 6-yard TD pass, the 50th receiving TD of his career. That moves him into a tie for No. 4 in franchise annals with Max McGee.
- Driver has been the model of consistency for the Packers, catching at least one pass in 128 consecutive games (134 including playoffs), also a franchise record. His consistency also serves as a great example for younger teammates, as Driver has rarely missed a practice in his NFL career.
- While his reputation is as a slot guy who will make the tough catch over the middle, Driver made his share of big plays in 2009. His five catches of 40-plus yards tied for ninth in the NFL.
TOP 10 AGAIN
- Anyone needing to know how much the Packers missed TE Jermichael Finley in his three-game absence in 2009, which really should be considered a four-game streak because his injury occurred on the first series in Cleveland, need only to watch the game tape from the last seven contests.
- Over the last seven games in ’09, he caught a team-high 38 passes for 416 yards and four TDs. His reception total over that time was third among tight ends, trailing only Jason Witten (45) and Tony Gonzalez (39).
- His nine catches at Pittsburgh matched the single-game team record for receptions by a tight end, and Finley finished tied for the No. 2 spot for catches in a single season by a Packers tight end with 55.
- Rodgers clearly loves Finley’s athletic ability down the middle of the field, as evidenced by his nine catches of 20-plus yards. And in goal-line situations, as was seen against the Ravens, Steelers and Cardinals, Rodgers is confident in Finley’s ability to win a one-on-one battle.
- In a season in which he set career highs in every statistical category, Finley’s coming-out party came on the team’s first appearance on Monday Night Football at Minnesota in front of the largest television audience in cable history. That game, he set a new regular-season career high in receiving yards (128), highlighted by his 62-yard catch-and-run TD. The catch marked the longest reception by a Green Bay tight end since Jackie Harris caught a 66-yard scoring pass against Denver on Oct. 10, 1993.
- Finley’s day also stands tied for the most productive day by a tight end in team history. His 128 yards matched Harris’ output from that Broncos contest, tying the franchise high for receiving yards by a tight end in a regular-season contest.
- And if the Week 4 game at Minnesota served as a coming-out party, the Wild Card playoff game at Arizona showed Finley’s potential to take over a game. His 159 receiving yards set a new franchise postseason record and ranked second in NFL postseason history for a tight end.
DEFENSE GETS THE JOB DONE
- The offense registered over 400 yards against Seattle in Week 16, the ninth time in ’09 it went over the mark. That ranked as the second-best single-season mark in franchise history (2004, 10 games). The unit found its stride toward the end of the year and again ranked among the NFL’s top-10 offenses, a familiar place under play caller and Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
- Each year under McCarthy, it has finished among the league’s top 10 offenses. Since 2006, New Orleans is the only other NFL team to have ranked in the top 10 each of the last four seasons. In 2009, the Packers averaged 379.1 yards per contest, its top average under McCarthy.
- In 2008, the Packers finished No. 8 overall with an average of 351.1 yards per contest. The unit finished No. 2 in 2007 (370.7 yards per game) and No. 9 in 2006 (341.1) under McCarthy.
- McCarthy spent six seasons as an offensive coordinator and play caller prior to his arrival in Green Bay (New Orleans 2000-04, San Francisco 2005). Twice the Saints ranked among the NFL’s top 10 offenses.
AS GOOD AS HE’S EVER BEEN
- The Green Bay defense finished No. 2 in the league’s final overall defensive rankings in 2009. Not since 1996, when it finished the year No. 1 overall and went on to win Super Bowl XXXI, had the Packers’ defense ranked among the league’s top units.
- Behind new defensive coordinator Dom Capers and all-everything CB Charles Woodson, the Packers thrived in their new 3-4 scheme. The team finished the season ranked No. 1 against the run, a first in team history, and No. 5 against the pass.
- The previous top ranking in franchise history in run defense came in 1972, when the team finished No. 2.
- Green Bay allowed an average of 284.4 total yards per game, second behind the N.Y. Jets (252.3) and ahead of No. 3 Baltimore (300.5).
- Green Bay’s improved defense against the run kept opponents in long down-and-distances, enhancing the defense’s ability to get off the field on third down. Through the first four games, the unit ranked No. 28. As soon as Green Bay began to stop the run, it shot up the league rankings in third-down defense, finishing the year at No. 9.
- One constant for the defense was its ability to take the ball away, registering 39 of the team’s 40 takeaways. That takeaway total led the NFL in 2009, and it’s something that has become a habit for the defense. It has registered at least one takeaway in 18 of its last 19 games.
- Whether they be caused by pressure from a deep and talented front seven, or a fantastic read by a ball-hawking secondary led by Pro Bowlers Nick Collins (six INTs) and Woodson (nine), those 40 turnovers led to 141 points, tied with New Orleans for the most points-off-turnovers total in the NFL.
- In the first two years of the Mike McCarthy tenure, Green Bay’s defense was close to being a top-10 unit, finishing at No. 12 in 2006 and No. 11 in 2007. In 2008, it slipped to No. 20 before making the jump up to No. 2 last year.
- In Capers’ previous stints as a coordinator, his units made a jump in the rankings in his first season. In Pittsburgh, the defense went from No. 22 to No. 13 in ’92 under Capers, then continued to rise to No. 3 in ’93 and No. 2 in ’94. In Jacksonville, the defense climbed to No. 4 under Capers in ’99 after ranking 25th the previous season. The Dolphins ranked No. 4 in 2006, Capers’ first year, after ranking No. 18 in ’05.
SECONDARY BRINGS SOME PASS RUSH, TOO
- At age 33, CB Charles Woodson enjoyed the finest season of his career in 2009, his first year in the 3-4 scheme.
- Woodson achieved the highest individual honor bestowed upon a defensive player, taking home The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year award. He also was named an AP first-team All-Pro.
- Woodson became the fourth player in NFL history since sacks became an official statistic to record at least nine interceptions and two sacks in a single season. One of the players who previously accomplished the feat (Ed Reed - 2004) also went on to win Defensive Player of the Year. Woodson also led the Packers with four forced fumbles.
- Against Dallas, Woodson became the first NFL player to record two forced fumbles, an interception and a sack in a game since Steelers linebacker James Harrison accomplished the feat two years prior to the day vs. Baltimore on Nov. 15, 2007. In that contest, Harrison posted three forced fumbles, 3½ sacks and an interception.
- Against the Lions in Week 12, Woodson tallied two interceptions, including one he returned for a score, a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery, and held Calvin Johnson to two catches for 10 yards.
- Woodson was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for both his Dallas (Week 10) and Detroit (Week 12) performances, and naturally won NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November. Woodson also was honored as the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September and December, becoming the first NFC player to win the award multiple times.
- His Detroit performance marked the fifth multi-interception game of his career, and his fourth since coming to Green Bay.
- Woodson’s INT return for a score against Arizona in Week 17 was his seventh with Green Bay, giving him eight defensive touchdowns with the Packers to establish a new franchise record. The seven INT returns for scores with Green Bay ties him for first on the franchise’s all-time list with Hall of Famer Herb Adderley.
- In addition to his team-high and career-best nine interceptions, he established a new career high with 81 tackles, third most on the team. His previous career high had been 79, a total he accomplished twice before (OAK, 2000; GB, 2008).
- A skilled blitzer, he had two sacks on the year. His five sacks since 2008 is tied for the NFL lead among defensive backs (safeties and corners).
- His four forced fumbles tied for second among NFL defensive backs in 2009.
- There’s no doubt Woodson’s career has undergone a revitalization since coming to Green Bay. He now has 45 career interceptions, fifth among active NFL players. Of his interceptions, 28 have come in 63 games with Green Bay. In 106 games with the Raiders, he had 17.
CAPERS’ INSTANT IMPACT
- Part of the reason Capers was able to trust in his defense as the Packers made the transition to the 3-4 in 2009 was his ability to rely on a secondary that included three Pro Bowl players.
- The team had to play its last stretch without CB Al Harris (knee injury), a physical corner who routinely lined up against the opposing team’s top wide receiver. Harris was a Pro Bowl honoree in 2007-08.
- The team leaned on the all-around skill of CB Charles Woodson, who enjoyed a career year in the new defense.
- The team also relied heavily on CB Tramon Williams, who filled in with the No. 1 defense when Harris went down with a spleen injury in 2008 for four games. Williams, whose five interceptions in ’08 highlighted a breakout season, finished 2009 with four interceptions and led the team with 22 passes defensed, a new career high.
- Capers and the defense also were able to rely on Pro Bowl S Nick Collins, who intercepted six passes on the season. His 13 interceptions over the last two seasons are tied for second most in the NFL behind Woodson’s 16. In addition to consecutive Pro Bowl selections, Collins’ inclusion on the AP second-team All-Pro list for the second straight year solidifies his place as one of the game’s best young safeties.
- Collins, Williams and Woodson all notched sacks last season, which for Collins and Williams were the first of their careers.
- Harris notched one earlier in the year, giving the Packers four defensive backs with sacks in the same season for the first time since 2003, when it also had four members of the secondary record sacks.
MATTHEWS BURSTS ONTO NFL STAGE IN ’09
- Charged with orchestrating the Packers’ new 3-4 defense last season was veteran coach Dom Capers, who is in his 25th season on the NFL level in 2010, his 18th as a defensive coordinator or head coach.
- Noted around the league as one of the game’s best defensive minds, Capers used many of the same personnel and transitioned the Packers into one of the league’s most effective units. From a unit that ranked No. 20 overall in 2008, Capers brought the defense up to the No. 2 ranking in 2009, the franchise’s highest defensive ranking in over a decade.
- In addition to serving as the head coach of two different expansion franchises (Carolina and Houston), Capers brought an impressive résumé as a coordinator. Green Bay’s rise in the defensive ranks this season was typical of Capers’ instant impact over the course of his NFL career. Pittsburgh ranked No. 22 in overall defense in 1991, the year before Capers’ arrival. The Steelers’ defense rose up in the defensive rankings to 13th in 1992, Capers’ first season as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. The unit rose to No. 3 in 1993 and No. 2 in 1994, earning the moniker “Blitzburgh” with one of the decade’s most feared defenses.
- Capers’ impact also was seen in his stint as defensive coordinator with Jacksonville (1999-00) and Miami (2006-07). Ranking 25th in overall defense in 1998, the Jaguars’ unit rose immediately under Capers in ’99 to No. 4 overall in addition to allowing the fewest points in the NFL. The Dolphins ranked No. 18 in overall defense in 2005 but rose to No. 4 in 2006 under Capers, with DE Jason Taylor earning Defensive Player of the Year honors that season as well.
TAKEAWAY POINTS KEY FOR PACKERS
- Rookie LB Clay Matthews seems to have a knack for the football, leading all rookies and tying for third in the NFL with three fumble recoveries in 2009, including two against Dallas in Week 10.
- According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last Green Bay rookie to recover two opponents’ fumbles in a game was DB Val Joe Walker on Nov. 26, 1953, against the Detroit Lions.
- He just missed tying the the franchise’s rookie record held by S Johnnie Gray (4, 1975). Matthews had a strip-sack and recovery of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger that was overturned after a Pittsburgh challenge.
- The first recovery of his career was in Week 4, when he forced a fumble on Vikings RB Adian Peterson and raced the ball 42 yards for a touchdown, the longest fumble return for a TD by a rookie in team history.
- Matthews recorded the third multi-sack game of his career against the Steelers and had 10 sacks on the season, a new Green Bay rookie record. In addition to leading the Packers, his 10 sacks ranked second behind Washington’s Brian Orakpo (11) for the lead among all rookies.
- LB Tim Harris was the only other rookie to finish as the Packers’ team leader in sacks. Harris (8, 1986) and Vonnie Holliday (8, ’98) had shared the team rookie record for sacks since the stat became official in 1982.
- Matthews was also one of three rookie linebackers selected to the Pro Bowl and joined his father Clay Jr. (four Pro Bowls) and uncle Bruce (14 Pro Bowls) as family members to be selected.
INT RETURN YARDAGE A BRIGHT SPOT
- Even with a new defensive scheme, Green Bay continued to show its knack for the takeaways with 30 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries in 2009, which it turned into 141 points.
- The 30 interceptions led the league and was the team’s highest single-season total since 1981, when it also had 30.
- Green Bay’s 40 takeaways also led the NFL, and its 141 points scored off those 40 takeaways tied New Orleans for most in the league.
- Green Bay did not register a takeaway against the Steelers, snapping a streak of 16 straight games with at least one takeaway, but responded with four interceptions against the Seahawks and three against the Cardinals in Weeks 16-17. The Seattle game marked the third time last season that the team recorded four interceptions, which it also did against Chicago (Week 1) and at Detroit (Week 12).
- Green Bay surpassed its 2008 total of 124 points off takeaways, which led the NFL in ’08.
- It also eclipsed its ’08 total in interceptions (22) and fumble recoveries (six) while at the same time protecting the ball at a better clip. Green Bay’s 16 giveaways was the lowest total in the NFL.
- If the Packers don’t commit a turnover, like they didn’t against Seattle in Week 16, they’re almost guaranteed to win. They have now won 38 of 42 games playing turnover-free football, since a loss at Dallas, Nov. 18, 1996. Green Bay’s only losses in such games during that stretch came three times against Minnesota, twice in Minneapolis (2005, ’08) and once at home (2009), and in Week 15 last year in Pittsburgh against the Steelers.
- Including playoffs, the Packers have won 41 of their last 45 games without a giveaway.
GETTING AFTER THE QUARTERBACK
- Three interception returns against Arizona in Week 17 helped add to what was an already impressive team yardage total on interceptions. Over the last two seasons, Green Bay defenders proved to be among the most dangerous when the ball was in their hands.
- With 477 yards on a league-best 30 interceptions, Green Bay finished second in the category in 2009 behind New Orleans (652).
- The Packers finished 2008 with an astounding 685 interception return yards, tops in the NFL and a new franchise standard.
- Combined with the 685 return yards in ’08, it is just the second time in franchise history that the Packers have posted back-to-back seasons of 475-plus INT return yards. The only other time was 1965 (561) and 1966 (547).
- The Packers led the NFL in interceptions (52), interception yards (1,162), and interception TDs (nine) from 2008-09.
- McCarthy has said his team’s ability to make a play after an interception is something the team has repped after every turnover in practice since he arrived in 2006. Every offensive player, whether part of the 11 on the play or the group on the sidelines, attempts to catch the defender before he can advance up the field.
FINALLY A WIN IN PHILLY
- The Packers’ defense finished the 2009 season with 37 sacks, tied for 11th best in the league.
- Three times in ’09 the Packers had five or more sacks, and Green Bay posted five in the season opener at Philadelphia this past Sunday. The last time Green Bay had five or more sacks in three games was ’02. The team record is four games, a number that was hit in three separate seasons (1985, 2000, 2001).
- LB Brad Jones, who filled in following a season-ending knee injury to Aaron Kampman, recorded the first multi-sack game of his career against Pittsburgh, joining LB Clay Matthews (three multi-sack games) as the first rookie duo to post multi-sack games in a season.
- Jones became the third Packers rookie to collect a sack last season, joining first-round picks NT B.J. Raji (1.0) and Matthews (franchise rookie-record 10.0). The last time three Packers rookies recorded sacks was 1987.
- For the first time in franchise history, two rookies had four or more sacks.
- With another sack against the Bears in Week 15, Matthews became the first rookie in Packers history to record a sack in three consecutive games. His team rookie record ultimately rose to four after a two-sack effort against Pittsburgh.
- The city of Philadelphia hasn’t been kind to the Green Bay Packers, and with all the nutty, unpredictable things happening on Sunday, it looked as though this town might get the last laugh again.
- But the Packers overcame a handful of injuries, a sub-par day from their Pro Bowl quarterback, and an unexpected change under center for the Eagles that almost led to a stunning comeback. Ultimately, Green Bay held on for a 27-20 season-opening victory at Lincoln Financial Field when the defense stopped Eagles backup quarterback Michael Vick on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 42-yard line with under two minutes left.
- “Finally,” linebacker Nick Barnett said of getting a win in Philadelphia. “We’ve had a lot of heartbreaks on this field. Fourth-and-26, a lot of other different situations. It feels good to leave this field, finally, with a win.”
- The Packers not only erased 48 years of bad history – nine straight losses in Philly since 1962, including that infamous 2003 playoff game with the fourth-and-26 conversion – but proved at least for now they have what it takes to pull a game out when things start to go a little haywire.
- Running back Ryan Grant left the game with an ankle injury, the defensive line was down to two healthy members and a third in Cullen Jenkins playing with a broken hand, and Vick suddenly reverted to prime form when pressed into duty, running for 103 yards, throwing for 175 and nearly bringing the Eagles back from a 17-point hole in the fourth quarter.
- “It was gutty,” receiver Donald Driver said, echoing a comment made by Head Coach Mike McCarthy after the game as well. “It wasn’t one of those things where we went out on offense and put up 45 points and made it look easy. It was a tough one. We knew it was going to be tough.”
- For a while it didn’t look like it would be that stressful.
- After a slow start that included an interception and three sacks on the Packers’ first three drives, the offense found its rhythm by scoring on four straight possessions spanning the end of the first half and start of the second. In the final two minutes of the second quarter, the Packers put up 10 points, as Driver caught a 6-yard touchdown pass and Mason Crosby set a franchise record with a 56-yard field goal as the clock expired for a 13-3 halftime lead.
- The Packers carried that momentum into the second half when Charles Woodson forced a fumble from Eagles running back Eldra Buckley on the opening possession of the third quarter. Tramon Williams recovered, and the offense capitalized with a 62-yard TD march. Stepping in for Grant, Brandon Jackson (18 carries, 63 yards) and John Kuhn combined to rush for 35 yards on the drive, with Kuhn scoring from 3 yards out to make it 20-3.
- The teams then traded touchdowns on the next two possessions. Vick, taking over in the second half for starter Kevin Kolb (concussion), showed what was to come in the fourth quarter by scrambling for 31 yards to set up a 12-yard TD run by LeSean McCoy.
- “It threw a curveball in the game with him coming out there,” Barnett said.
- It certainly did, because Kolb had managed to produce just 49 yards of offense for the Eagles in the first half. He was sacked twice and nearly intercepted twice before linebacker Clay Matthews caught him from behind late in the first half and his head hit the turf hard. Even with Vick’s first full possession ending in the fumble, the Eagles offense put up 124 yards on its first two drives of the second half, more than doubling the first-half total.
- But the Packers quickly restored their margin to 17 as Jordy Nelson returned the ensuing kickoff out to midfield and the offense needed just four plays to score. Greg Jennings hauled in a perfectly thrown 32-yard TD for a 27-10 lead with 1:56 left in the third.
- That was the last hurrah for the offense, however. On their next three possessions, the Packers gained a measly 11 yards with a three-and-out, a third-down interception by Aaron Rodgers, and a drive that picked up just one first down before ending in a punt.
- “I played terrible,” Rodgers said. “Probably about as bad as I can play, so that’s a good thing (that we still won). Gotta get better. Missed a lot of throws … that I make in my sleep, so I’m disappointed about that.
- “It’s disappointing as a quarterback playing the way I did because I felt like we could have put a lot more points on the board and given our defense more of a break.”
- Rodgers finished 19-of-31 for 188 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for a 73.1 rating. That efficiency rating is the second-lowest for Rodgers in his last 21 regular-season starts. The struggles late were especially costly on third down, as on Rodgers’ last three third-down throws he was incomplete twice and picked off once.
- “We have to extend series in the football game, especially at that particular time,” McCarthy said. “Our defense was on the field way too much in the second half. We’re short defensive linemen and we’re playing against a very mobile quarterback. That was a tough, gutty performance by our football team.”
- With Rodgers sputtering, Vick was bringing the Eagles back, scrambling and throwing his way to a 72-yard touchdown drive. He hit Jeremy Maclin for a sliding 17-yard TD catch to make it 27-17, and then, after the turnover, he drove the Eagles to the Green Bay 5. But the defense stopped a shovel pass cold and Vick threw incomplete on third down, leading to a field goal and a 27-20 score with 5:43 left.
- That proved to be a big stop, as the Eagles got one final chance with 4:13 left but needed a touchdown. Vick overcame two sacks to set up the fateful fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 42, and out of the shotgun he ran a quarterback draw. The Packers were prepared for it, and Matthews stuffed Vick in the hole for no gain, sealing the victory.
- “To end the game on fourth-and-1 with a quarterback in the backfield who has a number of different options, that’s a big play by our defense,” McCarthy said.
- And a big win, all things considered, to start the season.
- “You can always build on wins,” Woodson said. “We showed some toughness.”