GREEN BAY – The Packers’ defense didn’t produce a turnover until the fourth quarter of the first two games this season, but the wait was worth it.
In the first two weeks, the Green Bay defense was on the field in the fourth quarter protecting a one-score lead, and each time it came away with a critical interception.
Clay Matthews got one in Chicago with the Packers leading 24-16 and less than four minutes remaining. Jayrone Elliott got the other against the Seahawks with a 24-17 lead and 6:50 left.
“We finish the games well. That was an emphasis coming into the season,” said veteran Julius Peppers, with no need to explain where the emphasis came from. “It’s showing up in the games when we need it. Those two guys made big plays for us to finish out games.”
The Packers’ offense engineered productive, clock-chewing drives in each of the two fourth quarters to limit the opponents’ chances late, and the defense held up its end down the stretch.
Against the Bears, a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter preceded Matthews’ key interception. The Seahawks’ other fourth-quarter possession ended with another turnover, as Elliott stripped the ball from Seattle running back Fred Jackson and Micah Hyde recovered.
The only late letdown in either game was allowing a Chicago touchdown with 34 seconds left, necessitating the recovery of an onside kick. That was avoided in Week 2 with the second turnover.
“I think it says a lot about the character, and it also says a lot about how we’re trained, how we’re taught,” defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. “No matter what the situation is, the mark of a good defense is getting off the field in adversity situations, or at a time when you need to get off the field, and I think we’ve done that so far.”
Three turnovers total through two games is well off the pace of a typical Dom Capers defense, but there have been other opportunities.
Cornerback Sam Shields might have had an interception in the end zone in Chicago if he had gotten a second hand up to defend a pass. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix got his hands on two potential picks against the Seahawks but couldn’t corral them. A fumble recovery against Seattle also went for naught when the Packers were flagged for lining up offside.
So far, the fourth quarter is when the ball has bounced right for the defense.
“It shows that we’re capable of doing it, and we just have to make sure we get those plays rolling from the beginning of the game,” defensive lineman Mike Daniels said.
Still, late is better than never. Nothing changes a game more than a crunch-time turnover.
“We obviously want to do a better job of trying to get the ball out, and when the ball gets on our hands, trying to bring it in,” Raji said. “Until that happens, we’ll settle for at the right moment.”
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