- Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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Playing tough: What elements make up a physical team? Start with a strong running game. Add a defensive front that manhandles offensive linemen. Then do it on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions. If the Packers were soft in the past -- something they have been accused of in recent years -- no one could say that after watching Sunday’s win over the Ravens. The offensive linemen opened holes for Eddie Lacy (120 yards on 23 carries) and when the holes weren’t huge, Lacy barreled his way to extra yards. On defense, the Packers came up with a goal-line stop, sacked Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco five times and allowed just 47 yards rushing. “If you’ve been to any of our training camp practices, you shouldn’t be surprised in seeing how we played,” defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. “The way we played against San Francisco and Cincinnati was overshadowed by the fact that those were losses. We played very tough in those games as well. This one, I think a lot more people will pay attention to because we won, but we played equally as tough in this game as we have in the past four.”
Linebackers shine: In the absence of Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, defensive coordinator Dom Capers turned A.J. Hawk loose as a pass-rusher. Hawk came flat free several times on blitzes and recorded three sacks. He was credited with 10 tackles, including five for losses. He took over for Jones as the dime linebacker and defensive signal-caller. Meanwhile, Jamari Lattimore held up well in his first NFL start, playing Jones’ spot in the base and nickel packages. He made three tackles, including two for losses. Nick Perry, despite missing part of the game because of an ankle injury, had five pressures in just 21 pass-rush attempts, according to ProFootballFocus. His strip-sack of Flacco late in the second quarter was a huge momentum play before halftime. Mike Neal couldn’t match his production from the previous week against Detroit, when he had six tackles and a sack. “I thought we were really rolling there in the beginning with Nick and Mike, and A.J., I think probably played one of his best games,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Jamari was making plays. We had excellent push inside. It was just really a combination of everybody.”
Special-teams gaffe: You wouldn’t expect veteran fullback John Kuhn to make the kind of mistake he did after Ryan Taylor blocked a Ravens punt in the second quarter. Kuhn tried to field the blocked punt after it had crossed the line of scrimmage, which made it a live ball. The Ravens recovered and got a fresh set of downs. “Heck, no one knows more about special teams than John Kuhn,” McCarthy said. Kuhn said he knew the rule but was trying to make a play. The Ravens didn’t score, though, because the Packers came up with a stop on fourth-and-goal at the 1. “It really came back to bite us,” Kuhn said. “But our defense stood up for me and had my back, and nobody was more appreciative of that goal-line stand than myself. I kind of leave here with a little bit of a reprieve because we won the game, but that’s a detrimental mistake that I can’t make.”
Punt returner found: The Packers have may found themselves a permanent punt returner. Rookie Micah Hyde averaged 13.6 yards on five attempts, including returns of 20 and 23 yards. The Packers came into the game averaging 7.1 yards per punt return. The job had been split by Jeremy Ross, Randall Cobb and Hyde. It likely will be turned over to Hyde on a full-time basis. “We’ll evaluate it,” McCarty said. “I’m pleased with what Micah did. But he’s definitely the front-runner.”
An examination of four hot issues from the Green Bay Packers' 19-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens:Playing tough: What elements make up a physical team?