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Unheralded Walden Makes Big Plays for Packers
by scottbthompsonsr
Jan 03, 2011 | 7365 views | 0 0 comments | 119 119 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

For Green Bay Packers newcomer Erik Walden, it was just like old times on Sunday.

The unheralded Walden, making just his second NFL start, helped spark another big defensive effort by the Packers as they clinched a playoff berth with a 10-3 win over Chicago.

Walden had two of Green Bay's six sacks of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

"It felt good because I hit him a couple times in college," Walden said.

Walden was a defensive end with small-school Middle Tennessee State when it scored an upset victory on the road against Cutler and Vanderbilt of the mighty Southeastern Conference in 2005.

The Packers had the upper hand on Cutler in Sunday's game, as their constant pressure led to a season-high six sacks for Green Bay and two key interceptions.

"He's a great player, but we knew we had to get to him if we were going to have any success and winning the game today," Walden said.

Packers safety Charlie Peprah picked off an errant pass by Cutler on third-and-long in the end zone with Chicago in position to build on a 3-0 halftime lead.

After Green Bay scored 10 straight points to take the lead, the Bears mounted a final drive that started at their 2-yard line with less than 5 minutes left.

Chicago reached the Packers' 32 in the closing seconds before Cutler overthrew receiver Devin Hester down the field for a game-clinching interception by safety Nick Collins.

"We knew it was a do-or-die situation for the team, and I think that's the way everybody played," Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said. "They played with that mentality today and played down to the wire and made a lot of big plays. A lot of guys, probably names you haven't heard all season, came up big for us today."

Woodson singled out the performance by Walden, calling it "all-star material the way he played out there today."

The Packers signed Walden off the street at midseason, and the former sixth-round draft pick by Dallas in 2008 has been needed down the stretch with Green Bay's injury-decimated defense. He is one of four players who have started at right outside linebacker this season.

"We've done a very good job getting players ready to play in a short period of time," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.


STINGY DEFENSE: Despite having a league-high 15 players on injured reserve, including three defensive starters, Green Bay allowed only 240 points, or an average of 15 points per game. The Packers ranked second in the league, behind Pittsburgh's average of 14.5.

"It's not beyond belief," Woodson said. "I think it says a lot about who Ted (Thompson, general manager) has brought in here as far as free agents, guys who have been brought in for practice-squad purposes who have had to play. A lot of that plays into the scouting -- knowing what guys can bring to the table if they have to play -- and we have had a lot of those guys who have had to play because of all the injuries we've had. Give credit to the coaching staff."

The only other season the Packers allowed fewer points since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 was their Super Bowl-winning season in 1996, when they had a league-leading average of 13.1 points allowed.


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