Jarrett Bush, Packers' defense come up big

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jarrett Bush did not play a single snap on defense in the Green Bay Packers' Thanksgiving loss at the Detroit Lions.

He also had an eight-game stretch earlier this season in which he played just one snap on defense, although he missed four of those games because of a hamstring injury.

The only extended playing time the eighth-year cornerback received since playing 20 snaps on defense in the season opener came during a two-week stretch in which Sam Shields was inactive.

Otherwise, he played only on special teams.

Until Sunday.

The oft-criticized Bush, who has had his ups and downs as a defensive player but has long been a solid special teamer, was part of a revamped configuration in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' dime defense. Cornerback Davon House was benched, and rookie Micah Hyde took his place in the nickel (five defensive backs) package, opening up a spot for Bush as the sixth defensive back.

Sure enough, the Atlanta Falcons tested Bush. And perhaps much to the surprise of the 77,550 in the Lambeau Field crowd -- many of whom likely booed Bush at various times during his career -- Bush came up big when it mattered most in the final stages of Sunday's 22-21 victory.

Bush broke up a fourth-and-5 pass that Matt Ryan threw to tight end Tony Gonzalez with 1:55 left in the game. After the Packers punted the ball back to the Falcons one last time, Bush ended things when he intercepted Ryan’s deep pass down the right sideline intended for receiver Harry Douglas.

“You love to see him have success because of how hard he works and what he’s poured into our football team, into this program the last eight years,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “I’m very happy for Jarrett Bush and the way he played today.”

It was a bit of redemption for Bush, who has been in and out of the lineup throughout his career.

“Yeah, it was; I’m not going to lie,” Bush said. “At the same time, I helped my team. I felt like I helped my team win. That’s what I’m here for.”

It was a much-needed performance from the Packers’ defense, too.

After allowing 473 rushing yards in the previous two games, the Packers held the Falcons to just 83 rushing yards. Perhaps more importantly, the missed tackles and blown assignments that plagued the Packers during their 0-4-1 stretch over the last five weeks weren’t as big of an issue, especially when the Packers pitched a shutout in the second half.

“It just goes to show the type of talent and what we can do each and every week,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “We obviously haven’t been living up to that billing.”

Unlike in the loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving, when the Packers forced four turnovers but still got blown out, they made their takeaways count. Linebacker Mike Neal's sack and forced fumble that was recovered by defensive tackle Johnny Jolly in the fourth quarter set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Jolly also had a key tackle for a 2-yard loss on running back Jason Snelling in the fourth quarter, forcing the Falcons to try a 52-yard field goal that came up short.

It all came during a week in which questions were raised about Capers’ future as defensive coordinator.

“He’s the best, and I love him,” Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “I feel like us, defensively, we need to stand up for him. We need to play for him because his scheme is awesome.

“We finally decided to stand up and make plays when we need to. Jolly’s TFL he made late in the game was huge. The sack-fumble with Jolly recovering was big. Jarrett’s fourth-down stop, that was huge.”