Packers enter long break on a roll
Two weeks ago, the Green Bay Packers were reeling. They had just suffered a rough loss at the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their playoff hopes seemed dim with a 4-4 record. Winning three consecutive games in 12 days makes a big difference. After beating the Detroit Lions 34-12 on Thanksgiving, the 7-4 Packers are in good shape in the NFC playoff race and will have a long rest before starting the stretch run of the season. "We feel good about what we've accomplished the last 12 days," offensive tackle Mark Tauscher said. "We've gone from getting beat up a little bit to now we're sitting in a position where we can accomplish what we want." With the Packers idle until they play a Monday night game against the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 7, coach Mike McCarthy is giving the players the next three days off. "The ability to walk away with three victories is something we feel good about," McCarthy said. "We have an opportunity to get some rest (and) get healthy, which we haven't been. "As everybody knows, we have a five-game gauntlet that we're getting ready to run, and I think we'll feel good about it when we line back up and get ready for Baltimore." The Packers will reconvene Monday brimming with confidence after another dominating performance by the defense, led by playmaking cornerback Charles Woodson, and some key throws by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Woodson marked a special return to the Detroit area, where he was the 1997 Heisman Trophy winner at Michigan, with an individual effort that prompted Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers to tout the 12th-year pro for NFL defensive player of the year. "He played as good a defensive game as I've certainly seen in a while," Capers said. Woodson shouldered more responsibility Thursday after the Packers lost cornerback Al Harris to a season-ending knee injury in the previous game. Besides holding Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson to two catches for 10 yards, Woodson had two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a sack. "It was business as usual for him pretty much," Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "He seems to make those plays every week, so it was good to see that." Woodson ran back his second interception 38 yards for a touchdown to complete the scoring. "He had an incredible day," McCarthy said. "I don't know who's playing better football than Charles Woodson in the National Football League." Woodson's on-field feats came after the University of Michigan announced before the game that he donated $2 million to its new children's and women's hospital, which is scheduled to open in 2012. "The gift is definitely what Thanksgiving is all about," Woodson said. "You break that word down, you give thanks for the things you're blessed with, and you give until you can't give anymore." Woodson's ability for creating turnovers - he leads the team with seven interceptions and four forced fumbles - has sparked a ball-hawking defense that also persevered Thursday without Aaron Kampman. The Pro Bowl linebacker is also out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. The Packers had four interceptions of Lions rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford and came up with a season-high five takeaways. They have nine takeaways in the three-game winning streak, Green Bay's longest since winning six in a row in 2007. "Our football team's about defense," McCarthy said. "Our defense was huge (Thursday). The ability to keep taking the ball away from the offense was the number one factor in our success." Running a close second was the big-play completions from Rodgers. Deep throws of 68 and 45 yards to Donald Driver led to touchdowns against Detroit's defense. Rodgers finished 28 of 39 for 348 yards with a career-high-tying three touchdowns. He hasn't thrown an interception in the past three games and was sacked only once Thursday, after enduring a league-worst 43 sacks in the first 10 games. "I think the key to our success has been the offensive line play," Rodgers said. "When they give me time like that, it allows me to feel very comfortable back there." A lengthy 10-day hiatus between games is comforting for Rodgers, who admitted he was pretty sore after taking a few hits Thursday. "It will be nice to relax for a couple of days, go home, get my body and my mind refreshed for the December push," Rodgers said.