Packers safety Morgan Burnett celebrates after his first interception in the third quarter. / Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media
The stat sheet will show Morgan Burnett had his best game of the season in Sunday’s 23-14 win over Minnesota.
However, Tramon Williams knows better.
The Green Bay Packers’ veteran cornerback has been seeing this Burnett all season — the one who pulled down two key interceptions Sunday to propel the Packers’ fifth straight win over their NFC North Division rival.
“He’s been doing an excellent job all year long, and I don’t think he’s been getting much credit,” Williams said. “Hopefully he can get a little more credit now.”
It’s hard to overlook Burnett’s performance against Minnesota. The third-year safety tallied seven tackles, one for a loss, and three pass deflections as part of a Packers pass defense that limited Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder to 119 passing yards.
Although Burnett wasn’t perfect — he was one of several Packers defenders to whiff on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s 82-yard touchdown run in the second quarter — he responded authoritatively in the second half.
With the Vikings taking a 14-10 lead into halftime after Peterson’s breakaway, Ponder failed to complete a pass in the third quarter with the exception of the two interceptions he threw to Burnett, which were his first two picks this season.
Both picks were deflating for the Vikings. The first came on a second-and-goal on the Green Bay 8-yard line when Ponder fired an ill-advised pass to Michael Jenkins in the back of the end zone with Burnett positioned in front of him.
With Minnesota trailing 20-14 near the end of the third quarter, the Vikings drove back into Green Bay territory. Burnett again picked off Ponder when he tried to hit tight end Kyle Rudolph. It came one play after a personal foul call on Williams put Minnesota at the Packers’ 25-yard line.
The Packers converted both turnovers into Mason Crosby field goals, with the Packers carving out their longest scoring drive of the season in an 18-play, 11-minute series following Burnett’s second pick.
“I thought Morgan Burnett’s interception in the end zone was the biggest play of the game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought our whole sideline changed after that. The halftime was not the best halftime that I’ve been a part of.
“He gave us the boost. Morgan’s playing very well. He’s made big plays for us throughout the season. He’s showing good veteran leadership back there.”
When Charles Woodson went down with a broken collarbone against St. Louis in October, it put Burnett in line to assume a more vocal role in a Packers secondary littered with rookies and first-year starters.
The 23-year-old Burnett has played every defensive snap this season en route to registering 92 tackles, two sacks and the two interceptions.
“Any time you can get a turnover and help your offense out, steal them an extra possession — that really helps out a lot,” Burnett said. “We did a great job of getting turnovers, and the offense did a great job of protecting the ball.”
Ponder finished 12-of-25 passing, but came dangerously close to helping the Packers set a team record for fewest completions allowed with only nine prior to a executing a few late in mop-up time.
Although the Packers hoped for a better showing against Peterson, who finished with 210 yards rushing, Burnett’s showing in the secondary helped the Packers snag their eighth win of the year.
“That’s Morgan Burnett for you,” Packers rookie safety Jerron McMillian said. “Everything is full speed and he’s going to make sure he’s doing detailed things. That’s a really big thing to get from a player like him. I try to carry that on, too. Follow the little things he does to be successful.”
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