If this wasn’t A.J. Hawk’s best game in a Green Bay Packers’ uniform, it certainly wasn’t far behind.
Missing Brad Jones to a hamstring injury, the Packers’ defense was put into the hands of the eighth-year veteran inside linebacker, who responded with 10 tackles (five for a loss) and a career-high three sacks that loomed large during Sunday’s 19-17 win over Baltimore.
Hawk said he hadn’t worn the “speaker” helmet responsible for communicating with the sideline from start-to-finish in two years, but had to assume that role with Jones down and third-year linebacker Jamari Lattimore making his first career start in Jones’ place.
Charged to direct a defense and pass rush playing without Clay Matthews (thumb), Hawk directed the unit to five sacks, 10 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one recovery.
“A.J. made us right. That’s the best way to put it,” Packers defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. “He showed why he is A.J. Hawk. It’s an honor to play with him.”
The fifth overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, Hawk has been as been the epitome of durability during his career, but often been criticized for not making enough plays as evidenced by the fact he went nearly three years without a turnover-generating play.
Without Matthews and Jones to rely on, Hawk came through with two first-half sacks made possible from Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and the defensive line clearing clean lanes for him to blitz through.
Both came on third downs. The first on the Ravens' opening series saw Hawk run unabated to Joe Flacco on a 10-yard sack on the third-and-10 with him chasing the Ravens quarterback out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-5 in the second quarter.
Cornerback Micah Hyde and linebacker Nick Perry also came through with sacks to aid the Matthews-less defense. Lattimore finished with three tackles with two of the 10 tackles for a loss.
So was it Hawk’s best game? Although the stat sheet said so, the 29-year-old linebacker wouldn't go that far.
“Nah,” said Hawk with a smile. “I found a way to get some sacks which doesn’t really happen too much for me, but I don’t know. I’ll have to go back and watch it. I don’t really try to compare it to previous games.”