Hawk sees snaps drop as Packers tweak scheme
For only the second time in his nine-year NFL career, A.J. Hawk started a game on the bench.
The inside linebacker entered the game leading the Packers' defense in defensive snaps with 749 — cornerback Tramon Williams was second with 720 — but played strictly in the base 3-4 defense Sunday against the Patriots. The Packers played their base defense approximately one-third of the time.
Prior to Sunday, the 30-year-old Hawk had started 136 of his 137 career games. The only other time he didn't get the call was the 2010 regular-season opener against Philadelphia when he didn't play a single defensive snap.
Hawk finished with one tackle on Sunday, while second-year linebacker Sam Barrington worked next to Clay Matthews in the nickel subpackage. When the Packers went to dime, they went with Matthews for the first time as the solo inside linebacker.
"I know going in what our plan was going to be," Hawk said. "It's nothing I haven't done before coming on and off the field like that. I just wanted to make sure I was ready when packages I was in were called. Whatever they want to do, it's not my job to question anything. But I think our defense played really well today."
Indeed it did, holding the NFL's No. 1 scoring offense to 21 points and 320 total yards. Barrington replaced Hawk in the starting lineup and had the best game of his career with five tackles, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed.
Since the opener, Hawk had played almost every defensive snap. But last week against Minnesota, he was in on only 54 of the 69 plays.
"They let me know what we're doing each week whether I'm in or playing more or less," Hawk said. "I know the packages we're in. A lot of it depends on what the offense is going to try to do each week against us, as well. I've kind of done it all in the nine years I've been here, I've kind of done everything."
Starting cornerback Sam Shields left the game after the third play of the second quarter with a concussion. He did not return and was replaced by Davon House.
Jamari Lattimore was injured on a kickoff return with just more than a minute left before halftime. The linebacker left the game for good with a left ankle injury. He had to be helped off the field.
Three players who had been battling injuries — linebacker Nick Perry, tight end Brandon Bostick and special teams ace Jarrett Bush — were active Sunday.
Perry, who missed last week's game against Minnesota, didn't start at outside linebacker after dealing with a shoulder injury and played sparingly. He and Bush had been listed as questionable.
Bostick's hip injury had kept him out of the past two games but he was able to practice more this week than he had the past couple of weeks.
Inactive for the Packers were tight end Justin Perillo, wide receiver Jeff Janis, defensive tackle Luther Robinson, center Garth Gerhart, linebacker Carl Bradford, cornerback Demetri Goodson and quarterback Scott Tolzien.
Two key inactives for the Patriots were starting defensive end Chandler Jones (hip) and long snapper Danny Aiken (concussion).
-Weston Hodkiewicz contributed to this report