|Packers S Atari Bigby exemplifies success in Green Bay|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 13 January 2008 12:41|
The play of the Packers' second-year safety matches his moniker. And that's got the secondary's unquestioned leaders, Pro Bowl cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson, excited about Green Bay's playoff chances.
``He's the real deal,'' Harris said. ``Any plays he makes, we're not amazed, because we see it all the time. He's going to be a great player in this league.''
Bigby forced a fumble, made several vicious hits that left Seahawks receivers flinching in anticipation of others, and led the Packers with seven tackles in their 42-20 NFC playoff victory on Saturday.
After being named the NFC's defensive player of the month after four interceptions in December, Bigby's new year sure didn't start well.
He couldn't get back from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on time after a four-day break during the Packers' first-round bye and missed a practice. Packers coach Mike McCarthy had a short, one-sided meeting, doled out discipline and moved on.
With that, Bigby was back and hitting. Now, the Packers are headed to the NFC championship game either against the Cowboys or the Giants.
Bigby's biggest play on Saturday was forcing Seattle's most experienced postseason player, Marcus Pollard, to fumble on the first play of the second quarter with the game tied at 14.
``I always tell the guys, 'Play fast, and I'm going to back you up,''' Bigby said. ``They threw the ball and I saw it. Before I could blink, I was on him.''
Bigby recognized that his hit helped swing the momentum for good after two Packers turnovers helped stake the Seahawks to a 14-0 lead.
And before the record crowd at Lambeau Field could exhale in the snowy setting, the Packers went on a scoring binge with touchdown after touchdown, piling up the most points they've ever scored in a postseason game.
``My attitude was they scored two cheap ones,'' Bigby said. ``We had to do something big to get our fans and our team back into it.''
He did, and by the second half, the Seahawks couldn't have been more out of sync.
The veteran Pollard let a sure touchdown pass slip through his hands, and dropped another pass late in the game. Ben Obomanu, who had earlier been hit hard by Bigby, had a drop in Packers' territory as Seattle failed to mount a rally, gaining just 200 yards of total offense.
``Any time your secondary makes those receivers a little jumpy out there catching the ball, it pays dividends,'' Woodson said.
Bigby's success is a reward for the organization's patience in developing him. After short stints with the Dolphins and Jets, general manager Ted Thompson signed Bigby to the Packers' practice squad in November 2005.
He returned to the practice squad in 2006 after breaking his hand, and wasn't on the active roster until being used on special teams in November.
But another of Thompson's decisions - the signing of safety Marquand Manuel - wasn't working out and by this season's training camp, Bigby passed his former high school teammate on the depth chart and Manuel was sent packing.
But even after securing the starting job, it was an up-and-down year for Bigby, who misread a special teams play in the opening win against Philadelphia by being too aggressive, which caused Harris to sprain his elbow.
A few weeks later, Bigby made the clinching interception in Minnesota, but then went to Denver and committed four penalties, including a pass interference call in the end zone, a delay of game and a late hit.
But Bigby never lost his starting job, even when McCarthy said in December that those positions would be up for grabs.
That's when Bigby shined the brightest.
He had an interception against Oakland, two against St. Louis and another against Detroit. He finished third on the team in tackles and leads the Packers with four forced fumbles.
Did Harris and Woodson know that Bigby would come up big?
``Atari took some heat for some plays - interferences or penalties of that nature. But one thing about Atari, he's not going to stop. That's what I love about him. That's what the coaches love about him,'' Woodson said. ``I love having him back there.''