Most improved player on defense

Atari Bigby

Bigby making presence felt when games count the most, says PackerReport.com's Todd Korth

Gradually, game-by-game throughout this season, Atari Bigby has gone from a player trying to find his way to the leader of Green Bay's hit parade. The strong safety continues to make his presence felt to opposing teams, and that was no different in Green Bay's NFC Divisional playoff win over Seattle Saturday night.

Bigby led the Packers with seven tackles in Green Bay's 42-20 playoff win over Seattle Saturday night. He had a hit on tight end Marcus Pollard that jarred the ball loose and enabled defensive end Aaron Kampman to recover on the Seahawks' 18 yard line early in the second quarter. The Packers went on to score the go-ahead touchdown and take firm control of the game's momentum.

With each game and each big hit, it seems that Bigby gets more amped up. He compares making a big hit to one of his favorite hobbies.

"It's like catching a fish," Bigby said. "You can just feel him fightin' for his life. It's a great feeling.

"You can actually feel the electricity in his body. I'm tellin' ya, it's hard to describe, but it's great. The way I can describe it is like catching a fish."

Whether he's ice fishing in Green Bay, or landing a big one near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Bigby has been reeling them in in more ways than one lately.

Bigby was third on the team in tackles (121) and tied for fourth in the NFC in 2007 with five interceptions. He made a few diving grabs off tipped balls, and he was named NFC Defensive player of the month for December, mainly because of the four picks. But he has had an even greater impact by being physical - perhaps the most physical Packers safety since LeRoy Butler was roaming the field - and that has been a huge difference between this season and last year with Marquand Manuel as the starter.

Bigby knows he has to be physical, and that is defined by his attitude toward the game.

"You know what? This is a physical game, so you have to come out and be physical every game," Bigby said. "We felt like we had to do whatever it took to win, you know? In the playoffs it's a one-shot deal. Whatever it takes."

Bigby and fellow safety Nick Collins, along with veteran cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris are a handful for opposing receivers. While they get flagged at times for holding, or unnecessary roughness, it's all part of doing business for Bigby and the secondary.

"That has been our emphasis the whole year - go out there and be physical," said Collins. "Bring the pain to them. Don't let them bring the pain to us."

Bigby, a first-year starter, had his ups and downs early on this year, and understandably so. But his play down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs easily make him the most improved player on Green Bay's defense. He has been a site for sore eyes with Packers fans, but not necessarily opposing ball carriers. Just ask a few of the Seahawks.

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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