Communication lapses blamed in botched plays
By Tom Silverstein, Journal-Sentinel
~Green Bay – Poor communication was the explanation buzzing around every corner of Green Bay Packers headquarters Monday after the secondary botched three big plays and several smaller ones in a 45-38 victory over San Diego on Sunday.
On Tuesday, after a day off, players concurred with their coaches that communication had something to do with lapses, but in no way were they thinking the situation was as bad as in 2008, when big gaffes were the norm under then-defensive coordinator Bob Sanders.
“That was totally different from now,” linebacker Desmond Bishop said. “That was more of a disconnect. You could feel the players not really believing in the system anymore.
“This is just a matter of getting everybody hitting on all cylinders. It’s up and down. Sometimes we’re on point and sometimes we’re not. We just need to figure out how to hit on all cylinders.”
It’s doubtful anyone on defense has lost any faith in coordinator Dom Capers’ defense even in the face of allowing 400 yards of offense for the third straight week and fifth time this season. The Packers rank 30th in total defense and 31st in passing defense after allowing 460 yards to the Chargers, which is enough to cause concern even to a team that has yet to lose a game.
One of the concepts Bishop was willing to entertain when it was suggested to him Tuesday was simplification of the defense.
Capers and his staff have done a terrific job of making their system player-friendly to the extent that players like Erik Walden and Howard Green were able to step in last season and contribute soon after they were acquired.
However, the season-ending injury to veteran safety Nick Collins has removed the main traffic cop from the secondary, and the safety tandem of Charlie Peprah and Morgan Burnett has had some issues meshing with the cornerbacks. That was particularly evident Sunday, when the secondary was stressed by a very creative offensive attack.
“Maybe simplifying it might not be like a punishment,” Bishop said. “It might actually be good. Teams game plan for so much stuff and we only do a few things, it might throw them off. But that’s up to the coaches.”
Three plays from Sunday illustrate best how the mistakes are both communication and player performance issues.
The first: On third and 1 at the San Diego 43 on the last play of the first quarter, quarterback Philip Rivers connected on a 38-yard completion to receiver Vincent Jackson to set up the Chargers’ second touchdown.
The Chargers used the same play the New Orleans Saints did on a 31-yard touchdown completion on the first drive of the season opener. They ran a play-action fake that caused Peprah to come up and abandon his deep middle position and allow Jackson to beat cornerback Tramon Williams for the long gain.
There’s a little bit of gray area because Peprah wants to be aggressive to the ball if it’s a running play, but player performance comes in because the secondary was made aware of the possibility of a play-action fake. In his defense, Peprah did the same thing Collins did on the play against the Saints.
“We had expected that, we had just called it out, ‘Watch the shot,’ ” Williams said. “It just didn’t get done.”
Peprah took the blame for hanging Williams out to dry but said he did have run responsibility. In retrospect, he said, he would have read the play longer and gotten back to give Williams any kind of help that would have made it harder for Rivers to complete the pass.
The second: On second and goal at the 5 in the fourth quarter, the Chargers sent three receivers out from a bunch formation and both Williams and Peprah let Jackson run free into the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Williams ran up on a pass in the flat similar to when he picked off Rivers and returned it for a touchdown in the first quarter. Charles Woodson went to the flat as well, leaving Peprah to shade toward tight end Antonio Gates in the middle.
Williams insisted his responsibility was in the flat and not to follow Jackson, although if he had he would have had another interception.
“There’s no gray area, there should have been someone there, but you can’t fault anyone,” Williams said. “Everyone should have pushed up. But there should have been a play on that. You know, that happens.”
The third: On first and 10 at the Packers 29 with 6½ minutes left, Rivers completed a touchdown pass to a wide-open Jackson.
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