Getting defensive about the defense
From Tyler Dunne, Journal-Sentinel
~San Diego – He refused to force a smile and assure that everything would be OK. No damage control here. Charles Woodson wasn’t in the mood for sugarcoating, for putting a bow on the Green Bay Packers’ 45-38 win at San Diego.
After 14 years in the NFL, the Green Bay Packer cornerback realizes problems like this cannot be ignored.
“I’ll always be happy about a win, but the way we went out there and played defense today was disappointing from a lot of different aspects,” Woodson said. “Just a lot of bad football.”
Another win, another day surrendering 400-plus yards. The Packers held off a rally to stay undefeated Sunday. Fresh off the bye week, nothing changed. Death, taxes, Aaron Rodgers’ near-perfect play and a secondary offsetting sloppy stretches with turnovers.
After nearly blowing a 21-point fourth quarter lead, the elephant in the room is louder than ever.
Three plays – a pair of first-quarter interceptions returned for touchdowns and Charlie Peprah’s game-closing pick – were the difference.
Yes, 3 of 46 Philip Rivers passes. Can the Packers realistically continue to give up so many passing yards and return to the Super Bowl? That’s the concern Green Bay must continue to manage.
In San Diego, there were far too many communication breakdowns. Before snaps, arms flailed, players moved. There were plenty of signals, audibles and adjusting. But there were not consistent stops. Rivers threw for 385 yards on 26-of-46 passing with four touchdowns.
“I didn’t like way we responded in adversity times,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “After the onside kick, they went out and scored in three plays. You don’t ever want that.
“Overall, the areas we have to improve on the most, we’ve got to do a better job in communication. You’re on the road; we’re playing a good offensive football team. We knew going in that they were going to be a challenge.”
No Super Bowl team in recent memory has given up this many big plays in the passing game.
The last 10 Super Bowl champions have finished fifth (Green Bay), 26th (New Orleans), first (Pittsburgh), 11th (New York Giants), second (Indianapolis), 16th (Pittsburgh), 17th (New England), 15th (New England), first (Tampa Bay) and 24th (New England) against the pass.
That 2009 Saints team may be the best comparison. Dom Capers and Gregg Williams boast distinctly different schemes, but Williams was able to cloak problems in his secondary with pressure, blitzes and confusion.
New Orleans allowed 236 passing yards per game – 64 less than the Packers’ current average – but compensated with turnovers.
Recall, as joyous as it may be for you, that ’09 NFC title game. Brett Favre was the Shane Mosley to Williams’ Manny Pacquiao. He passed for 310 yards but was pressured nine times and hit seven times.
Favre wasn’t sacked but the pressure eventually took a toll as the future Hall of Famer threw a costly interception at the end of the fourth quarter.
En route to that championship, the Saints knocked off three of the game’s elite quarterbacks – Kurt Warner, Favre and Peyton Manning. A poor pass defense was on the stand weekly, and survived.
So that’s what the Packers are banking on. The Saints didn’t magically cure their pass defense mid-season and it didn’t matter. They found other ways to pester offenses. The Saints had 26 interceptions in the regular season and then stifled Favre and Manning in crunch time. They remained opportunistic all season. In Green Bay, Tracy Porter heroism must continue.
And Capers may need to continue blitzing (a lot) more. The last few weeks, he’s done that.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop leads the team in sacks (four) and said afterward the defense may need to keep pressuring. Don’t be surprised if Capers gets creative against Christian Ponder and the Vikings on Monday night.
Full story here (subscription required)