GREEN BAY—For all their struggles the past month, the individuals on the Packers defense aren’t playing the blame game.
“I haven’t seen any guys pointing fingers at all, and that’s the good thing about it,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “That’s the truth. It hasn’t been like that around here.”
Whether the popular external opinion is that the problems are rooted in the coaches, the scheme, certain players or a specific position group, no one internally is looking for a scapegoat.
That’s practical because it wouldn’t do any good and wouldn’t help the defense get out of “this rut,” as Williams called it. It’s also prudent because there’s no way to pin this on one thing, not when the defense hasn’t held anyone under 26 points in six straight games, and not when opposing offenses have topped 200 yards rushing in three of the last four weeks.
“We’re all taking part in that. We’re a team. We’re not singling anyone out,” linebacker Nick Perry said. “This is a football game, 11 on 11 out there. We have to step up. Everybody has to step up.”
It’ll start with better tackling. Defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said last Thursday’s game in Detroit featured the most missed tackles he’d ever been a part of, with the defense putting out “embarrassing” film. It’s more than just buzzwords like fundamentals, technique and finish, though.
“Tackling is part of a group,” Williams said. “If you set out for one guy to make the tackle, there’s going to be missed tackles out there. If a group of guys come and make tackles, there’s going to be a lot of good-looking tackles out there.
“We’re focused on getting guys to the ball and, hopefully, we look a little better at that.”
Gang-tackling has always been necessary against running back Steven Jackson, whom the Packers have faced many times, but never before with the Falcons. A prized free-agent acquisition in the offseason, Jackson has missed a handful of games due to injuries but started to look like his old self last week with a season-best 84 rushing yards and two TDs in an overtime win over Buffalo.
Nothing demoralizes a defense more than getting run on the way the Eagles, Vikings and Lions have run on the Packers in the last month. A top-five run defense in the first half of the season, Green Bay has fallen all the way to 26th in the league.
“It definitely starts up front. The game is won and lost at the line,” defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. “We have accountable guys in our room. We’re looking at it as, … we have to take control of the ship here. We have to really make sure we do our job the best and everybody else will follow.”
Given the forecast for a cold Sunday afternoon in Green Bay, stopping Jackson may be the Packers’ key to ending their current winless streak.
All signs point to the weather working against the Falcons, who have played nine of their 12 games this season in domes, and three outdoor games in Miami, Tampa and Charlotte.
But Mike McCarthy’s message Thursday was, in effect, that 20-degree temperatures won’t tackle Jackson. Chilly air won’t block Osi Umenyiora or cover Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez, either.
“That’s a loser’s mentality,” McCarthy said. “We’re not counting on the weather. We’re preparing to play the game in the weather that we live in. We’re really focused on ourselves.
“I think if you sit here and try to play that mind game with your opponent, it’s a waste of time.”
So is dwelling on last Thursday or trying to find someone or something to blame for the defense’s woes. McCarthy has said multiple times in recent weeks that accountability remains high, and if that doesn’t change, chances are at least better that the results will.
“You’re not a fighter until you’ve had to get up off that mat. That’s what they tell boxers,” Daniels said. “So we’ll see how guys respond. We got knocked down, we’ll see how guys get up. It’s not whether you get up, it’s how you get up.” Additional coverage - Dec. 5