GREEN BAY—For seven years, Jarrett Bush chased Devin Hester through the NFC North. Monday night, Bush will chase Hester across Lambeau Field again.
“We played him 17 times and here we go, again,” Packers Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum said, as he previewed the special team edition of Monday night’s game between the Packers and Falcons.
Bush is the prototypical special teams gunner. Hester is arguably the greatest return man in NFL history. The Bears allowed Hester to leave in free agency this past offseason, thinking Hester had lost something as he headed into his eighth season, but Hester is back on top of the league in punt-return average, 15.4. He also has to his credit one punt return for a touchdown.
“When the schedule came out, I said, ‘Man, we have to play him again. What a terrific player,” Slocum said. “We need to count on our coverage guys.”
Bush, of course, is the Packers’ star coverage guy.
Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers’ attention is on the Falcons’ passing game. Quarterback Matt Ryan completed 30 of 41 passes for 361 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 105.8 passer rating in the Falcons’ 29-18 win over the Cardinals last week. The Falcons’ passing attack is No. 6 in the league and is clearly their best weapon.
“They kind of hit their stride last week,” Capers said, referring to the Falcons’ 500-yard output. “They were very productive against a top defense. Julio Jones is a difference maker. He leads the league in 20-plus-yard plays.
“Matt Ryan does a lot at the line of scrimmage. They’ve got a lot of weapons to work with. He has a very high rating against pressure,” Capers added.
The Packers will be playing without cornerback Sam Shields (concussion), which makes the task of stopping Ryan and the Falcons’ passing attack especially daunting. The Packers will be counting on their depth at cornerback – Davon House and Casey Hayward – to account for the loss of Shields.
“In this day and age, if you don’t have depth in the secondary, you have big problems,” Capers said.
Offensively, the Packers would appear to be a mismatch for the Falcons defense, which is No. 32 overall and No. 32 in pass defense. That’s not a favorable matchup for a defense about to face Aaron Rodgers and his high-flying receiving corps.
“They’re playing better,” Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said of the Falcons defense. “They played well against the Cardinals. We’re anticipating their best effort and we need ours.
“Over the last month, we’ve been pretty consistent. We’re running well, getting explosive plays. We have to keep it up,” Clements added.