GREEN BAY—Dom Capers is challenging his defense to stop the league’s No. 1 passing team, and do it without the services of the Packers’ No. 1 pass rusher, Clay Matthews.
How do you do it?
“We’re going to have to play good defense,” the Packers defensive coordinator said.
What’s an example of good team defense?
“The way we went in there and played last year,” Capers replied.
The Packers scored a 27-15 win in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day last year. It was a dominant performance by the then-undefeated Packers, who led 24-0 after three quarters.
It’s the 24-0 message Capers has been emphasizing this week. Against the Lions, the game truly isn’t over until it’s over.
“They’ve scored 23 points more in one quarter (fourth) than they have in the other three quarters combined,” Capers said of this year’s Lions team. “We tried to preach it all week. You better be ready to play four quarters. The way they’re built, that’s their offense’s capability. They’re a real good two-minute team.”
The Lions are built to throw the ball, with a quarterback who was drafted No. 1 overall throwing to a receiver who was selected No. 2 overall. Matt Stafford throwing to Calvin Johnson is one of the most dynamic pass-catch combinations in the league, and it has played to mixed results in recent games against the Packers.
“We’ve had some success and sometimes he’s had success against us. It’s been give and take,” Cornerbacks Coach Joe Whitt said, referring to the head-to-head confrontations between Johnson and Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. “He’s gotten Calvin and Calvin’s gotten him.
“This guy is rare,” Whitt added of Johnson, who will likely go over the 1,000 receiving yards total for the season on Sunday, but whose touchdown catches have slumped to two this year. “There’s only one Calvin Johnson in this league. There’s only one guy that big, that fast and with that catching radius.”
Some would say there’s only one Clay Matthews in the league, but this week there will no Clay Matthews. The Packers’ star pass rusher is out with a hamstring injury.
Where are the Packers going to get the rush they need to hurry Stafford?
“I think Erik Walden has played pretty well for us. He’s given us consistent rush,” Capers said. “We’re getting Jerel Worthy back. We’re going to have to get it from a lot of different people.”
The Packers are counting on production from all three phases of their team to help ease the effects of an injury list that is being felt throughout the roster. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga has been added to the injured reserve list, forcing left guard T.J. Lang to right tackle and swing man Evan Dietrich-Smith into the starting lineup at left guard.
“You feel for the player being hurt, for the person he is and how hard he works at his trade. As for moving forward, we’ve always had the ability and we expect the next man to do his job and have no drop off,” Offensive Line Coach James Campen said.
Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum is counting on kicker Mason Crosby to snap out of a slump that has seen him miss on five of his last 10 kicks.
“He looks good kicking the ball. The bottom line is you have to make those field goals and we’re going to need him moving forward,” Slocum said.
Offensively, second-year wide receiver Randall Cobb has emerged as one of the game’s rising stars.
“They’re obviously more aware of him,” Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said of opposing defenses. “We have to move him around to different spots so they have to make adjustments to where he is.” Additional coverage - Nov. 16