Big plays continue to rain down on the Packers defense, and the unit’s coordinator, Dom Capers, said opponents will continue to throw deep until the Packers are successful in defending the deep throw.
“People study tape. Whatever you put on tape, you’re going to see. You’re going to see it until you stop it. I think our guys are aware of that,” Capers told reporters on Monday, the day after quarterback Aaron Rodgers drove the Packers 68 yards in the final minute of the game to defeat the New York Giants, 38-35.
It was another disappointing day for a defense that has inexplicably fallen on hard times. Twelve games into the season, the Packers are 31st in the league in overall defense and in pass-defense. That’s not a formula for winning, but Rodgers has made it work.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy stood up for the defense in his press conference on Monday, largely because defense was the constant that carried the Packers through tough times last season en route to the Super Bowl XLV title.
“In my time here, our defense has stood up in adversity situations so much more than offense,” McCarthy said, citing the fact that Sunday’s win represented a rare occasion when the offense was forced to score late for the Packers to win.
The trials and tribulations of the defense are becoming worrisome, however, for a team that appears destined for another trip to the Super Bowl. With four games remaining in the regular season, is there enough time for the defense to return to something closer to its 2010 form?
“I don’t think you ever want to live like that,” Capers said, referring to another game in which the defense allowed more than 400 yards of offense. “We want to make improvement in the big-play area.”
If the defense can just eliminate the big plays, the yardage it’s surrendering would decline dramatically. At MetLife Stadium, the Packers allowed a 67-yard catch-and-run touchdown by tight end Travis Beckum, and receptions of 51 and 42 yards by wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz respectively.
Nicks’ reception was the result of a communication problem.
“We did have a couple of times when the headset went out. One of them did cost us. I made a call and it ended up in them making a big play,” Capers said, referring to Nicks’ reception on what was the Giants’ first play of the second half.
The Packers continue to have difficulty defending the deep-post route.
“We have to play it better and know we’re going to see that route when we’re in that coverage,” Capers said.
The run-defense ranking has fallen from third to 13th, but that’s largely a product of having to commit more defenders to the passing lanes. That was the case when D.J. Ware scored on a two-point-conversion run to tie the game with :58 to play.
“Eli (Manning) saw we were in split safeties and he audibled to the run,” Capers said.
Capers praised the play of linebacker Clay Matthews and nose tackle B.J. Raji.
“I hope what we saw yesterday is what we’ll see down the stretch,” Capers said of Raji, who Capers judged to have been quicker, strong and more forceful in his pass-rush on Sunday.
What the Packers need most is for a defensive backfield that was the star of the Packers’ postseason run last season to find a middle ground between where it was and where it is. It could turn out to be the difference between what McCarthy referred to as the football definition of the word greatness.
“Greatness is calculated by did you win the Super Bowl?” McCarthy said. Additional coverage - Dec. 5