Mike McCarthy is a coach with a strong offensive background and new-age bent, but his beliefs are rooted in an age-old football philosophy.
“You win championships with great defense,” he said on Friday. “That was true two years ago. Our defense has responded.”
Dom Capers is the coordinator of a Packers revival on the defensive side of the ball this season. After finishing last in the league in total defense and in sacks per pass play last season, the Packers are No. 3 overall and No. 1 in pass defense and in sacks through three weeks of this season. On a team known for offense, it is the play of the defense that has been the Packers’ greatest source of pride so far this year.
“I’ve always felt that about Mike,” Capers said when asked about the belief in defense McCarthy espoused. “Mike cut his teeth with a defensive coach (Marty Schottenheimer) for a lot of years.”
Capers gives McCarthy the kind of esteemed leadership on defense for which Schottenheimer was known, and the Packers will need all of the defense they can muster this Sunday when they host a New Orleans Saints team known for explosive offense.
“It’s hard to win championships when it’s a scoring match every week. We did it last year but it caught up with us in the playoffs,” Capers said.
In last year’s season opener, the Saints and Packers combined for 76 points and 876 yards. By season’s end, the two teams were a combined 28-4 and thought to be heading for another Lambeau Field showdown. You might say this is that showdown, but the defense the Saints are going to face this Sunday is much different than the one they torched last year.
“We’ve got a new group of guys. Every year is a new group. We’ve added some youth and enthusiasm. We’ve added some athletic ability. The rookies have played a lot of football for us. They’ve definitely helped,” Capers said, referring to players such as Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, Casey Hayward, Mike Daniels and Jerron McMillian.
“The one thing you notice is if you make them go the long route, you’re going to be pretty good. We have to keep the explosives down,” Safeties Coach Darren Perry said.
Denying explosive plays would seem to be a major theme for the Packers defense this week against Drew Brees and company.
“This game is a good test for us. The quarterback is one of the best and that offense is explosive,” Capers said.
“There’s potential for this group to improve. If we stay healthy, we’ll get better,” he added.
McCarthy is counting on it. Additional coverage - Sept. 28