GREEN BAY—Something happened in the Packers’ locker room at halftime.
“I really liked the resolve our guys played with,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said of a Packers defense that shut out the Falcons in the second half of the Packers’ 22-21 win on Sunday. “We had the two three-and-outs and then the takeaway, and then the way we closed out the game. It’s kind of the reverse of the way we’ve been all year.”
It would go a long way toward winning a playoff berth if the Packers defense were to be the reverse of what it was in November. It entered the month as the No. 11 defense in the league, No. 4 against the run. It ended the month No. 24 in the league, No. 26 against the run.
What caused the change on Sunday?
“We talked about it at halftime. The first half was over. To give you a reason, I can’t say other than we were controlling down and distance better (in the second half),” Capers said.
Might the change in the Packers defense – and the offense, too – be attributable to the boos the team heard as it left the field at halftime? Was the booing responsible for the new resolve?
Capers said he was unaware of the fans’ reaction, but Head Coach Mike McCarthy referred to it prominently in his postgame address to the media.
“I told them it’s lonely being a warrior,” McCarthy said of his halftime words to his players.
“Maybe we need more,” Capers joked on Monday when asked about the boos. “Looking in their eyes in the locker room, I felt we’d get a good effort coming out.”
That effort would include what Capers termed his defense’s “best tackling performance of the season,” a game after having missed 15 tackles in a dismal loss in Detroit.
“Life in the NFL is five percent what happens to you and 95 percent how you respond to it. There are going to be a lot of bumps in the road. They’re going to make plays,” Capers said.
Offensively, the Packers also saved their best for last. Matt Flynn drove the offense 58 and 68 yards to Mason Crosby field goals that cut the deficit to 21-16, and then Flynn pitched a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Quarless with 12:01 to play in the game.
“The biggest thing is the entire offense performed better,” Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said of the difference in his unit’s play on Sunday as compared to on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit when, with 4:17 to play in the game, the Packers had gained but 56 total net yards.
Flynn, of course, is getting the bulk of the credit. He was efficient in passing for 258 yards and a 95.6 passer rating on Sunday. McCarthy also made it sound on Monday as though there’s a strong likelihood Flynn will be the Packers’ starting quarterback in Dallas this week, as Aaron Rodgers has yet to be medically cleared to play.
Special teams were at their best in the most difficult weather conditions of the season. Crosby was good on all three of his field goal attempts, and punter Tim Masthay killed a punt on the Falcons 1-yard line with 44 seconds to play. It was dangerously scooped up and returned to the 9-yard line.
“The ball stopped at the 1-yard line. We did a good job of covering it. Their guy probably thought we had touched it. Both of them had avoided it,” Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum said.
“We did very well managing the weather conditions. The ball was like hitting a rock on a day like that. I thought both of our guys kicked the ball well,” Slocum added. Additional coverage - Dec. 9