GREEN BAY – Through two games, the Packers’ defense is stopping the run, pressuring the quarterback, and performing well on third downs.
What it needs to do now is start generating turnovers.
“We have to find a way to get that ball taken away and get a defensive score, or set up great field position for the offense,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday.
In reviewing the 17-14 loss in Minnesota, Capers saw plenty to like about his defense. The Packers held Adrian Peterson to 19 yards on 12 carries. They sacked new Vikings QB Sam Bradford four times, and hit him an even 10, in 35 drop-backs. The Vikings converted just four of 14 on third down.
All of those efforts have contributed to the Packers, through two weeks, being ranked No. 1 in the league in rushing defense (78 yards allowed), tied for No. 4 in sacks (seven), and No. 5 on third down (27.6 percent).
There are big-play issues to get a handle on. The Vikings had just three pass plays of 20-plus yards, though, down from the half dozen the Jaguars posted a week ago. The problem was they all came from the same receiver, second-year pro Stefon Diggs, who became a tough assignment for cornerback Damarious Randall.
“He went against a receiver that had a hot hand,” Capers said of the Randall-Diggs matchup. “He was good with the ball after the catch.
“It wasn’t all Damarious. There were some zones there where we have to give him more help underneath. But give (number) 14 credit. He’s a good receiver and had a good night.”
Also credit Bradford for some pinpoint throws, particularly on two of Diggs’ big plays (a 44-yarder and 25-yard TD) and on the TD pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Still, the Vikings only managed 17 points, which has Capers looking at how his unit can do more to help Green Bay’s offense, and that’s where turnovers and field position come in.
The defense hasn’t generated a turnover since the opening possession of the season at Jacksonville. Linebacker Joe Thomas’ interception gave the offense the ball at the Jaguars’ 29-yard line, and it led to a touchdown.
Since then, following a defensive stop, the Packers have started a drive at a spot better than their own 24-yard line only once, and that was thanks to a blocked punt against the Vikings (which also led to a TD).
“Taking the ball away – they did a good job protecting the ball – and trying to establish good field position for our offense, we weren’t able to get that done,” Capers said.
The overall health of Capers’ unit will be watched closely heading into this week’s game against Detroit.
Defensive lineman Letroy Guion (knee) and safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring) both left the Vikings game, while cornerback Sam Shields (concussion) missed it entirely. Linebacker Clay Matthews also was on the sideline late in the game, though no reason was specified. Matthews had left the game briefly early to have his ankle re-taped.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy had no update on the injury situation, other than to say Shields had a workout on Monday morning, which would indicate he’s not being totally restricted from physical activity in the concussion protocol.
Capers was pleased with how rookie Kenny Clark filled in for Guion in some extended playing time. Clark, a first-round draft pick, was credited in the press box stats with two tackles and a deflected pass. Christian Ringo and Dean Lowry also got some snaps up front.
“Kenny played better (Sunday) night,” Capers said. “You saw him make some good plays. You see some signs of what Kenny can do.
“Those young guys have to grow up in a hurry because we need them. I think we’ll see Kenny play better this week, and see him progressively get better game to game.”
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