GREEN BAY—The Packers’ three coordinators painted bright pictures for their respective units, as they addressed the media on Monday for the start of the team’s bye week.
At 6-3, the Packers have the league’s No. 18 offense (23rd in rushing and 12th in passing), No. 13 overall defense (10th against the run and 20th against the pass), and arguably the league’s best big-play special teams, which rank fifth in kick-return offense and punt-return defense.
“Fortunately, we have a winning streak. We’re looking forward to the rest of the year,” Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said.
The Packers’ offensive rankings lag considerably behind last year’s numbers, but numbers alone don’t tell the story. The Packers offense has played most of the season without star wide receiver Greg Jennings, without last year’s breakout pass-catcher Jordy Nelson for nearly all of the last two games, lost running back Cedric Benson in Week 5, and have battled to hold forth despite assorted other hurts.
“When you don’t have your top guys in there, it’s going to affect you. We haven’t had Greg. He’s a difference maker, a playmaker. Hopefully, we’ll get all of the guys healthy and see what we can do,” Clements said.
The Packers’ defensive ranks are significantly improved from those of a year ago, when the Packers finished the season as the NFL’s worst-ranked defense in two main categories, total yards and sacks per pass play. Through nine games this season, the Packers are on the verge of becoming a top 10 defense and lead the league in sacks.
“The two areas of significance are our run defense and then being able to get a large amount of sacks,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said. “The last 5-6 weeks, we’ve been as good as anybody in the league in the run area. That allows you to control down and distance.
"If we can eliminate the big plays, I think we’re hard to score on.”
The Packers are 11th in the league in points per game allowed.
Whereas both the offense and the defense have had bouts of inconsistency, special teams have been a rock of consistent performance and have also delivered several game-breaking plays. The units’ headliner is return man Randall Cobb, whose role has grown with each game. In Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, Cobb gained 208 yards on 12 touches, which included a kickoff return for 44 yards, a punt return for 28, two touchdown receptions and three runs from scrimmage for 29 yards.
“We’re all in,” Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum said when asked if Cobb’s expanded role on offense could diminish his time in the return game. “Randall has a role on this team and he’s doing a great job with it.”
Against the Cardinals, the Packers’ punt coverage unit held in check Patrick Peterson, one of the most dynamic punt returners in the league.
“Yesterday was another day of us playing well,” Slocum said. “Speed and physicality … I think we’re playing that way.”
Recent misses by kicker Mason Crosby have been the only irritant to special teams play. Crosby missed from 44 yards on Sunday, leaving him with the second lowest field goal conversion percentage in the league, .667.
“Simplify things and get his rhythm and timing,” Slocum said. “I want him to clear the cobwebs and come back ready to go.” Additional coverage - Nov. 5