GREEN BAY — Dom Capers saw a tale of two halves when he sat down to review the film from the Packers’ 47-25 loss to Tennessee on Sunday.
Anything that could go wrong for Green Bay’s defense did go wrong in the first two quarters, with the Titans scoring touchdowns on each of their first four possessions.
When the defense finally earned a stop, a controversial muffed punt gave Tennessee the ball back at Green Bay’s 12-yard line with a little more than two minutes left in the first half.
Ultimately, eight of the Titans’ 10 longest plays came during a 35-point first half with none bigger than DeMarco Murray’s 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game.
It was that momentary lapse by a run defense that had been allowing only 75.8 yards per game that put the Packers in a hole early, and the Packers’ defensive coordinator could sense it had an impact in the ensuing drives.
“Anytime you’re on the road and a team has success against you early, you have to handle the adversity,” Capers said. “That’s the ebb and flow of games and it’s always accentuated when you’re on the road. We had a hard time doing that. I think that first play impacted us for the next three, four series where we had them in situations to get off the field, but we didn’t get off the field.”
The defense turned the tide in the second half, beginning with forcing a quick three-and-out that immediately led to the offense executing a 10-play, 78-yard scoring drive to pull back within two scores of the Titans.
Tennessee only had 95 total yards of offense in the final two quarters, but two personal-foul penalties aided two Titans scoring drives in the second half.
While Capers found positives in the way his defense responded to the early setback, it all contributed to the Packers, as a team, finishing with 12 penalties for 107 yards.
“When you’re down that much, you have to try to pressure and make some impactful plays. We had an opportunity to make a few but we didn’t get them made,” Capers said.
“We talk all the time that two, three, four plays are critical plays in the game. Still, in the second half if we don’t make a couple penalties, we make a couple plays, we still have a chance in that game.”
In the locker room, many members of the Packers’ 10th-ranked defense expressed confidence in the unit being able to revert back to how it played in the first two months.
Like Capers, linebacker Blake Martinez said Murray’s early touchdown was difficult for the defense to brush off before coming together to hold Murray to only 16 carries for 48 yards for the remainder of the game (3.0 avg.).
“Once you get in the heat of battle, obviously things happen,” Martinez said. “They’re an NFL team. They make plays. The one thing we have to learn from that is see those things and not let them happen again, and not let it kind of compound on itself. I think that’s what happened to us on Sunday.”
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and linebacker Julius Peppers each said the defense is close to playing how it wants to play despite the litany of injuries it’s dealt with this season.
Along with missing starting cornerbacks Sam Shields and Damarious Randall, the Packers have been without Pro Bowler Clay Matthews for the past three games. It didn’t help matters that starting linebacker Jake Ryan also exited in the first quarter with an ankle injury and didn’t return.
Where some may see a three-game losing streak and nothing more, Peppers sees a group that’s sticking together, staying resilient and not giving in to the adversity it faces.
Still, the veteran pass-rusher doesn’t argue the fact that the defense needs to make more big plays.
“We just have to rally and we have to find a way to stop the bleeding,” Peppers said. “Somebody has to make a play. I think that’s a little bit of what we’re missing right now, guys making plays and that’s pretty much what the game is. Having playmakers on the field make plays. So we have to have a lot more of that, we have to have a lot more of that moving forward and we’ll get it done.”
With the Packers only one game back in the NFC North, their defense looks to get back on track this Sunday against Washington.
Peppers, who’s become a leader in the locker room since his arrival in 2014, has no doubt that the defense will find a way to get things corrected.
“We’re going to get it done,” Peppers said. “There’s no reason to believe anything other than that in this locker room. We know where we stand. We don’t necessarily want to get caught on other teams and what they’re doing.
“We’re focusing on us and we just have to get the win. That’s the bottom line. We’re going to win this week and we’re going to get it turned around.”
Unfair catch: After reviewing Trevor Davis’ muffed punt, special teams coordinator Ron Zook believes the rookie receiver was hit by Tennessee long-snapper Beau Brinkley before he was given a chance to field the fair catch.
By rule, Davis should be protected from contact until the ball touches the ground.
“The tape I watched he was,” said Zook when asked if Davis was hit early.
“Obviously, that’s a bang-bang call. Those things are made like that, but in a fair catch, you’re protected even if you bobble it until the ball hits the ground.”