Dom Capers doesn’t want to sound like a broken record, but he will until the situation improves.
“You’ll hear me say this all year – if you want to keep people out of your end zone, you have to keep them from getting yardage in big chunks,” said the Packers defensive coordinator.
In reviewing Sunday’s 49-23 victory over Denver, Capers felt his defense was victimized once again by the big play, as it was in the first two games of the season.
Against the Broncos, it was simple. When the defense gave up a big play, Denver scored. When it didn’t, the Broncos didn’t score.
A 28-yard run by Willis McGahee in the first quarter led to a field goal, a 44-yard flea-flicker pass to Brandon Lloyd in the second quarter led to a touchdown, a 33-yard completion to Eric Decker in the second quarter was a touchdown, and a 23-yard back-shoulder fade to Lloyd in the fourth quarter set up another TD.
Those were Denver’s four longest plays in the game, and they produced the Broncos’ four scores.
“You can trace those big plays and normally they end up with points on the board,” Capers said.
Denver’s next-biggest play was a 22-yard pass to tight end Daniel Fells, but that ended with linebacker Desmond Bishop forcing a fumble that safety Morgan Burnett recovered near the goal line.
Capers referred to the turnovers, like the play by Bishop, as “the big equalizer” for his defense right now. The defense’s four takeaways led to 21 points on Sunday. The Packers’ 11 total takeaways are tied for the most in the NFC, helping a defense that ranks 28th in the league in yards allowed.
“That’s been the savior for us,” Capers said.
“The encouraging thing to me is I know we can make a lot of improvement from where we are right now,” he added as the Packers prepare for a playoff rematch in Atlanta this Sunday. “We’ll certainly have to do that this week because of this offense we’re going against.”
Meanwhile, Green Bay’s offense graded out “the highest I can remember in my time here,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said of the six-touchdown, 507-yard performance.
To that unit, the Packers this week will add running back Ryan Grant, who has been cleared by the medical staff after missing the Denver game with a kidney bruise. McCarthy expects Grant to practice on Wednesday.
That will give the Packers back their 1-2 backfield punch of Grant and James Starks, whose pass-protection skills impressed Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin the most against Denver.
“I thought he really took a step forward in that area,” Philbin said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of blitzing going on, but he just moved around in the backfield as a protector probably better than he has since he’s been here, and that’s a real important part of what we do at the running back position.”
Also on the injury front, receiver Donald Driver appears no worse for wear after getting carted off the field on Sunday, returning to catch a touchdown, and then limping around the locker room on a sore knee after the game.
“He feels good,” McCarthy said of Driver. “He may miss some practice time, but I don’t feel he’s in danger of not playing.”
McCarthy also confirmed that receiver Jordy Nelson has signed a contract extension. Nelson is the second member of the 2008 draft class to get a new deal before reaching free agency after this season, joining guard Josh Sitton.
Nelson is another example of the Packers’ draft-and-develop philosophy who has steadily grown and proven he’s worth keeping long-term. Through four games this season, Nelson has 15 catches for 292 yards and three touchdowns.
The TDs already are a career high, as is the 19.5 yards per catch. He’s on pace to surpass his career best in yardage, 582 last year, by midseason.
“He’s getting more opportunities now,” McCarthy said. “He’s been very productive, and he had a strong finish last season. He’s earned everything he’s accomplished to this point.” Additional coverage - Oct. 3