The Packers defense will return to square one this week: Stop the run. That’s something it didn’t do on Sunday, as the Bears rushed for 199 yards in the Packers’ 35-21 win.
“Our performance yesterday is probably our worst performance in our time here,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said of the Packers’ run-defense. “We don’t sweep things under the rug when we win games. We’ll talk about it on Wednesday.”
Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers discussed the matter with reporters on Monday.
“We need to make improvement in our run-defense. They bled us for too much yardage. I know we can play the run a lot better than we did yesterday,” Capers said.
What makes the success of the Bears’ running game most alarming is that it comes at a time when the Packers are heading into a cold-weather playoffs. The Packers clinched home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs and potential opponents at Lambeau Field include the 49ers with the league’s seventh-ranked running game and the Saints at No. 10.
“When you get to this time of the year, you have to stop the run,” Capers said.
The Packers expect to have defensive lineman Ryan Pickett back for the postseason. Pickett, who McCarthy referred to as “our best run-defender,” has missed the last two games due to a concussion.
Capers blamed Sunday’s problems on loss of gap-control and bad footwork.
It’s especially disconcerting for Capers that the Packers had expected the Bears to employ a run-the-ball game plan.
“We knew it was going to be that kind of game. We’ve got some things to work on. Teams that can mix the run and keep you off-balance, they make you play more honest. If you do stop the run, it becomes a one-dimensional game,” Capers said.
Rookie linebacker Vic So’oto, a preseason sensation, saw his most extensive action of the season and appeared to bring energy to the defensive front and set a hard edge. It’s likely So’oto will see more action in the regular-season finale against Detroit.
“We’d like to give him an opportunity; make the most of your opportunities and make it tough for us not to get you on the field. He’s still very raw at this point,” Capers said of So’oto.
On the plus side, the defense got back to forcing turnovers after a game in which it failed to force a turnover for the first time this season. The Packers intercepted two passes against the Bears and forced two fumbles that were recovered by the Bears.
“When that ball is on the ground, you have to find a way to come away with it,” Capers said.
The defense remained at No. 31 in total yardage, but fell to No. 16 against the run. Additional coverage - Dec. 26