GREEN BAY – A second-quarter offensive explosion by the Panthers ruined an otherwise satisfactory effort by the Packers defense on Sunday.
Carolina gained 213 of their 427 total yards and scored 24 of their 37 total points in the second quarter. It was a quarter punctuated by three long passes: a 59-yard completion on third-and-16, a 52-yard completion on the first play of the Panthers’ next possession, and a 39-yard touchdown pass on the Panthers’ last play of the first half.
“The tough stretch was the second quarter. About as tough a stretch as you could have going into the locker room,” Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said.
It marked the third consecutive game in which the Packers defense allowed 400 or more total yards, which has dropped the unit’s league ranking to 23rd overall, and Nos. 27 and 23 respectively against the run and against the pass.
Capers finds his defense in a position similar to where it was midway through last season, coming off a poor performance in New Orleans in the eighth game of the season. It became the turning point in the season, as the Packers defense played its best football of the season in the final eight regular-season games and two playoff games.
It was the move of Clay Matthews from outside linebacker to inside linebacker that initiated that revival last year. No such dramatic moves are expected this season; the Packers will just simply have to elevate their play.
“The most encouraging thing coming out of the game is the way our defense responded in the second half. I thought we showed a lot of grit,” Capers said of the Carolina game.
“It was the No. 1 rush team. They do a lot of scheme things. I was pleased with the way we played the run. I had 2.8 yards per rush. For the type of run team they are, we did a good job. In the pass game, you can’t give up seven big plays,” he added.
The big decision this week, as the Packers prepare for Sunday’s game against visiting Detroit, is who’ll start at inside linebacker next to Matthews. Rookie Jake Ryan got his most extensive playing time and led the Packers in tackles, but Head Coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t overly complimentary of Ryan’s performance.
“Jake is a young guy who’s learning. Jake can be an active guy. He’s learning, he’s grown. We’re going to have to look at what personnel group we play against the Lions. That’ll determine how much Jake or Nate (Palmer) plays,” Capers said. “We have to look at what will allow us to get our best 11 players out there.”
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