GREEN BAY — As fast starts go, Dom Capers got everything he wanted out of the opening quarter of Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
After weeks of emphasizing turnovers, the Packers’ defensive coordinator was pleased to see Green Bay’s front pressure Colts quarterback Andrew Luck into two interceptions during Indianapolis’ first three series.
The pressure persisted throughout with the Packers notching eight hits on Luck, but there were two critical series where the defense fell short en route to the 31-26 defeat.
That was Capers’ takeaway after reviewing Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field. The first was the Colts’ 15-play, 96-yard drive at the end of the first half that gave Indianapolis a two-touchdown lead at halftime.
The second came after the Packers pulled within one score late in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get the necessary stop to avoid Indianapolis gaining two first downs to run out the final 3 minutes, 29 seconds.
“We knew Luck was a guy who could extend plays,” Capers said. “We had a number of hits on him where he did a nice job of keeping the play alive.
“It comes down to when you’re in a game like that and you get opportunities; we’d fought back and did a pretty good job of giving ourselves a chance there in the fourth quarter and we didn’t get the play made at a critical time.”
Overall, Capers was happy with how the defense played. In limiting the Colts to only 3.0 yards per carry, the Packers won a season-high 60 percent of their plays on first down in Capers’ estimation.
The difference was the Colts making five of their seven third-down conversions for the entire game on those two critical series Capers outlined.
Before halftime, they converted a third-and-9 from their own 5 to jump-start the 15-play series that ended with a Donte Moncrief 8-yard touchdown with 11 seconds left.
Then, Luck dodged a blitzing Clinton-Dix and hit tight end Jack Doyle for a 20-yard completion on third-and-10 with 3:19 remaining.
The Packers still had one more opportunity to stop Indianapolis, but gave up a 27-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton on third-and-2 prior to the two-minute warning.
“We were free on the third-down play,” said Capers, talking about Clinton-Dix’s near-sack. “We had exactly what we wanted there. We just didn’t get the play made. Then, you get in the situation where you’re going to take more chances. You can’t let them get any more first downs. … On the third-and-2 play, it was an all-out blitz and they just beat us in man coverage.”
The Packers’ defensive front, playing without linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) for the third time this season, swarmed around Luck on both drives, but couldn’t get the 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback to the ground.
The inability to create more negative plays – the Packers had only two sacks on those eight hits – left a sour taste in the mouth of defensive lineman Mike Daniels.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. I’m going to say we should have played much better and done a lot of things better and we didn’t,” said Daniels, who pressured Luck into the first of Clinton-Dix’s two interceptions.
“We’re all held accountable. I hold myself accountable. I didn’t get home. That goes for everybody. The matchups were there, you see it on paper. We didn’t take advantage of it.
“If it doesn’t (tick) you off, then that’s an issue and I think we have a lot of people who are pretty angry.”
All things considered, the Packers rank eighth in the NFL in total defense (325.8 yards per game) and sacks (21) in addition to leading the league in run defense (75.8 ypg).
At the same time, the only thing that’s on the defense’s mind is allowing Atlanta to retake the lead a week ago and not being able to get the ball back to its offense on Sunday.
The status of Matthews for Sunday’s game against Tennessee remains uncertain after he suffered a setback with his hamstring injury on Friday.
Regardless of his availability, Daniels acknowledges it’ll be up to the defense to pull together against the Titans and re-establish its dominance from earlier this season.
“It just has to be a violent one,” said Daniels of what mindset the defense must have. “It has to be noticeable like this team is (ticked) off, they’re angry. Somebody (peed) in their Cheerios this morning. That’s what it has to be when we step on the field and it has to be noticeable. If it’s not, then we’re not getting it done.”
Veteran linebacker Julius Peppers told reporters after Sunday’s game that the Packers will be fine and concentrated on making more plays in the weeks ahead.
Daniels agrees and hopes Sunday’s shortcomings will reverberate in the locker room for the rest of the week.
“Nobody in this locker room should go home and have a good night’s rest tonight or the rest of this week,” Daniels said. “That’s flat-out. If you do, then I don’t know how much you care, but I feel as though we have people in this locker room, this whole locker room that nobody is going to be getting any good sleep tonight.”
Return revisited: Special-teams coordinator Ron Zook didn’t even need to be asked the question when he stepped to the podium inside the Packers’ media auditorium on Monday night.
Zook, unprompted, immediately acknowledged that Jordan Todman’s 99-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff Sunday simply cannot happen.
“Well guys, you can’t start a football game off the way we started it off and expect for very good results,” Zook said. “Obviously, that’s something we have to get corrected. It happened. It’s correctable, but we sure can’t let those things happen. It’s football.”
Todman’s was the first kickoff return for a touchdown the Packers have allowed since Chris Williams’ 101-yard return for Chicago on Nov. 9, 2014.
The play was a perfect storm with Mason Crosby’s kickoff not getting close enough to the sideline and defensive back Jermaine Whitehead getting blocked into linebacker Kyler Fackrell during the return, opening a lane on the right side.
“The kick wasn’t where it needed to be in which Mason will be the first one to tell you,” Zook said. “We get a guy who gets out of his lane and gets thrown down into another guy who knocks him out of his lane, so we have two guys out of lanes and we have guys who don’t come across the blockers. In the National Football League, it’s bad enough when you have one mistake like that, let alone two or three, and obviously they all hit and that’s why it turned out the way it did.”
Zook also mentioned that the hold was slightly off the spot on the 48-yard field goal that Crosby missed in the first quarter, though the veteran kicker told Zook he still should’ve made it.