Packers’ porous defense not relishing 8-0 start
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — There’s no such thing as relishing an 8-0 record for Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who once again spent part of his day after another big win explaining how his unit can get better.
The Packers remain the NFL’s lone unbeaten team after Sunday’s 45-38 victory at San Diego. But as has been the case all season, their defense left plenty of room for improvement. Green Bay has been remarkably vulnerable to big passing plays all season and nearly coughed up a commanding lead against the Chargers.
And while half a season might seem a large enough sample size to suggest that major improvement isn’t likely — are they, as the sports cliche goes, what they are? — Capers insists they can get much better.
“I think we can make significant improvement, I know that,” Capers said. “You heard me say last week I knew we were going to have a challenge. I knew it was going to be one of the best offensive teams that we’ve played. You don’t want to start the way we started. I like the way we rebounded and came back. There’s very few games where you get two interceptions for touchdowns. Then I liked the way we finished the game at crunch time.”
Packers defensive players, especially Charles Woodson, almost sounded as if they had lost the game afterward. Head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t surprised.
“We’re 8-0. We’ve earned it,” McCarthy said. “But we have expectations and the level of play that not only the individual expects of himself but what we expect of each position, each unit. That’s really the product of some of the feelings that go on after a game. But that’s why it’s important, still, to go through the correction period, even late in the season. You take the emotion of the game out of it and you have all the information on it that’s applied through the evaluation process, and that’s how you have the opportunity to learn from the particular things that went wrong yesterday.”
Speaking to reporters after Sunday’s game, Woodson called the Packers’ defensive effort “just a lot of bad football” and didn’t seem to be enjoying the 8-0 start.
“I’ll always be happy about a win, but the way we went out and played defensively today was disappointing from a lot of different aspects,” Woodson said.
Capers said Woodson’s disposition was a sign of the Packers’ high standards.
“On defense, anyway, none of us are happy with the way we’re playing right now,” Capers said. “Certain segments we’re happy with. So the only way you improve that is you go back to work and work that much harder to get better. I think that’s the attitude in the defensive room. I like that attitude. It’s all about what your standard is and what you accept and how hard you work to improve.”
Capers reached a little deeper into his bag of tricks against the Chargers, blitzing perhaps more than he has all season. The Packers still gave up a bunch of long gains and let San Diego back into a game that appeared to be out of reach. But their three interceptions of Philip Rivers proved decisive.
Safety Charlie Peprah and cornerback Tramon Williams returned Rivers passes for touchdowns in the first quarter, but the Chargers managed to rally. With the Packers looking poised to blow a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, Peprah took another pass away late in the game with the Chargers driving toward a potential game-tying touchdown.
Capers said all three interceptions came when the Packers were rushing five.
“We’ve pressured a little bit more as of late, so it’s not like we’re not attempting to do some things scheme-wise to create more pressure,” Capers said. “Probably yesterday, we might have pressured as much as we have this season.”
The pass rush has been a problem all year for the Packers. They have 19 sacks, which ranks 17th in the NFL. And Clay Matthews has only three of them, although coaches insist he’s playing well.
But coming out of Sunday’s game, McCarthy was more concerned about communication problems than he was about the pass rush. McCarthy said those problems weren’t limited to the defense, as the Packers had issues getting plays called and making substitutions. Fixing those issues will be a point of emphasis going into Monday night’s game against Minnesota.
“When you see breakdowns as far as pass coverage, and the way that they occurred during the game, it really goes back to communication and that was our issue yesterday,” McCarthy said. “We had a number of communication errors that resulted in players put in bad positions, bad situations, and San Diego took advantage of it. So we’ll have an opportunity to correct the film, as I’ve already stated with the schedule, and we’ll do that tomorrow and we’ll stay the course.”