Defense Handles Adversity

For one week, at least, the Packers' defense turned a major weakness into a strength. If not for how Green Bay responded after two turnovers, it might not be basking in its NFC North championship.

For all of the improvements made by the Green Bay Packers' defense this season, dealing with adversity was not among them.

Before Sunday's defensive lockdown of the Bears, the Packers had turned over the ball 13 times. They allowed eight touchdowns and two field goals for 61 points, or 4.7 points per drive, off of those giveaways. That was the worst rate in the NFL, according to STATS.

At Chicago, the Packers held the Bears to a pair of field goals off of the two turnovers.

"I thought it was really our best game of the season defensively from a situational standpoint," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday.

In the third quarter, Ryan Grant fumbled at the end of a long run, giving the Bears the ball at their 37-yard line. A 53-yard penalty for pass interference gave Chicago a first down at the Packers' 5, and Matt Forte's 4-yard run set up a second-and-goal at the 1.

The Packers, however, slammed the door in the defining sequence of the game. Dezman Moses and Mike Daniels were credited with the tackles on second and third down, and the Bears had to settle for a field goal after an offensive pass interference call took a touchdown off the board.

"I thought that both of our inside linebackers really made nice plays," Capers said of the key second- and third-down stops. "Brad Jones was involved in both tackles. I thought A.J., specifically on the second play, they pulled their left guard and A.J. stymied him in the hole and Forte kind of had to stop and start all over again, so he stopped his momentum and Brad was free and came over the top to make the play.

"I thought the first play, Morgan Burnett did a really nice job of coming down and splitting the wing and the down tight end. He was on the fullback and Forte had to stop on the fullback's tail because those guys were stalemated at the line of scrimmage, so it gave our linebackers a chance to be free and go to the ball. Most of the time (when) you play good goal-line defense it starts up front with your front guys being able to be low and penetrate and get those offensive linemen's feet out from underneath them."

The defense then took the special teams off the hook for receiver Jeremy Ross' fumble of Randall Cobb's lateral on a fourth-quarter punt return.

Chicago started at the Packers' 16 but never got a sniff of the end zone. Sam Shields, giving up 5 inches to rookie receiver Alshon Jeffrey, broke up a jump ball in the end zone on first down, and Jones stopped a Forte run on second down and broke up a pass to Forte on third down.

Rather than a touchdown and a potential two-point conversion to get within a field goal, the Bears settled for a field goal and trailed 21-13.

"I thought our guys went out and really rose to the occasion and really played one of our more complete football games," Capers said.

Last year, the Packers allowed 55 points (seven touchdowns, two field goals) off of 14 turnovers, or 3.9 points per drive. When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010, they allowed a paltry 39 points (three touchdowns, six field goals) off of 22 turnovers, or 1.8 points per drive. That ranked fourth in the league. And that total included a pick-six, meaning the defense actually allowed 1.5 points per giveaway. In 2009, Green Bay allowed 70 points off of 16 turnovers, or 4.4 per drive — the worst rate in the NFL

"We still have work to do," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "This is just the beginning. This puts us in the tournament and the tournament is a lot faster and a lot harder than the regular season. Let's get ready and stay focused."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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