Reasons For Playoffs: Belief, Trust, Capers

The Packers' injury-riddled defense has been an elite unit in all the key areas — points, turnovers and sacks — which explains why they have a shot at the playoffs on Sunday. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers explains why in this Packer Report exclusive.

Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers says the "two most powerful words" on a team are "belief and trust."

With Capers making the calls, the Packers' defense has overcome a ridiculous number of injuries to rank second in the NFL in points allowed, tied for fifth in sacks and tied for sixth in takeaways.

So, on Sunday against rival Chicago, the Packers are in position to make the playoffs even while losing 38 games from Week 1 starting defenders Morgan Burnett, Nick Barnett, Brad Jones, Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett, and another 22 games from their primary backups on the defensive line (Mike Neal), linebacker (Brandon Chillar) and defensive back (Sam Shields).

"I think it's Dom, he has a good system," Pickett told Packer Report on Friday. "The players they bring in here, we don't drop off much. With all the injuries we've had, guys are stepping in and doing a good job."

"We've had guys being able to step up and fill the void of the starters that have gotten injured," added Clay Matthews. "Obviously, the onus has been put on them to step their game up and jump into a position in which they're going to be starting. And it's a testament to the coaches getting them ready. There's been almost zero drop-off with the all injuries and the different starters each and every week and still be one of the top defenses in the league."

Think of it: Without starter Nick Barnett and Chillar at inside linebacker, starter A.J. Hawk is an every-down player for the first time since 2008 and Desmond Bishop is getting his first chance as a regular starter. With Jenkins going to miss a fourth consecutive game, waiver-wire pickup Howard Green will be starting again at defensive end. They're on their fourth and fifth choices at the outside linebacker spot opposite Pro Bowler Matthews. With Burnett out for the season and Atari Bigby unable to stay healthy, Charlie Peprah — who played in just two games last season and had made one career start — has filled the void. They've gone with undrafted free agent rookies at outside linebacker (Frank Zombo) and cornerback (Shields).


Dom Capers
Morry Gash/AP Images
"I think it's a great example that if you get a group of guys who are unselfish and they understand their job and there's a sense of accountability to take care of their business, that there's nothing really that you can't accomplish," Capers told Packer Report on Friday. "I think we've got that. I like the attitude, the approach, the unselfishness. Guys understand that if everyone does their job, everybody's going to have a chance to make plays. It's not all about any one, two or three guys. Over the course of the time here, we've had a lot of different guys step up and make plays."

With all the injuries, the Packers have been fortunate that their star players — while nicked up — have remained in the lineup. You can't be good without good players; you can't be great without great players. Charles Woodson's interception total has plunged from nine to two and Matthews' sack production has waned during the second half of the season.

But ...

"If you can get two or three guys — the game last week was a good example," Capers said. "Those two fumble recoveries, who (forced them)? It was Charles (and Matthews). We've grown to see (Woodson), any time he comes in for a tackle, there's a chance of him getting the ball out. Clay makes a tremendous play coming from behind and punching the ball out. Those are the kind of plays those guys can make."

While Capers would like the run defense to be as dominant last season, what matters is the scoreboard. Last year, the Packers gave up 18.6 points per game. This year, it's merely 15.8.

With all of the injuries and the constant lineup shuffling, how has Capers' crew done so well? Throwing out Matt Flynn's pick-six against New England, the Packers' defense has allowed two touchdowns off of the other 19 turnovers. Green Bay is allowing 1.95 points per turnover, compared to 4.38 last season.

It all comes back to Capers' two powerful words.

"Here's what I believe: To me, the two most powerful words in any team is belief and trust," Capers said. "You've got to believe in yourself, you've got to believe in the guy playing next to you, you've got to believe in the system, and then you've got to trust in that when everything kind of gets haywire on you. You're going to go through those periods in the game. You're not going to make every play, I'm not going to make all the right calls. How do we respond when we don't make the play? "Last week was a good example of that. We had back-to-back plays where (Woodson) falls down, touchdown, and they throw the ball over Tramon (Williams). You start panicking and not playing within the scheme, you're in trouble. Guys just pulled it back together. ‘They got us on that, let's go to work and find a way.' To me, that's all about poise and confidence. The good teams have it because they believe and they trust in themselves, they believe and they trust in their teammates, they believe and they trust in the system."


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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