Packers-Broncos Air Raid Expected

Both teams are at their best when they're throwing it and at their worst when they're defending the pass. So, there's little reason to expect anything but an aerial circus when the Packers host the Broncos on Sunday.

Perhaps one can expect a one-sided affair when Denver travels to Green Bay for a game Sunday.

Not on the scoreboard, necessarily, but in approach.

Through three weeks, the Packers' defense has allowed 1,243 yards. That total includes 1,078 through the air and just 165 on the ground — an incredible 87-to-13 ratio of run to pass.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers chalked up the imbalance to teams running eight two-minute series in three games, condensed periods that normally feature throwing over running.

McCarthy added that while Chicago did plan to run the football to start against his team last Sunday, the Packers "were very productive against it," creating a pass-first philosophy by Chicago.

So, will the Broncos go by mainly land or by air? In terms of effectiveness, Denver has been a more consistent passing team and the Packers are allowing opposing quarterbacks on average to throw for 359 yards per game.

"Green Bay has a good front seven and can stop the run," Denver wide receiver Eric Decker said. "Teams so far this year and (some) last year were able to expose them downfield a little bit. And I think once you show something on film, teams copy cat and do the same thing."

Denver averages only 72.3 yards per game rushing. The team doesn't have a 20-yard run this season and just five rushes of longer than 10 yards. Yet it makes sense to try and control the ball, and the clock, to keep the Packers' potent offense off the field — if the Broncos can pull it off.

"It doesn't matter what anyone else did," Broncos left guard Zane Beadles said. "We'll do what's best for our team."

Added quarterback Kyle Orton, "We'll have to execute early in the game and keep the run an option."

The Broncos should get Knowshon Moreno back from his hamstring injury after missing two weeks to provide another option behind Willis McGahee, who has started back-to-back games for the first time since 2008 while playing for Baltimore. McGahee has gained just 2.9 yards per attempt on his 54 rushes.

"Even though they're giving up all those yards passing you're still going to need your running game to come alive at some point. And they're not letting the running game come alive," McGahee said.

That doesn't mean Denver won't try.

"They've got a good defense but there's also some holes in it," McGahee added. "Our job is to find those holes and make plays." On the other side of the coin, Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's top-ranked quarterback and Denver enters Sunday's game having allowed two 300-yard passers in Cincinnati rookie Andy Dalton and Tennessee's Matt Hasselbeck over the last two weeks. Seven pass plays of at least 22 yards have occurred within that span, including an 84-yard reception by the Bengals' Jerome Simpson and a back-breaking 58-yarder to unheralded Titans tight end Craig Stevens in the fourth quarter last week.

Not coincidentally, Denver played those two games without its best cover corner, with Champ Bailey nursing a hamstring.

But Goodman, the team's starting right cornerback, called missing Bailey "a copout" that doesn't obscure the fact there have been too many coverage breakdowns on the back end two weeks running.

Denver also has been without one of its premier pass rushers, defensive end Elvis Dumervil, since Week 1, contributing to the downturn — or not.

"When you see certain route concepts develop, you have to anticipate it," Goodman explained. "It's the difference between an interception and a big play. That's the simple answer and it really is that cutthroat for me and I think the coaches, as well. We have to make the plays we're not making.

"We've had two 300-yard games against us and no interceptions. Put the ball up that many times, you have to come down with some. And if you don't, you're going to be facing that every week."

Not that Rodgers needs an excuse to air things out. His combination of playmaking within and outside the pocket coupled with soaring confidence has arguably made him the NFL's top quarterback. And he has plenty of weapons from which to choose on an offense ranked ninth at 294.3 yards per game.

"I would expect him to do that against the No. 1 pass defense in the league," Goodman said of Rodgers' mindset facing Denver this week. "He's that type of quarterback. No matter what defense he's facing, he knows what type of guys he has on his side of the ball and he'll trust them most times, regardless of who he's facing. It's our job to discourage that by making plays."

Yet Denver and Pittsburgh are the only two NFL teams without an interception through three weeks of the season. The problem's nothing new for the Broncos, who managed just 10 picks last season, which tied for 30th.

Aggressive blitzing schemes and front-four pressure from the likes of Dumervil and rookie Von Miller were supposed to create the kind of mistakes that lead to takeaways this year but as yet haven't materialized.

"At the end of the day, because we're not playing well, the focus in practice has got to be on us and then it gets into what they do," Goodman said. "But first and foremost is getting things corrected that we're doing wrong that are allowing quarterbacks to take advantage of us.

"Physical mistakes when a receiver makes a great play you can live with. He beats you for the ball. That's football. You can live with that. But when you're not in the proper position and they're making huge plays, that's something you have to work on."

Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave publisher Bill Huber a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.

Packer Report Top Stories