Time Running Out For Defense

Whether it's breakdowns or the inability to make a game-turning play, the defense has failed to deliver often enough this season.

For the Green Bay Packers, it was the same old story on defense.

Good, at times, but not consistently good enough.

Good, but too many breakdowns.

Good, but too many missed opportunities.

And time is running out to solve that problem, with a Thanksgiving showdown looming at high-powered Detroit that might very well decide the NFC North.

"I'm looking for an answer, too. You tell me what it is," linebacker Clay Matthews said after a 26-26 tie against Minnesota.

With Green Bay leading 7-3 early in the second quarter, Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder threw one right to cornerback Davon House. Instead, he dropped a potential pick-six.

"I've got to continue to do ball drills every day after practice like I've been doing," House said. "Some people are just naturally gifted at catching the ball. I'm not that guy. I'm going to continue working to get my hands right to come down with those balls to help the team."

On the Vikings' next drive, defensive coordinator Dom Capers sent six at Ponder on third-and-5. Ponder, however, had all day and lofted a ball over Tramon Williams to Jerome Simpson for a gain of 31. Rather than pressuring Ponder into an incompletion and forcing a punt, the Packers allowed a field goal.

Just before halftime, the Packers stopped Adrian Peterson on a pair of runs near the goal line. On third-and-goal, however, Peterson walked into the end zone with an easy touchdown.

"I don't know what to say. We're just not getting it done," Ryan Pickett said.

On the second drive of the third quarter, A.J. Hawk blitzed practically untouched up the middle. He couldn't make the play and Ponder escaped to throw a 15-yard completion to tight end John Carlson to convert a third-and-5. Moments later, the Vikings were into the end zone for a 20-7 lead.

"I missed a big sack on him on third down," Hawk said. "Yeah, give them credit for making a lot of plays. It's something we've been talking about and working on a lot this year. We just need to find a way to do it."

When Green Bay's defense finally stiffened, it allowed the offense to rally. Minnesota's final three series of regulation netted just one first down, and that allowed Matt Flynn to produce one touchdown and the tying field goal to force overtime.

After Green Bay won the toss and drove to the go-ahead field goal, Mike Neal pressured Ponder and Mike Daniels got the sack. That set up a third-and-9. Given overtime rules, it was a four-down situation for the Vikings, so they dialed up a draw to Peterson for a gain of 15. Finally, on third-and-14 from the 17, House undercut an end zone route to Cordarrelle Patterson but the best he could do was get a finger on the pass to force an incompletion.

"Literally, tips of my finger. That was all I had," House said.

Between the missed tackles and the two penalties that resulted in first downs on drives that helped the Vikings score a touchdown and field goal, the defense continually has failed to rise to the occasion on more than an occasional basis.

So, with the season on the line, can the Packers finally regain their knack for making the big play? Can they get off the field on third down? Can they avoid critical blunders at key times?

"Of course we can," Hawk said. "Our confidence isn't down at all. We missed some opportunities for sure, and that's kind of happened throughout the year. Yeah, it only talks – honestly, it only takes one play to turn the tide for you. We're fighting for it, we're trying to find it and once we get it, we need to run with it, that momentum, and find a way to get it going."

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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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