Here's Reason for Hope for Packers' Defense

Green Bay's defense was bad by just about any measuring stick you want to use in 2013. However, if you're looking for a silver lining, here's one: A major offseason emphasis paid major dividends.

The leaky dam that was the Green Bay Packers' defense had too many holes for defensive coordinator to fill.

The Packers ranked 25th in yards (and 28th in yards per play), 25th in rushing (and 29th in yards per carry), 24th in passing (and 25th in yards per play). They weren't very good on third down (tied for 17th) and were worse in the red zone (24th).

Still, if there was one small silver lining, it was that the team's big offseason emphasis bore some fruit.

The Packers' defense forced 13 fumbles and recovered 11 of them. Those figures tied for 10th and tied for third, respectively, in the NFL. In terms of forced fumbles, Green Bay had only one fewer than the Super Bowl teams, Seattle and Denver. In terms of recoveries, the Packers hadn't had more fumbles since ranking second with 19 in 2002.

It was a dramatic difference over 2012, when Green Bay tied for 29th with eight forced fumbles and tied for 28th with four recoveries. In 2011, the Packers tied for 17th with 12 forced fumbles and tied for 26th with six recoveries.

When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010, they tied for 11th with 14 forced fumbles and tied for 28th with six recoveries. In 2009, they ranked 29th with 10 forced fumbles and tied for 15th with nine recoveries.

Green Bay's success this past season is especially noteworthy because it didn't include Charles Woodson's big-play production. Following the 2012 season, Woodson's last with the team, he had 29 forced fumbles for his career. That ranked second among current defensive backs. In 2009 and 2010, he forced a total of nine fumbles. So, even the Packers' mediocre fumble production was a byproduct of one player's excellence.

Throughout the offseason, the coaching staff preached the need to force fumbles. That message was heightened when it came to sacking the quarterback. In 2012, the Packers forced just four fumbles by opposing quarterbacks despite ranking fourth in the league with 47 sacks. The league-wide average was 8.25 fumbles by quarterbacks.

In 2013, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry had three fumble-producing sacks apiece. Mike Neal's sack-strip turned the tide in a victory against Atlanta, Micah Hyde forced a fumble at Baltimore and Tramon Williams got a sack, strip and recovery against Philadelphia. That's a total of nine forced fumbles against the quarterback.

Also noteworthy is the fumble production from the outside linebackers. In 2012, Matthews had the only forced fumble from the unit. In 2013, Matthews, Perry and Neal combined for seven. That's the most of Capers' tenure. Matthews, despite being limited to 11 games because of a broken (and rebroken thumb), matched his career high. Perry battled injuries throughout the season, as well, but his three forced fumbles provide reason to believe that he won't be a bust.

"You've seen him rush the quarterback, sack the quarterback, knock the ball out, do some very good things," Capers said. "You'd like to be able to see that over a consistent period of time where he can stay healthy. I think if he does, he'll make progress."

Williams' two forced fumbles were his first since 2010. Hawk's forced fumble, unbelievably, was his first since 2007.

On the other hand, the Packers didn't have a single forced fumble from their safeties. They had two in 2012 and four in 2011 but none in 2009 and 2010.


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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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