The Defense Steps Up

Earlier in the week, Laura analyzed how the Packers have improved their turnover ratio, and how that has impacted their season. Today, with Eagles and Donovan McNabb beckoning, Laura looks at the defense...

During the depths of Green Bay's mid-season woes, an erratic defense and tendency toward turnovers were the Packers' biggest problems.

Now the Green and Gold are riding high on a hot streak that has carried them through December into the second round of the playoffs. The turnover trend has reversed itself. The defense, after bending, proved to be the ones who broke the Seahawks.

This week, both improved elements need to come through for the Packers as they take on the top-seeded Eagles in the NFC Divisional Playoffs Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Earlier, brought readers update on Green Bay's late-season ability to hang onto the ball en route to their current 6-0 run. Today we'll look at the defense.

One play, ala Al Harris' 52-yard interception return for the game-winning touchdown in OT, isn't going to cut it in Philly. And even without leading rusher Brian Westbrook, the Eagles' offense is a force.

"We have to communicate better on the field vs. different sets and be more assignment conscious," Sherman said. "Everything we didn't do well from a passing defensive standpoint can be, will be and has been, to a certain degree, corrected."

The Packers got a taste of what they'll face in Donovan McNabb when they experienced Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck at his career best last weekend. The young QB, in his first playoff game, proved an elusive target. The Packer pass rush got through to Hasselbeck twice for sacks.

McNabb will present at least a few challenges that Hasselbeck didn't offer:

Hasselbeck did not scramble, finishing with no rushing yards. McNabb, obviously, is a threat. He ran for 26 yards including a touchdown on two third-down conversions in the Eagles' win over the Packers Nov. 10. That was actually an off-day for McNabb, who finished the regular season with 355 yards on 71 carries, a 5.0-yard average.

If the Packers' D wants to shut down McNabb, they'll have to do a better job of tackling than they did last week vs. Seattle."

"I didn't think we tackled really well," Sherman said. "We missed some tackles on some very simple passes.

"Tackling, just the fundamentals of football, cannot be compromised at this point of the season," Sherman said.

Don't look for McNabb to make mistakes. If he does, it's a gift. If he doesn't, it's just another day at the office for the QB who is trying to take his team to the NFC championship game for the third consecutive year.

McNabb had just 11 interceptions during the regular season, although he did have three of those within the final three weeks of the season.

Sherman summed up the tough – but ultimately achievable – task ahead of his defense vs. McNabb Sunday:

"Everything that we didn't do well from a passing defensive standpoint can be, will be and has been, to a certain degree, corrected."

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