"Our problem right now with defense is strictly about giving up the big play," said McCarthy. "55 percent of the (yards) from our offensive opponent have come on explosive plays. That's extremely high. We need to cut that by about 30 to 40 percent and I think we'll be playing good defense."
Surrending those 10 big plays are a primary reason why the Packers enter Week 3 ranked 27th overall on defense, including 30th in the league against the pass. Green Bay's defense gave up four big plays that led to 20 points for the Saints on Sunday. Two of those big plays are what made second-year safety Nick Collins a goat instead of a possible hero.
Collins handled the challenge of keeping ultra-back Reggie Bush under wraps for most of the game, but his shoddy one-on-one downfield pass coverage against receivers was costly. Collins stumbled on a 33-yard throw from Drew Brees to tight end Mark Campbell in the second quarter. The completion led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Deuce McAllister that started the Saints' scoring after they spotted the Packers a 13-0 lead.
Then, with the score tied 20-20 in the fourth quarter, Collins was beat on a 35-yard touchdown pass to rookie Marques Colston.
"He's fully capable of making those plays and was in position to make them," McCarthy said.
Linebacker Brady Poppinga and safety Marquand Manuel were burned for a 57-yard gain from Brees to wide receiver Joe Horn in the third quarter that led to a field goal. McAllister also helped the Saints put the game away with a 23-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Saints a 34-20 lead.
"We've got to stop it," said cornerback Al Harris. "We can't have big plays. We can't have explosive gains. We just got to stop it."
Poppinga to start
McCarthy indicated today during his press conference that second-year pro Brady Poppinga will start on Sunday against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Poppinga has struggled in pass coverage, but not enough to be benched in favor of fifth-year pro Ben Taylor, says McCarthy. The coach said that he and his staff have discussed using Taylor more, but decided to continue to start Poppinga.
"We talked about Ben Taylor and his role there," McCarthy said. "We may play him more, we may not. Ben has done a very good job since he's been here. He's played very well on special teams. He's ready to play. On the flip side, Brady Poppinga is a young player. No different than a number of players on our team. I know people are being critical of his pass coverage, but he started his third football game. There are a lot more positive things that he's doing, and that's why he's in there. We'll continue to grow and improve with Brady Poppinga."
The Packers listed five players on their midweek injury report. Offensive lineman Junius Coston (knee) is not expected to play and is listed as "Out."
Cornerbacks Al Harris (shoulder) and Will Blackmon (foot), tight end David Martin (knee), and guard Jason Spitz (thigh) are listed as questionable, meaning they have a 50-50 chance of playing on Sunday.
Harris practiced with the team on Wednesday and is expected to play. Martin, Blackmon and Spitz are day to day, according to McCarthy.