Impenetrable DBs vs. Unstoppable QB

Green Bay's superlative pass defense, which leads the NFL in interceptions and opponent quarterback rating, will be tested by the New Orleans quarterback, who is on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yardage.

Tramon Williams not only plays a pretty good cornerback but he's got the media business figured out, too.

"We know what we're going to get from them," Williams said of Monday night's opponent, the New Orleans Saints. "They've got the No. 1 passing offense in the league. We're the No. 3 passing defense in the league. I'm pretty sure that's going to be a topic all week."

That indeed will be the storyline when the Packers visit the Saints in a prime-time matchup between 5-5 teams. Saints quarterback Drew Brees is on pace to snap Dan Marino's 24-year-old single-season passing yardage record. The Packers' pass defense ranks third in the NFL but is arguably the best in the business.

Something's got to give, and the superlative unit that grabs the upper hand on Monday likely will emerge from the Superdome with a crucial victory.

"The Saints possess an excellent challenge for us," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Their offense is No. 1 in the league. They have the ability to attack you a lot of different ways. I think Drew Brees and (coach) Sean Payton are a very good match as far as the way Sean attacks a defense and Drew's ability to run the wide-open offense."

How prolific has Brees been this season? He's on pace to throw for 5,201 yards, which would break Marino's record of 5,084 yards. Brees threw for 266 yards in last week's win at Kansas City. That's a good day by anyone's standards. For Brees, that's his third-lowest output of a season in which he's topped 300 yards seven times, including games of 421 and 422 yards.

How prolific has the Packers' pass defense been this season? Green Bay leads the NFL in opponent completion percentage (51.5), opponent passer rating (59.5) and interceptions (16).

While Brees has seven 300-yard games, the Packers have yielded seven sub-200-yard games.

"It's going to be a great challenge for both sides of the ball," said safety Nick Collins, who is tied with teammate Charles Woodson with a league-high five interceptions. "It's going to be whoever comes up with the most plays, and hopefully, it will be us."

Both units are loaded with playmakers, and that will be especially true if the Saints get back explosive running back Reggie Bush, who has missed four games after arthroscopic knee surgery.

Unheralded Lance Moore, a 5-foot-9, third-year pro out of Toledo, has a team-high 52 catches. Bush has 42 and Jeremy Shockey 30, even though both missed significant chunks of the season. Another tight end, Bill Miller, has 28 catches. Devery Henderson has 22 catches for a game-breaking 25.2-yard average. Pro Bowler Marques Colston, who missed five games after thumb surgery, has 15 catches and is rounding back into last year's 98-catch, 11-touchdown form.


Saints QB Drew Brees
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Packers, however, are so comfortable with their cornerback trio of Woodson, Williams and Al Harris that they played nickel for most of last week's game against the run-first Bears. Williams gained valuable experience in his four starts in place of Harris earlier this season, so the Packers have the secondary depth that the Saints haven't faced this season.

"Recognition of formations," Williams said when asked what he gained during his starts. "Once you get out there, basically, guys only do certain routes out of certain formations. You kind of pick that up as you go and as you study a lot of film. As you get the reps out there, you start to feel that out and you know what's coming a lot of times."

So, while the Packers no doubt feel good about their cornerback vs. receiver matchups, the defense hasn't faced many quarterbacks the caliber of Brees. While the Packers have faced a steady diet of top-notch running backs, they also have faced a steady diet of bottom-rung quarterbacks. Tarvaris Jackson, Jon Kitna, Charlie Frye, Kerry Collins, Gus Frerotte and Kyle Orton aren't exactly Pro Bowl contenders.

Collins, when asked what a successful night would be against the Saints' high-octane offense, didn't speak in terms of yards allowed or interceptions.

"No explosive gains," Collins said. "Try to keep everyone in front of us. If we do that, we should be pretty good."

Asked again and again about the Packers' success against the pass this season, Collins deflected the questions just as he would a quarterback's throw. Sometime after the season, if the big plays keep on a coming, there will be time to reflect. For now, there's business to take care of.

"We're going to be nice and calm about it. We ain't trying to get nobody riled up about this game," Collins said. "We're just going to go out there and play our game. We ain't going to try to feed into the hype. We just going to play Packer football."

Bill Huber is the Lead Analyst for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com.


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