Cards Provide Age-Old Lesson

Another veteran quarterback exploits a good but flawed Packers defense, with Kurt Warner one-upping Brett Favre's two big performances. Where to from here for a defense that doesn't have enough rushers to offset a shaky secondary (and vice-versa)?

The Green Bay Packers' season ended in kick-in-the-gut fashion on Sunday, which gives defensive coordinator Dom Capers and general manager Ted Thompson several months to regroup and come up with a winning game plan.

Even without injured receiver Anquan Boldin, what happened in this duel in the desert shouldn't have come as any surprise. Capers had no answers in two games against Brett Favre. He had no answers against Ben Roethlisberger. And he had no answers against Kurt Warner.

The real parallels are between Favre and Warner, who are both grizzled veterans — Favre is 40; Warner 38 — that have seen every blitz known to mankind countless times. Just like what happened in the two games against Favre, Capers was stuck in a Catch-22 on Sunday. Blitz, and Warner will see it coming and find the right receiver before the blitzer can get home. Play coverage with a depleted secondary, and Warner will either pick apart zone coverage or wait for one of his talented wideouts to run free in man against subpar third and fourth cornerbacks.

In the three games against Favre and Warner, the veteran quarterbacks completed 70-of-102 passes for 894 yards. They threw 12 touchdowns and no interceptions while compiling a passer rating of 135.0. The only sack in those three games came on Sunday, when Clay Matthews got around left tackle Jeremy Bridges in the first quarter.

"We tried pressure schemes and we felt Warner's strength going into the game was getting the ball out," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "His ability to get the ball out and throw it accurate against pressure, he's exceptional. We took our shots in different segments of the game but also with the four-man rush and we tried to cover those guys."

Larry Fitzgerald got free from Charles Woodson (background) for a touchdown.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Capers' scheme is a proven winner. The Packers closed the season ranked second in the NFL in total defense, even with a complete inability to do anything against Favre and Roethlisberger. In a league filled with teams who either don't have a quarterback or don't have enough receivers or don't have good pass blockers or don't have good enough coaches to diagnose the blitzes, Capers' scheme is a hit.

But in a perfect storm of big-time quarterback and big-time receivers, the Packers' defense simply isn't good enough.

Matthews is the Packers' only reliable pass rusher. The 33-year-old Charles Woodson is the only upper-echelon cornerback and Tramon Williams is solid. But Jarrett Bush has proven over three years that he can't cover, and Brandon Underwood and Josh Bell may or may not develop in time.

Put it together, the Packers don't have enough rushers to get to the quarterback and they don't have enough good cornerbacks to cover until the rushers get home.

"It always helps when you have a run game going," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We had some quick throws that Kurt got the ball out of his hands. I think that we kept them off balance today defensively and that always helps. We had a good plan and everybody was in tuned to it."

This offseason, it will be up to Capers to fine-tune his schemes and Capers and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt to groom Underwood and Bell. Thompson must figure out how to upgrade the secondary and determine what to do with perpetually injured Pat Lee and Will Blackmon and injured veteran Al Harris. All three cornerbacks ended the season on injured reserve with knee injuries. Any of them could have made a dramatic impact on Sunday.

As it stands, the remarkable Woodson will enter training camp just a couple months shy of his 34th birthday. For the six-time Pro Bowler, this was another season that has ended without a championship.

"You've got to go out and play football, go out and execute week in and week out, or these type of things will happen," Woodson said. "So give credit to them. They came out and they executed, especially early, and jumped on us pretty good. We found ourselves trying to fight back in the game, and we were able to. The offense, give those guys a hand, they did a great job moving the ball up and down the field as well, giving us a chance to win. We just didn't get it done."

It's time to go back to the drawing board and turn a good defense into a championship-caliber defense.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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