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Defense eyes Colts: We really want this one"

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by wizard 87, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. wizard 87

    wizard 87 Old Enough To Know Better

    Sep 6, 2008
    A Week 7 game against an opponent from the other conference hardly can be make-or-break, but make no mistake: The Green Bay Packers’ defense sees Sunday’s showdown with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts as a critical chance to set a tone for what’s to come.

    “I think that’d set us up for the next half of the season after the bye week, I really do,” Packers defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said this week. “To go out and win against a team like the Colts … we’d definitely have to be playing ball how we were playing ball last year, or even better, and that’s at a championship level.

    “Hey, that’s going to be big, man, if we get this one. We really want this one, too.”

    The Packers’ three wins this season have come against Minnesota’s Tarvaris Jackson, Detroit’s Jon Kitna and Seattle’s Charlie Frye, three quarterbacks who at this point are not starters for teams with a combined 4-12 record.

    This is Manning, the eight-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time NFL MVP.

    These are the Colts, who were Super Bowl champions only two seasons ago with largely the same offensive cast.

    And this is a Packers defense that, injuries and all, can ill afford anything less than its finest performance this season to avoid heading into next week’s bye with a 3-4 record and a disheartening third consecutive loss at Lambeau Field.

    “You talk about clichés — one game at a time, all that stuff,” Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said. “But this game, we know that we need to get this one to really get things rolling the way we want it to.”

    The Colts’ offense, which has finished outside of the NFL’s top five in total offense and passing only once in the past nine years, sputtered out of the gates in part because Manning was rusty following two offseason surgeries on his left knee.

    But since an embarrassing home loss to Chicago in the opener, Manning has engineered second-half comebacks to overcome deficits of 15 points at Minnesota and 17 points at Houston, and last week, he threw for 271 yards and three scores as the Indianapolis offense announced its resurrection by tearing apart Baltimore’s vaunted defense in a 31-3 laugher.

    “He’s one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and he’ll go down as one of the best in history,” Packers cornerback Will Blackmon said. “You’re not dealing with just anybody here.”

    That would be an apt description of the sort of quarterbacks the Packers have been facing most of the year.

    Statistically, they’ve held up well against the pass in spite of the extended absences of safety Atari Bigby (hamstring, Week 2), cornerback Al Harris (spleen, Week 3) and top inside pass rusher Cullen Jenkins (pectoral, Week 4). Through six weeks, the Packers are tied for first in the NFL in interceptions (11) and rank second in opponent completion percentage (52.1), third in passer rating (62.3), fifth in yards per pass attempt (6.0) and seventh in passing yards per game (178.8).

    But those numbers have been skewed at least somewhat by the caliber of competition: the since-benched Jackson and Kitna, the third-stringer Frye and journeyman Brian Griese, whose Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Packers in spite of his three interceptions and 36.0 passer rating.

    The best quarterback the Packers have faced, Dallas’ Tony Romo, had 260 passing yards and an 82.6 passer rating in a 27-16 victory on Sept. 21. The second-best, impressive Atlanta rookie Matt Ryan, had two touchdown passes and a 94.1 passer rating in a 27-24 win on Oct. 5.

    It’s not a stretch to say Manning, at 32 and less than three months removed from the second surgery to clear a bursa sac infection, remains better than even Romo. He also has one of the game’s best arsenals in receivers Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez and tight end Dallas Clark.

    “We understand what we’re going up against,” Blackmon said. “It’s big. It’s critical for us to be straight on our assignments.”

    A pass-leaning team since Manning arrived in 1998, the Colts have taken it to an extreme this season, averaging a league-worst 69.4 yards per game on the ground that doesn’t seem likely to rise soon with top running backs Joseph Addai (hamstring) and Mike Hart (knee) sidelined. So, at least for one week, the Packers’ 27th-ranked run defense (153.3 yards per game) might get a break.

    But this will be a supreme test for a secondary that again will be without Harris and perhaps Bigby — and a pass rush that has come and gone, generating a ho-hum 12 sacks.

    This summer, when the Brett Favre saga was nearing a head, Packers coach Mike McCarthy talked about moving forward with a team built around defense.

    No better time than Sunday for that defense to show what’s it made of — and point a tenuous season in a positive direction before its unofficial midpoint.

    “You can just be around and you can sense it,” Pickett said. “It’s a sense of urgency around here, man. Before, whether you got comfortable or whatnot, the comfort level has left. It’s a sense of urgency.

    “You’re playing a team like this, guys are focused in the meetings, asking the right questions. We’re ready to play.”

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