It wasn't that they weren't trying. But they may have been trying too hard.
In assessing the defensive struggles in the first half against the Jets, Head Coach Mike McCarthy on Monday said when he watched the film that he saw his players making "aggressive mistakes." By that he meant at times they were trying to make a big play and as a result lost focus on their assignments, leading to five consecutive scoring drives by New York.
"When it goes that sour for you, you see a lot of guys playing hard but really getting outside of themselves, outside of the scheme trying to make plays," McCarthy said. "And we had too much of that yesterday."
The defense made its share of mental mistakes too, which were more costly errors. But McCarthy said that one player being over-aggressive can get the whole defense out of its scheme, and with that repeatedly happening the Jets seemed to do no wrong the entire first half.
"If it was just one or two guys, trust me, we would have fixed it already," he said.
McCarthy felt the preparation and the effort were not the issues. He felt the team had a good week of practice and were prepared to handle all the pre-snap motions and shifting by the Jets offense.
"I think our players are making more aggressive mistakes because they are competing, and at times are trying to do too much," he said. "I don't see lack of effort, lack of emotion."
McCarthy didn't get into specifics, but he said he and the defensive staff are looking into changing some players' individual roles and will make any decisions in that regard before the team returns to practice on Wednesday.
"We will be looking at opportunities created for some of our other players, or how we use certain people," McCarthy said. "You have only so many options, and we are looking into them."
The only specific name that came up was that of backup defensive end Jason Hunter, who has been a mainstay on the special teams coverage units and could see an increased role on defense.
Also, McCarthy reported that nickelback Patrick Dendy sustained a concussion in Sunday's game, so a change in the secondary could result as well.
"We're evaluating everything right now," defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said. "Anyone who deserves an opportunity will get it."
Right tackle Mark Tauscher (groin) and tight end David Martin (ribs) both appear doubtful for this week's game at San Francisco. McCarthy classified Tauscher, who has missed all three games during the current losing streak, as a "longshot" for this Sunday, and he added that Martin, who has missed the last two contests, hasn't gotten much better.
In addition to Dendy, the other injuries to come out of Sunday's game are all minor. Linebacker Nick Barnett injured his left hand (the one not wrapped in the club cast), running back Noah Herron sprained an ankle and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins broke his nose, but McCarthy expects all of them to be fine.