GREEN BAY – The NFL's No. 5 defense in points allowed per game meets the league's No. 2 per-game scoring offense this Sunday when the Packers play at the Arizona Cardinals.
"Your goal is to be the No. 1 scoring defense. We have a big challenge this week in that area, but it's in striking distance with two weeks ago," Packers Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday, as he critiqued his unit's performance in Sunday's 30-20 win in Oakland.
"It was an excellent start, and I like the way we finished the game," Capers said.
The Packers defense started the game with a Micah Hyde interception that gave the offense a short field that led to a 7-0 lead. On the next play from scrimmage, rookie cornerback Damarious Randall intercepted Derek Carr and returned the interception 43 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Maybe even more impressively, the Packers defense was stifling with the game on the line in the second half. It forced two punts and then closed out the game by forcing the Raiders to turn the ball over on downs on three consecutive possessions.
"We were back under an 80 quarterback rating, which was the goal. When we get under an 80 quarterback rating, we win a large percentage of the time," Capers said.
Carr finished the game with a 63.8 passer rating.
As the Packers flew back to Green Bay, they were able to watch the Cardinals' dominant win over the Eagles on Sunday night. Capers said he was immersed in his stats work, but he watched tape of the Cardinals on Monday.
"They have a veteran quarterback who's probably having a career year. They have speed; they can go deep. This young runner catches your eye," Capers said of a cast of skill-position players that includes quarterback Carson Palmer (32 touchdown passes), wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (seven touchdown catches) and running back David Johnson (seven touchdowns rushing and four touchdowns receiving).
"You look at the way they ran the ball; they can score at will. I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge," Capers added.
Capers and Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians matched wits in Super Bowl XLV, when the Packers defeated the Steelers. Arians was the Steelers' offensive coordinator.
"He has a scheme and you can see a lot of the same things he did in Pittsburgh. They're not afraid to take shots and make big plays. If you take the run away, you're one on one with those receivers. If you (cover), they run the ball on you," Capers said.
"We've played excellent football of late, but there has always been a series or two that puts a blemish on it," Capers said.
That blemish occurred late in the first half of Sunday's game in Oakland.
"The obvious negative was the two-minute drill at the end of the half. It looked like we were going to get some points and then the fumble, and we didn't respond very well," he said of his defense having allowed a four-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that cut the Packers' lead to 14-13.
"Now's the time you want that arrow pointing up," Capers said of Week 15.