Passing Attack Faces Another Tough Test

As Brett Favre looks to get back on track following the bye week, he’s got another ultra-talented defensive backfield in Denver to contend with. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Broncos Game Center Notebook: Practices Physical, Spirited Coming Off Bye Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 23


The Packers were well-aware of the talent in the Washington secondary heading into their matchup on Oct. 14, and that group helped produce Brett Favre's worst passing game statistically speaking in 2007.

But as Favre looks to get back on track following the bye week, he's got another ultra-talented defensive backfield in Denver to contend with.

The Broncos feature two veteran cornerbacks in Champ Bailey and Dre Bly, a pair that rivals the Packers' own Al Harris and Charles Woodson in any conversation discussing the best cornerback duo in the league.

Both are in their ninth year, and their first year together in Denver. Both acquired via trade, Bailey came over from Washington in 2004, while Bly came from Detroit this past year. They've combined for three of the Broncos' six interceptions thus far this season, but it's more their savvy and steady play that have vaulted the Broncos to No. 2 in the league rankings in pass defense, allowing just 165 yards per game through the air.

"Number one, they're very, very experienced," Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "Number two, they're very talented. Number three, they're instinctive football players. They've been around the block a couple times, and they understand how to play the game.

"They're very competitive, and as a pair they're a very solid pair of corners in this league. They've been productive for a long time and they're playing well within that system that they're in, and it will be a challenge for our guys."

The Packers will certainly present them with a challenge. Green Bay is tied for second in the league in passing offense, averaging 274 yards per game. Before his rough day against the Redskins, when he posted just a 43.5 passer rating, Favre had thrown for at least 300 yards in three straight games, and 286 yards the game before that.

Throw in the possibility of Koren Robinson joining the receiving corps this week, and the Packers could have an added downfield dimension to their air attack. But the Packers have made a living this season on the short-to-intermediate passing game, and that's where Bailey's and Bly's read-and-react style will make things difficult.

"They're good, talented, quick," rookie receiver James Jones said. "If you give them anything, any clue that you're stopping on the route or anything like that, they're going to break on it. They're veteran guys.

"But like I said, we just have to execute, and hopefully we're in the right play call for that defense, to be able to out-scheme them and things like that. We'll see how it goes."

Bailey and Bly don't play as much in-your-face, bump-and-run coverage as the Packers' Harris and Woodson because Denver's scheme, coached by former Green Bay defensive coordinator Jim Bates, doesn't call for as much of that.

But Philbin said the two corners are liable to change things up on receivers and make their approach somewhat unpredictable from snap to snap in an attempt to disrupt any offensive rhythm.

"Sometimes you would think they should be pressed, and they're playing off, and sometimes, when you look at the safeties, you'd think they'd be off and they're pressed," Philbin said. "So I think they have a lot of confidence in themselves, and I don't know this for a fact, but there's probably a little bit of freedom for guys who have played as long and as well as they have. I think they know how they have to play to get the job done."

As valuable as they are, Bailey and Bly don't do it alone. Add eight-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch to the mix, and that's 30 years of quality NFL experience in three defensive backs. Plus, second-year defensive end Elvis Dumervil, a college teammate of Packers guard Jason Spitz at Louisville, has six of Denver's 13 sacks on the season.

Interestingly, Denver's highly rated pass defense is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 67 percent of their passes, a considerably high number. But their 93 completions allowed have produced just 988 yards, or barely more than 10 per reception, an indication they aren't allowing many yards after the catch, something the Packers have thrived on this season.

Favre saw Washington's defensive backs playing inside leverage on his receivers to take away the slants and other shorter routes, and it's likely Denver's secondary will play the same way.

The Packers countered against the Redskins by taking some deep shots on the outside, and at least a few times receivers were open, but Favre underthrew them. Two of his deep throws were intercepted by safety Sean Taylor.

On Tuesday in his weekly press conference, Favre didn't attribute those poorly thrown deep balls to anything other than a bad day, dispelling the notion that he's lost any arm strength or can't beat defenders deep anymore.

"I missed some throws, some down-the-field throws I should have made, at least made one of them," Favre said. "Yeah, our guys could have came back and at least broke the ball up and all those things, but I was just off."

The good news was the Packers still managed to win the game despite a handful of mistakes. The previous week against Chicago, Favre felt like he made one bad play - an ill-advised throw on a scramble that was picked off by linebacker Brian Urlacher - and it was the turning point in an eventual loss.

As self-critical as ever at this stage in his career, Favre isn't going to brush off the bad throws against the Redskins simply because his team won, and studying how he performed against that secondary should help him prepare for Denver's.

"I'm going to be as hard on myself in the Washington game as I was on that one particular play against Chicago, because sometimes you can have 10 bad plays and win, and sometimes you can play great, have one bad play and it costs you," Favre said. "So you never know.

"For the most part this year, it's been very good. But for all of us consistency is the number one thing we're looking to achieve week in and week out, and we haven't gotten to that point yet."

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