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Patience allowed defense time to grow

Packers aim to push sacks total higher


GREEN BAY – Nothing speaks more convincingly of the virtue of patience than the Packers' performance on defense this season.

Defense has been the focus of the Packers' efforts since the unit finished last in the league in 2011. Since then, all four of the team's first-round draft picks have been on that side of the ball.

Improvement has come slowly, incrementally. As is customary, improvement didn't come quickly enough to satisfy fans. Fortunately, the Packers didn't despair or waver in their commitment.

This season, the defense has exploded. It is everything Packers fans were demanding it to be. All the fans had to do was wait.

The Packers are No. 2 in the league in sacks with 20. It's expected the Packers will push that number higher this Sunday, when a defense that has recorded 16 sacks in the last three games plays against a San Diego team with five offensive linemen on its injury report.

Pass defense? It goes hand in hand with pass rush, and to that end the Packers are No. 4 in the league against the pass.

Stop the run? Don't be fooled by that No. 28 ranking. The Packers have stopped the run when it's had to do so, in the second half against Matt Forte, and against Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles and Carlos Hyde. One half of football in Chicago and a bad game against rookie Todd Gurley have conspired to spoil a run-defense ranking that's not indicative of how the Packers defense has played through five games of this season.

How high can the Packers defense reach? Can it continue to play at its current level, which is No. 7 overall?

Be patient. Time answers all.

Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Chargers.

1. Run the ball – Mostly, get Eddie Lacy back on track. He's the runner opponents fear. He's the guy who opens the passing lanes for Aaron Rodgers.

2. Line up and play – The hard-count, offside thing may have become a little too important. Save it for when you need it.

3. Rush Philip Rivers – Injuries to the Chargers' offensive line has to be on Rivers' mind.

4. Break their spirit – The Chargers are on a short week and coming off a heartbreaking defeat. They might be vulnerable to an early rush.

5. Cover Antonio Gates – He's Rivers' security blanket. Take it away.

6. Go deep – You can't do it if you don't try.

7. Block out the bye – Don't let it become a distraction; 6-0 is the ultimate fast start.

8. Break one – Ty Montgomery has been close to breaking a kickoff return, and we know what Micah Hyde can do returning punts. It's time to take one the distance.

9. Spoil his homecoming – Melvin Gordon would love to have a big day back in Wisconsin.

10. Play for the big game – Wins by the Packers and Broncos would make the Nov. 1 matchup in Denver the feature game of the season to date.

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