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Point, counterpoint: Is it time to worry about the defense?


! Staff Writer Mike Spofford says yes.

I don't want to be the pessimist or the worry-wart here. It's not in my nature, but I have to admit I thought the bye week, which provided additional time for the coaches to study film and for the players to rest and heal, would be the turning point. The defense came out of the bye healthier, as Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams weren't missing practices anymore.

Then came San Diego, which featured a fourth-quarter performance reminiscent of those against New Orleans, Carolina and Minnesota. The Packers led all four of those games in the fourth by two touchdowns or more and had to hang on for dear life. It shouldn't be like that.

The Packers are giving up 399.6 yards per game, which ranks 30th in the league. In those four fourth quarters I just mentioned, they gave up 624 yards.

So, yeah, my patience is wearing a little thin. There's still time to get it straightened out; I get that, and there's no better man to have in charge of this than Dom Capers. If there's a way, Capers will find it. I'm confident in that, but the turnaround needs to happen soon.

The quarterbacks the Packers are going to face in the second half of the season will be just as tough as those they've already seen. Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman beat Green Bay two years ago in his first NFL start, so he won't be lacking for confidence when he strolls into Lambeau in two weeks. Detroit's Matthew Stafford is on the schedule twice. New York's Eli Manning is coming up, too. Oakland's Carson Palmer may have settled in with his new team by Week 14 and Chicago's Jay Cutler is looking more and more dangerous these days.

It's hard not to feel, in some ways, like it's 2009 all over again, as much as I hate to say that. Those defensive meltdowns against Brett Favre, Ben Roethlisberger and Kurt Warner are hard to shake from memory.

What this defense has that the unit from two years ago didn't is the ability to rise up when its back is against the wall. The game-saving stops against New Orleans, Carolina and San Diego at crunch time are the kind that would have won some of those '09 games, so this group is better. I truly believe that.

But having so many games come down to do-or-die scenarios is a precarious way to live, particularly when those do-or-die moments are avoidable, given the way these games have unfolded.

I'm just guessing here, but Vic is probably going to talk to you about the 2006 Colts, who couldn't stop the run, much like the current Packers are struggling against the pass. Late in '06 the Jaguars rushed for 375 yards against the Colts, dropped them to 10-3, and had people writing them off because of their defense. The Colts eventually won it all that year, of course, but I don't think the Packers can count on the opposing quarterback in the Super Bowl being Rex Grossman, should they make it to Indy in February.

My mind is more trained on the '07 Patriots, who were shaky on defense at different stages of that season despite going undefeated. Their offense seemed unstoppable, setting all kinds of records, much like Green Bay's this year. But when the Patriots ran into a defense that could slow them down – the Giants' in the Super Bowl – they were in trouble, and they couldn't rely on their defense. New England gave up a late touchdown to Manning and New York that sent its 18-0 record up in smoke.

The Packers need to figure this out before the games mean that much, before the season reaches that stage. That's why I say the time is now.

! Editor Vic Ketchman says no.

Thanks, Mike, for making one of my points for me.

Packers fans, relax. We're only halfway through the season, which is far too early in the season to give yourself a panic attack. Save that for the postseason. That's when it's OK to turn to jelly.

Until then, be cool, baby, because the defense that is causing you so many restless nights is coached by a guy who's done this:

As defensive coordinator of the Steelers—1992, No. 2 in points allowed, No. 1 in takeaways; 1993, No. 4 in points allowed, No. 3 in takeaways and yards per game; 1994, No. 2 in points allowed and yards per game, No. 1 in sacks.

As head coach of the expansion Panthers—1995, No. 8 in points allowed and yards per game, No. 5 in takeaways; 1996, No. 2 in points allowed, No. 5 in takeaways, No. 1 in sacks and third-down defense.

As defensive coordinator of the Jaguars—1999, No. 1 in points allowed and sacks, No. 4 in yards per game.

As defensive coordinator of the Dolphins—2006, No. 5 in points allowed, No. 4 in yards per game, No. 3 in sacks.

As defensive coordinator of the Packers—2009, No. 7 in points allowed, No. 2 in yards allowed, No. 1 in takeaways and run-defense; 2010, No. 2 in points allowed, interceptions and sacks, No. 5 in yards allowed, No. 1 in opponent passer rating.

In other words, folks, everywhere Coach Capers has gone, he's been successful, and that includes his first two seasons in Green Bay. Surely, you haven't already forgotten that, have you?

Do you remember what the Packers' rankings were the year before Coach Capers arrived in Green Bay? No. 24 in points allowed, No. 20 in yards allowed, No. 26 in run-defense. Yuk!

He quickly changed all of that and he'll quickly reverse the downward rankings trend of this season. Why do I think you should believe that? Because a coach is what his track record says he is and Coach Capers' track record says he doesn't coach bad defenses.

How about the Packers' running game last season? Were you worried about it at midseason? It came alive late in the season, didn't it? Was all that worry worth it?

Coach Capers has good players. That's the other part of this equation. Clay Matthews is going to come to life and quarterbacks are going to start falling. I believe that because Matthews' track record says it'll happen.

Me worried? No way. As long as Coach Capers is the coordinator of this defense, I have no doubt that better times are ahead.

What do you think?

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