GREEN BAY—Even in their worst year, the Packers could count on their defense taking the ball away. They were the kings of it. They've lost their crown this year.
An interception by Tramon Williams last Sunday raised the Packers' interceptions total to a league-low four this season. It's not how you win the battle of the passer ratings, a Dom Capers formula for success in the contemporary game.
"We know we're capable of it. We just haven't done it," Capers said as he spoke with reporters on Friday, two days prior to Sunday's critical NFC North game against the visiting Minnesota Vikings.
Battle of the passer ratings? The Packers are losing it this season, 98.8 to 96.6, a product of Aaron Rodgers having missed three games and the Packers defense failing to produce interceptions. That will almost certainly have to change down the stretch for the Packers to have any chance of making a bid for the playoffs.
"I think we've gotten consistent pressure on the quarterback. I've always felt that if you get good pressure on the quarterback, the interceptions will come. They haven't come. We have to find ways to get takeaways," Capers said.
The Packers might have to depend on Williams again this week to be their top coverage guy. Sam Shields missed the game in New York on Sunday due to a hamstring injury and he's questionable for the Vikings game. Nickel back Micah Hyde is nursing a groin strain and he's listed as probable.
"You wish you were healthy. We'll go with the combination available. We're not sure where Sam is. Tramon played the whole game outside last week. We could end up with the same situation," Capers said. "Tramon played his best game of the year. Hopefully, that'll be the way it is this week."
Both teams are currently passer rating challenged. Packers starting quarterback Scott Tolzien, who will be in only his second pro start, has pitched five interceptions in two games and that has his passer rating at 68.2, nearly 40 points beneath Rodgers' 108.0.
Vikings starting quarterback Christian Ponder is playing for his future. In his third season, the 2011 first-round draft choice has a passer rating of 74.9.
"After the bye week, the thing we didn't do is give up big plays," Capers said of a Packers four-game winning streak. In the following three games, the Packers have given up several big plays and now find themselves trying to avoid a fourth consecutive loss.
"I expect us to perform as we did up in Minnesota, except for the two-minute drills," the Packers defensive coordinator said of a 44-31 win on Oct. 27.
Sunday's game will be played in the first cold weather of the season. Temperatures are forecast to hover near 20 degrees at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
"I don't think the cold is that big of a deal. We seem to do fairly well in the cold throwing the ball," Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said.
The Packers would, no doubt, like to run the ball commensurate with their No. 6 rush ranking. The Giants overplayed the run last Sunday and held the Packers' rush offense to 55 yards. Additional coverage - Nov. 22