In defense of defense

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Dom Capers presides over a complex defensive scheme.

It’s a disservice to the Green Bay coordinator to boil his philosophy down into a few easily digested paragraphs.

But if he were to publish a “Defense for Dummies” guide, this would be one of the installments:

There are 60 or so plays in a game and three to four of those will have a huge influence on the outcome. Any good defense will have two to four players who are consistently capable of making plays that will change the course of the game.

“The more people you can put out there to have a chance to make those kinds of plays, then the better your chances are,” Capers said. “The more guys you have with speed and explosion, the better chance you have of getting the ball turned over. It’s been one of our strengths here the last two years, taking the ball away.

“We’ve had a number of different players that have stepped up.”

Cornerback Tramon Williams had two interceptions in the win over Philadelphia. Cornerback Sam Shields had two in the win over Chicago. Williams and nose tackle B.J. Raji have returned interceptions for touchdowns.

And that’s just in the playoffs.

Linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Charles Woodson are the cornerstones of the NFL’s No. 2-ranked defense. But four players scored defensive touchdowns during the regular season. Eleven came up with interceptions and 15 helped compile the team’s gaudy sacks total (47 in the regular season, one behind Pittsburgh).

The Packers are a 3-4 defense that may spend the majority of the game in nickel and dime packages. That’s because Capers, in the words of Raji, “is a big matchup guy.”

Green Bay’s cornerbacks are as likely to blitz as they are to backpedal into coverage. The same goes for the linebackers and linemen.

The decisive defensive play of the NFC Championship game came when Capers called a Right Cat. Shields blitzed from the right corner position and Raji, the nose tackle, dropped back into zone coverage. Raji’s 18-yard interception return for a touchdown proved to be the winning points in the team’s victory over Chicago.

“We’re relentless,” safety Nick Collins said. “We want everybody on that defensive side to get to the ball and make something happen.”

This scheme asks a lot from the players, but Matthews said everyone has bought into Capers’ system. That’s because his creativity and ability to clearly outline each player’s responsibilities puts them in position to succeed.

The Packers confuse opponents and force the action without leaving themselves exposed. A team that finished second in the NFL in interceptions with 24 also finished second in scoring defense with an average of 15 points.

Green Bay held Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago all under their scoring averages during this playoff run. The Packers allowed an average of 10.4 points over their final nine regular-season games. Opponents own an NFL-low quarterback rating of 67.2 against Green Bay this season.

When the Packers’ offense turns the ball over, the defense stiffens. Opponents have scored only six field goals and three touchdowns off the team’s 22 turnovers.

“You know, every week it’s somebody else,” Woodson said. “We have a ton of guys that can just make plays at any time, at any point in the game.”