GREEN BAY, Wis. — It was a win the Packers (3-3) very much needed, and their 42-24 beatdown of the previously undefeated Houston Texans on the road demonstrated just how good this year’s team can be. Green Bay’s offense had its best game of the season and the defense shut down the NFL’s leading rusher, Arian Foster.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers, special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum and offensive coordinator Tom Clements offered their insights about what went right to help get the Packers back on track.
Three question-and-answer highlights from each coordinator:
DOM CAPERS 1. What impressed you the most about your defense’s performance against the Texans?
CAPERS: The thing I liked about last night is you go into games with certain musts that you feel it’s going to take to win the game. Obviously, Houston has been a very efficient offense. They had a very specific style of offense and they were very good at it. Our No. 1 goal is we felt we had to control their zone-running scheme because we felt Foster was one of the best guys because of his patience and their offensive line was very good in terms of moving laterally, quickness, getting people cut out of the gaps. You saw a lot of long runs coming out, so we challenged our front people that they had to be very disciplined in their technique, their footwork, gap control because that’s where everything starts with the Texans. If they can get their run game going, then that opens up their pass protection. They’ve been very efficient and that’s the reason I think you’ve seen only three sacks and I think three interceptions going into the game last night. I think it all started with our ability to, I think Foster averaged only 1.7-yards a rush and overall they were like 3.2 per rush. In the first half I think we had 12 win, three loss in the run game. We got off to a very good start.
2. How important was it for Ryan Pickett to play well at nose tackle in B.J. Raji’s absence?
CAPERS: Pickett’s one of those steady guys playing the run. He’s disciplined, he holds his gap responsibility. He uses up two blocks a lot of times. This was a different style run game. These guys had to move laterally now and quickness and fill the gaps, and I thought a lot of our front guys really did a nice job that way. It wasn’t just the down guys, but our linebackers did a nice job, too, of not letting any big runs come out of there. Because of that, maybe the most significant thing and something I’m always aware of in terms of calling a game, I think we won 22 of the 32 first-down situations in terms of putting ourselves in an advantageous down-and-distance situation and not letting them control the down and distance to where it could really get their play-pass going. You saw a few times when they did have play-pass, we had pressure on (Matt Schaub) right now and the reason of that is because they weren’t running the ball and always keeping you in second-and-five, second-and-four situations.
3. With D.J. Smith out for the season, the third-string inside linebacker is in. Do you feel better about your roster depth this season, though?
CAPERS: It’s one of the real keys in this business, you have to have depth. You’ve certainly seen it with us. We’ve gone with inside Bishop to D.J. to whoever’s next. I felt we’ve had better depth at outside linebacker this year than what we’ve had since I’ve been here. You’ve seen all four of our outside linebackers play and play significantly, at times. It’s one of the real keys because there’s going to be times where guys get banged up and you have to have somebody else to step in and do the job, and they have to be ready to go and they have to understand that. That’s why you tell these young guys you never know when you’re chance is going to come, but you need to be ready when it does come. With the number of young guys we’ve played to this point in time, you’ve seen some of those guys get better. Casey Hayward played a tremendous game last night. You saw him come up with two nice interceptions. He had a couple pass breakups. He’s certainly made improvement. I think Jerel Worthy you saw him show up with a sack. He can be disruptive up front and I think he continues to improve. Mike Daniels played. All these guys can hopefully continue with the experiences they’re gaining to help make us better here as we move forward.
1. What happened on the blocked punt that the Texans recovered for a touchdown?
SLOCUM: We had poor technique with our left guard (Tom Crabtree) and left tackle (Robert Francois), and you can’t operate that way. We have one of the best punt teams in the National Football League. We’ve demonstrated that. We played a very physical, outstanding coverage game prior to that, and that play is … really, the No. 1 thing in special teams is, to me, is punt protection and punt coverage. Because you’re having to give up possession, give up the ball, and you’ve got to optimize the situation game. We failed on that play and we should’ve gotten it done.
2. Was there anything Houston did that surprised you on that blocked punt?
SLOCUM: No. it was the third time they ran that rush in the game, and it’s the most basic, common rush where you have one man in each gap, eight gaps. We have no excuse for not making that play.
3. Will the linebacker who takes over for Smith on defense still play special teams?
SLOCUM: Well, it depends on what we do there exactly, but we are capable of playing a starter on special teams. We do it some, and we’ll look at total play time. But again, our punt team is very important and if Brad Jones, for example, were to start defensively, I would imagine he’s still going to be involved in special teams to a certain level.
1. Did Aaron Rodgers look more motivated heading into this game compared to most weeks?
CLEMENTS: I think it may have factored in a little bit, but I think what factored in more was just the situation we were in. We needed the game. We’re playing against a very good opponent. We’re the underdog. Everyone’s focus was up. I’m sure some criticisms of Aaron’s play probably motivated him a little bit more. But had that not even been the case, I think he would have been ready to play and had a good game.
2. How do you think Alex Green performed in his first start at running back?
CLEMENTS: Well, I think three yards per carry doesn’t sound like a lot, but those 8-yard runs, he got a number of 8- and 9-yard runs. One of the things you also look at is the number of attempts we had during the game; I think we ended up with 31 or 33. To be up at that level and have some success running it, the defense has to be aware of it. And because they were aware of it, it slowed their rush down some.
3. Rodgers was only sacked two times, so was the pass protection must improved?
CLEMENTS: Well, I think the protection was very good. One of the sacks was on a run play and we just had some miscommunication, so it really wasn’t a protection problem. The other time they had good coverage and didn’t really have a whole lot of … didn’t have a good place to go with the ball, tried to scramble and he got a sack. But the offensive line blocked very well. And the backs and tight ends helped them out with their chips as they were releasing in the routes. So, it was a collective effort for the protection unit and the receivers were able to get open and he was able to get rid of the ball.