To beat Favre, Packers need to turn up heat
It's the soothing mantra recited weekly by virtually every NFL defensive coordinator: Stop the run. Stop the run. Stop the run. But as the Green Bay Packers showed in their loss at Minnesota earlier this month, stopping the run is only a starting point for a defense facing a good passing game led by a motivated, familiar opponent. If the Packers don't get more pressure on Brett Favre in Sunday's mega-matchup at Lambeau Field, there's every reason to believe their former quarterback will simply carve them up again. "We did a pretty good job of containing and shutting down Adrian Peterson, but we didn't pressure the quarterback as much as we needed to," Aaron Kampman said. "I think that was obvious. So we've got to do like we did the first (game): Stop Adrian Peterson, but we've got to do a better job of getting pressure on Brett." The Packers held Peterson to 55 yards on 25 carries in their Oct. 5 game at the Metrodome, and rookie linebacker Clay Matthews III wrestled the ball out of his hands and ran it back for a score in the second quarter. But the Packers barely got any pressure on Favre, who was 24 of 31 for 271 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't throw an interception, wasn't sacked and barely even was touched. The Vikings won 30-23. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers acknowledges that the Packers have to put more pressure on Favre this time around. But while it might be unwise to take an NFL coach at his word a few days before a big game, Capers seems to favor a conservative philosophy for Sunday's rematch. Capers warns that overcompensating for the Packers' lack of pressure in the first Vikings game and going with an all-out blitz strategy could lead to even worse results against a veteran quarterback such as Favre. "We could go out and blitz every down and probably hit Brett Favre a few times," Capers said. "But our chance of winning the game, I think, goes down." It's not that the Packers didn't bring pressure against Favre in the Metrodome - they just didn't get to Favre before he read the pressure and got rid of the ball, one of his biggest strengths as a quarterback. Even when the Packers had unblocked defenders rushing directly at Favre, Capers said it didn't matter. "When we ran pressure against them, that ball was out right now," Capers said. "So the pressure never really had a chance to develop. Even if you had a guy free, it was kind of irrelevant because the ball was out so quick." Sell out to blitz Favre, and Capers says the Packers could end up watching big plays go the wrong way. "There's no question we've got to try to generate a little more pressure, but you don't want to do that to the extent where you've got 20 or 30-yard runs coming out of there," Capers said. "And again, you open yourself up for bigger plays down the field. That's the biggest thing. We've got to find ways to be a little bit more disruptive but not give them anything down the field." But even if their blitzes don't lead to sacks, safety Atari Bigby said the Packers still have to turn up the heat on Favre. "I think the worst thing you can do is let him sit back all day and pick and choose who he wants to throw the ball to," Bigby said. A lack of pass rush wasn't Capers main concern when he reviewed film of the Packers' loss. Instead, Capers focused on third-down defense, making stops in the red zone and limiting big plays. The Vikings were 8-of-14 on third down, spotless in the red zone and got 123 of their 334 yards of total offense on four plays, all passes. The Packers have played much better since then, giving up a total of three points in back-to-back games against Detroit and Cleveland. Bigby's return from a knee injury has solidified communication in the secondary, Kampman is playing as a down lineman more often and getting more pressure on quarterbacks, and Matthews is showing the potential that made him a first-round draft pick. "All those things considered, I think we've gotten better," Kampman said. "But you look at the film, they've gotten better, too. So it should be a great game." Also, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was limited in Thursday's practice with a sprained foot, and center Jason Spitz did not practice with a lower back injury that isn't improving as quickly as coaches were hoping.