Perhaps we’ve misjudged them. Perhaps we’ve been too harsh in our assessments.
Or, perhaps, we’ve been just plain wr … wro…wrong.
Yeah, it’s tough to admit such a thing.
Three weeks ago the Green Packers defense was charged with the serious crime of being a weak link. But on Sunday, for the second straight week, its play was on par with its more celebrated teammates on offense during a 34-7 dismantling of the woebegone Buffalo Bills at Lambeau Field.
Yet it’s early. Too early to draw any concrete conclusions; save for linebacker Clay Matthews currently being the most dynamic defensive player in the NFL. That, Jack, is fact.
But as a whole, the offense has yet to put together a complete game. Not even close.
And while the defense has looked pretty good against Kevin Kolb and Trent Edwards, it looked more than shaky against Michael Vick. On Sunday, it sleepwalked through the second quarter, allowing the Bills to rumble for 82 rushing yards by halftime. Not the kind of resume that will make you look twice.
There are many games and many good quarterbacks to go before an identity can be established for this group. Yet as of now, defensive coordinator Dom Capers is on top of his game in finding ways to unleash a player who is fast approaching Charles Woodson as a playmaker.
“The way he’s going, the sky’s the limit,’’ said linebacker A.J. Hawk. “As a defense, with a guy like that, that helps us out a lot. Especially the guys back in coverage, with him getting all the pressure, it’s going to help us get more turnovers and more interceptions. And he’s going to get sacks and cause fumbles.’’
Of course, there are a whole lot of handsomely paid offensive coordinators lined up to figure out a way to stop this one-man wrecking crew. And therein lies the trick as the Packers move forward.
But this “psycho’’ package created by Capers – where the Packers employ one down lineman, five linebackers and five defensive backs – and his ability to move Matthews around will assuredly limit the sleep of those coordinators.
“It’s a big advantage because they really can’t lock in on you,’’ said Matthews. “I’ve been seeing lately a lot of double teams with guards sliding my way, tight ends. So if I can move along hopefully that throws them off a little bit and they can’t key on a certain player on our defense.’’
While Capers earns some credit, there’s no denying the innate ability of Matthews, who has yet to encounter a player in which he can’t win the one-on-one battle.
“I work hard, and am very confident of the work I put in during the week, the work I put in offseason,’’ said Matthews. “I expect more success to come my way.’’
Matthews became the first player in Packers history to have three sacks in two straight games. Tim Harris’ team record of 19.5 is in jeopardy. He’s on pace for 48, which would obliterate the NFL single-season mark of 22.5 set by the Giants’ Michael Strahan (with the help of your old friend Brett Favre, if you recall).
But sacks can be like luck; they can run in streaks.
“The stars have to be aligned,’’ said Matthews of dumping the quarterback. “I’ve had some of my best games when you can beat the guy all day and the quarterback will take a three-step drop, get rid of it, or scramble around and you lose contain. They’re tough to get.’’
As tough as he is to stop. If that doesn’t change, this defense may be judged in a whole new light.
Mike Woods writes for The Post-Crescent of Appleton.