If the Green Bay Packers are going to turnaround the NFL's worst-ranked run defense, what better way to start than against the opponent that gashed them the most during the first half of the season?
A little more than a month ago, Matt Forte and the Chicago Bears ran over the Packers' defensive front to the tune of 235 yards in a Sept. 28 meeting at Soldier Field. The Packers' survived with turnovers in the 38-17 win, but the lackluster performance demoted the defense to last in the NFL against the run.
It's a pit the defense has struggled to itself out of. The Packers did a better job against Minnesota (111 yards), Miami (112) and Carolina (108) over the next three games before unraveling again before the bye.
Not known for their running game, the New Orleans Saints and fourth-year running back Mark Ingram burned them for 193 yards and 6.1-yards per carry. Ingram, who produced 172 of those rushing yards, had only one previous 100-yard performance in 41 NFL games.
The Packers did a good job containing Forte early in his career, but the 29-year-old back has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his last three meetings with Green Bay. It was actually his 125-yard effort in a 27-20 win over the Packers in Week 9 of last season that help started the Packers' free fall.
There isn't one simple answer to solving this riddle, but sealing gaps, correcting missed tackles and the return of defensive lineman Datone Jones (ankle) and safety Morgan Burnett (calf) are a good place to start.
"We've proven we can stop the run. We just have to do it more on a consistent basis," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "There's no magic cure to it. Trust in the guy next to you getting the proper fits, everybody getting off blocks. Finishing with an attitude. That's what it's all about."
The missed tackles haven't helped. According to Pro Football Focus, the Packers had 70 missed tackles in the first eight games of the season, which is already two more than they had during the entire 2012 campaign and five more than 2009.
The defense missed 13 tackles against the Saints with Ingram being credited for forcing 10 of them.
"Ultimately we need to do a better job," outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. "That's ultimately the realization. We can't sit here and talk about scheme and say we need to put ourselves in better position, it just comes down to executing. Sometimes we have to take responsibility as players and as athletes being out there getting the job done. That's ultimately where the shortcomings are. The scheme puts us in the right position. … It just comes down to executing."
With one win in their last five games, the common thought is the 3-5 Bears will be desperate for a victory on Sunday, but don't sell the Packers short, either.
"I think we're in the same boat. We need a win," defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. "We should be angry. We should be desperate, too."
With the team seated one game behind Detroit in the NFC North, the Packers' run defense is looking to prove it's better than the numbers appear. Until Green Bay shows it can stop the run, chances are teams are going to continue to attack them on the ground.
"I would think if you look at us, you'd say that," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "But again, I've got confidence, and I don't worry about the stats and where they are. I'm worried about, what can we do from this point forward, the second half of the season? I think you'll see us … because, I've seen us during the first half of the season play pretty good run defense."
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