Defense looks to rebound against Panthers

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward (29) gives up a catch to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field November 1, 2015.

There wasn't any point sugarcoating how the Green Bay Packers played in Sunday’s 29-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, so Micah Hyde didn’t even bother trying.

The third-year defensive back gave an honest and accurate assessment when asked Wednesday what went wrong against the Broncos and what had been the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense. Instead of capitalizing on Peyton Manning’s recent struggles, the Packers gave up 500 total yards to the Broncos.

The performance was unacceptable on both sides of the ball, but it was especially disappointing for a defense that had been among the league's best through the first month of the season.

“We just sucked. That’s exactly what it was,” Hyde said. “We went out there and we just laid an egg. We didn’t do hardly anything right. I wouldn’t put it on the coaches. As a player, myself, I go into the game and try to get myself ready.

“It’s the coaches’ job to give you the game plan and motivate you and stuff like that, but at the same time, this is the NFL. You’re a professional football player. You don’t need a rah-rah speech before the game to get going. We just went out there and we sucked. Plain and simple.”

Denver surged all the way to 17th (350.7 yards per game) in total offense after the blowout. Meanwhile, the Packers’ defense has fallen from seventh to 23rd in total defense after conceding at least 500 total yards in consecutive games.

Green Bay played well enough in the red zone to escape with a 27-20 victory over San Diego before the bye week despite Philip Rivers throwing for 503 yards, but couldn’t get enough stops Sunday to keep pace with the Broncos, whose defense limited the Packers' offense to only 140 total yards and 50 net passing.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy assumed blame for his team’s slow start when he addressed the media before practice Wednesday, saying that the his team “didn’t come out and play with the same energy as we have in the past.” Defensive players surveyed in the locker room put it on themselves.

“We didn’t have a lot of effort from this Denver game,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “This week, everybody must run to the ball and show a lot of effort. I think we’ll correct that this week.”

The Packers put the Denver film in the vault Monday and now turn their sights to the undefeated Carolina Panthers, whose receiving corps are nowhere near as deep or talented as the Broncos. Still, quarterback Cam Newton is a multi-faceted threat who’s made the most of his ragtag perimeter weapons since Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL in August.

Defending tight end Greg Olsen could be problematic for the Packers’ secondary, especially after giving up 12 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown to San Diego's Antonio Gates and LaDarius Green last month, and six catches for 105 yards to the Broncos' Virgil Green and Owen Daniels.

Daniels and Green came into Sunday with only 17 combined catches for 123 yards for the entire year.

It comes down to finding balance, fundamentals and getting back to what worked in the past. Hyde didn’t sound any trumpets following dominating performances against San Francisco and St. Louis, and doesn't plan on pressing the panic button after the defense's struggles against Rivers and Manning.

Internally, there’s confidence the defense can get back to playing how it did the first five weeks.

“One week you’re going to be the best defense; one week you could be the worst defense,” Hyde said. “And maybe some people think we’re the worst defense after our last performance, but we try to stay even-keeled the whole time. If we have a good game like we did against San Fran … We weren’t thinking we were the greatest thing ever, and after the last game we’re not thinking we’re the worst defense ever. We know what we have to do and it’s a great challenge this week.” and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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