Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has been either a head coach or defensive coordinator in the NFL for 23 seasons.
He doesn’t need any of that experience to figure out the Chicago Bears’ game plan for Thursday night.
The Packers probably will be without their three top cornerbacks. That unit will be under siege from Brian Hoyer, who is the first quarterback in Bears history to have four consecutive 300-yard passing games.
“When you look at the Bears’ statistics, I would anticipate they’ll throw the ball because that’s what they’ve been having a lot of success doing,” Capers said.
On the other side of the coin, the Packers have had shockingly little success throwing the football. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ funk continued in last week’s 30-16 loss to Dallas. While the numbers looked nice at the end of the game – 31-of-42 passing for 294 yards and a 90.8 passer rating, Rodgers turned over the ball twice and the Packers scored one touchdown in four trips in the red zone.
After the game, Rodgers said he would go home and watch the game over a glass of scotch.
“The scotch was great,” Rodgers said. “You know, I saw things that we’ve been seeing throughout the year. We’re close. We’ve been making some plays at times, but not good enough consistently. We’ve got to clean some things up, I’ve got to make some better throws at times and we’ve got to get on the same page a little bit more consistently, especially in the red zone. The last two weeks we’ve really struggled down there, turning the ball over a few times, I have, so you’ve got to clean that stuff up. You can’t take points off the board like that.”
The numbers are startling. Rodgers, who owns the NFL’s best career passer rating and ranks among the all-time best in completion percentage and yards per attempt, ranks 20th, 26th and 26th, respectively, in those categories.
Rodgers, however, remains undaunted that he – and the offense – will get back on track.
“It’s football,” he said. “There’s going to be stretches where you’re playing really great and stretches where you’re just a little bit off, and we’ve just been a little bit off I think collectively. I’m confident. We’re five games into it. We’re going to get it fixed pretty soon.”
As for Hoyer, he’ll be attacking a no-name group of cornerbacks.
The Packers placed their top player, veteran Sam Shields, on injured reserve due to a concussion sustained on Sept. 11 at Jacksonville.
The other starters, second-year players Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, probably won’t play because of groin injuries. That will leave Green Bay with some combination of Micah Hyde, the team’s No. 3 safety, LaDarius Gunter, an undrafted free agent in 2015, Demetri Goodson, a sixth-round pick in 2014 who returned from a four-game suspension last week, and Josh Hawkins, an undrafted free agent in 2016, trying to stop the prolific receiver trio of Alshon Jeffery (29 receptions, 487 yards), Eddie Royal (29 receptions, 338 yards) and Cameron Meredith (26 receptions, 295 yards). Even without Dez Bryant, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott lit up the Packers for 247 yards, three touchdowns and a 117.4 passer rating last week.
“Especially on a short week and with everything that they do schematically, we have our work cut out for us over the next 48 hours just trying to see what they’ve done, see who’s playing,” Hoyer said. “The one constant is obviously that front seven is really good. We have to handle those guys and then react to how they’re going to play us on the best end.”
Chicago’s offensive stats are hard to fathom. The Bears are seventh in total offense, including fourth in passing offense, but they’re just 31st in scoring with 16.8 points per game. They’ve topped 20 points only once in six games.
“Obviously, these games are won by who has the most points,” Bears coach John Fox said. “We’ve come up a little short in that area.”
Injuries haven’t just wiped out Green Bay’s cornerback depth. They’ve left a mess of the running back depth chart, too. Starter Eddie Lacy played through a sprained ankle last week and was “very sore” on Tuesday, according to coach Mike McCarthy.
His backup, James Starks, had knee surgery on Sunday. As a response, Green Bay acquired Knile Davis from the Chiefs in a trade on Tuesday. The other option is Don Jackson, an undrafted rookie who’s on the practice squad.
Chicago, on the other hand, has gotten production from rookie Jordan Howard, who has 330 yards and a 5.0-yard average.