There have been plenty of questions about whom the Green Bay Packers will have at their disposal on the defensive side of the ball Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings. Here's another question, prompted by Thursday's radio spot with ESPNMilwaukee.com's Jason Wilde:
No matter who plays, how will they be deployed?
Last year, as you might recall, the Packers went without a sack on 59 pass plays over two games against the Vikings. Quarterback Brett Favre completed 41 of those 59 passes for 515 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception. For those scoring at home, that's a 135.9 passer rating.
For reasons that seem relatively self-explanatory, the Packers largely sat back in coverage in those games. According to ESPN's Stats and Information, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers sent at least one extra pass rusher on 18 pass plays (30.5 percent). But as the chart shows, Favre threw a completion on 16 of them, including three touchdowns.
With the blitz so ineffective, I don't blame Capers for pulling back. Unfortunately for the Packers, they didn't fare much better in coverage.
Every year stands on its own, however, and the Packers would be advised to consider a heavy pass rush Sunday night. This season, Favre has completed only 46.7 percent of his passes against five or more pass rushers (28 of 60), according to ESPN's Stats & Information, and ranks No. 30 among NFL quarterbacks with a 57.3 passer rating in those situations. He's thrown three interceptions and been sacked twice in 62 plays against the blitz.
As always, these figures do nothing more than give us some context and perhaps a glimpse into the issues under consideration in the coaching offices.
By the way, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis and remains on track to play Sunday night. Cornerback Al Harris and safety Atari Bigby, in Day 2 of their three-week practice window on the physically unable to perform list, also suffered no setbacks. Coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that the Packers were following a two-week template for both players. But Wilde's suggested during our radio appearance that both players could be activated in time for Sunday's game.