Bears started Packers' woes against the run

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It was an oft-asked question in the Green Bay Packers' locker room this week.

What's wrong with the run defense?

"That's a question you probably have to ask everyone," Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels said on Friday. "You're going to get a bunch of different responses."

In fact, that's exactly what ESPNWisconsin.com's Jason Wilde discovered on Thursday, when he asked every member of the Packers' defensive coaching staff and several players what they can do to fix their run defense, which is ranked 32nd (a.k.a dead last) in the NFL.

For his part, Daniels' answer on Friday was this: "I just think we have to focus a little better."

While there was little or no consensus about why the Packers' run defense has failed, what's clear is when it all fell apart.

Sunday's opponent, the Chicago Bears, serve as that reminder.

In last season's Week 9 game against the Bears at Lambeau Field, the Packers fielded the NFL's fourth-ranked run defense. The first eight weeks of the 2013 season saw it yield just 83.6 yards rushing per game.

Since then, no team has been run on and run over worse than the Packers. And the Bears started it all with a 171-yard rushing performance, including 125 from running back Matt Forte. That was beginning of a 17-game stretch of regular-season games that has seen the Packers give up an average of 155.5 yards rushing per game and 5.0 yards per carry (see chart below).


Ten times during that horrific stretch of run defense an opposing running back has topped the 100-yard mark individually, and no team has made the Packers' run defense look worse than the Bears. In all three meetings during that 17-game stretch, Forte has topped the 100-yard mark. He followed his 125-yard game with efforts of 110 in Week 17 of last season and 122 in the Week 4 game this season at Soldier Field.

In the Packers' last outing, Saints running back Mark Ingram put up 172 yards, the most by a back against the Packers since the Viking’s Adrian Peterson ran for 199 in the 2012 regular-season finale.

Forte must be champing at the bit to get another crack at the Packers.

"I don't really look at what somebody's ranked in the league, because this is the NFL," Forte said this week during a conference call with reporters at Lambeau Field. "There are still good guys on that team. Just because they may be ranked that low, it doesn't mean that their defense can't stop the run or they're not that good.

"This is the NFL. Guys get paid to play football, play defense, and they're still good. It's always a question from the outside, 'Oh, they're ranked last in the league in this, so you guys should do this on them.'"

Teams sure are trying.

Only three teams have been run on more times than the Packers, who have seen their opponents attempt 257 rushes against them this season.

Until they stop someone -- anyone -- that is not likely to change.

"I would think if you look at us, you'd say that," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "But 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've seen us during the first half of the season play pretty good run defense, where I've said, 'Hey, their two running backs got 60 yards.' So when we were ascending and doing that, we had two or three of those games in there. Now, you never want to have a game like we had in the first Bears game, where we didn't play very good run defense, or the Saints game. Those are the things we've got to iron out to where we become a more consistent team in the second half."