New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning leads the NFL with 16 interceptions.
The Green Bay Packers’ defense has a league-low three interceptions.
For the bruised, battered and struggling Packers, this would be an ideal time to right the takeaway ship. Under defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers have a league-high 106 interceptions since 2009, even with the problems this year.
The Giants, however, have been the team righting their ship. During a three-game winning streak that has put them back in the NFC East race after an 0-6 start, Manning has tossed just one interception.
“They play a physical style, they depend on their big backs to be able to plant that foot and one-cut and run downhill on you,” Capers said on Friday. “Eli is a veteran quarterback. They’ve been through a lot of injuries there early. I think they probably feel like they’ve got back in a groove a little bit. They played more like what the Giants play: run the football, let Eli pick his spots in terms of throwing the ball. Early on, they had a tremendous problem with turnovers. The teams that were beating them were taking the ball away and either scoring on defense or giving the offense really good field position. They’ve got big backs that it’s going to be a physical style of game. That's the way it’s always going to be when you play the Giants.”
The lack of interceptions is a dumbfounding problem for a defense that, from 2009 through 2012, had a staggering 17 more picks than any team in the NFL and led the league twice.
“They are what they are because the opportunity hasn’t been as much, and we’ve dropped some of the ones we’ve had. That’s simply it,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. “Everybody, and I’m hearing a lot about it, and justly so, because we’ve been so good at it. I understand why we’re hearing it, but the thing we’re not going to do, we’re not going to start chasing and coming out of coverage to go get them. I think that would be the biggest mistake. We could easily do that, and start voiding coverages. But we’re not going to do that. What we’re going to do is maintain the plan, and when we have an opportunity to get it, we have to come up with it. Some of them have been difficult, but that’s what we’re paid to do.”
Whitt wouldn’t detail the numbers but said the defense has missed more opportunities for interceptions through nine games than it did all of last season. Tramon Williams, who intercepted nine passes in 2010 (playoffs included), had a chance against Minnesota and Chicago and two last week against Philadelphia. He’s gone 23 games without an interception.
“The only thing we do is encourage each other,” Williams said. “Every year is different. Obviously, we all want interceptions. There’s been some opportunities out there. But you go back and watch the film, there’s nothing blatantly out there where you say, ‘These guys should have 17, 20 interceptions right now.’ It’s nothing that blatant out there. We haven’t played any bad quarterbacks. Maybe one, maybe two. Every week, we go back and watch around the league the interceptions that quarterbacks throw. And some of these interceptions these other guys (on other defenses) are getting, it’s like, ‘Oh, man, why can’t we get anything like that?’ We’re not going out trying to chase (interceptions) because it can make things worse.”
Packers injury report
Out: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone). Doubtful: OLB Nick Perry (foot/ankle). Questionable: T Don Barclay (knee), OLB Andy Mulumba (ankle). Probable: C Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee), DT Johnny Jolly (groin), OLB Clay Matthews (thumb), DE/OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), DT Ryan Pickett (knee), CB Sam Shields (hamstring).
Barclay didn’t practice at all but coach Mike McCarthy is holding out hope that he can start at right tackle. “This is our second year with Don. He’s very conscientious. He’s on top of it,” McCarthy said. “He’s here around the clock trying to get healthy. He hasn’t missed a meeting, he’s in the walkthroughs in the gymnasium, and so forth. So, yeah, I’d have no problem playing Don.”
Dietrich-Smith and Shields were given the day off but should be good to go. Jolly and Neal practiced for the first time this week. Both were limited.
Giants injury report
Out: CB Corey Webster (groin/ankle). Questionable: RB Brandon Jacobs (hamstring/knee), DE Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder). Probable: TE Bear Pascoe (ankle), CB Terrell Thomas (knee).
Webster started the first two games but will be inactive for the sixth time in the past eight.
-- Tight end Jermichael Finley had fusion surgery on his spine on Thursday. According to NFL Media’s Andrea Kremer, Finley is up and walking and faces a three- to four-month recovery. The Steelers’ neurosurgeon did the procedure, and Finley plans on returning to Green Bay today. “I’m looking forward to hearing from Jermichael, seeing him. My understanding is, through our medical staff, that it was a successful surgery,” McCarthy said.
-- If Barclay can’t play, Marshall Newhouse would get the call. Newhouse, who started 32 games (playoffs included) the past two seasons, hasn’t started this season but has played four-plus quarters the last two games. “I’ve always viewed Marshall Newhouse as a starter, no different today than in training camp coming out,” McCarthy said. “When Don Barclay won the job, I’ve always felt Marshall was deserving of being a starter as far as his level of play, so we won’t change anything.”
-- McCarthy said there is no plan or timetable for Rodgers. “He’s on top of every inch of his rehab. He feels better. He’s definitely made a big improvement from last week to this week.”
-- Capers, on if the Giants will test the ability of Matthews with the cast protecting his repaired broken thumb: “I think so. I think they have a lot of respect for Clay. Clay’s always going to draw attention, whether he’s got a cast on or not. You look at us, probably the first thing when they look at us is, ‘Where’s Clay Matthews lined up?’ Clay’s had some pretty good games against them, both dropping and intercepting and pressuring.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.