Porous Defense Must Get Off Mat

Williams (Jeff Hanisch - USA Today Sports)

Green Bay has given up about 29 points per game during its five-game slide, about a touchdown more than during the 5-2 start

After five winless weeks, the Green Bay Packers got a chance to rest.

About the only positive that Green Bay can take away from its 40-10 loss to Detroit on Thanksgiving was that it gave the banged-up team a few extra days off.

The Packers have had to push through a nine-week stretch without a breather after getting a Week 4 bye.

Cornerback Tramon Williams hopes a maligned defense can make its season-ending stand, starting Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

"A lot of energy out there. Hopefully, it carries over," Williams said. "Guys haven't given up at all ... We know what's at stake and we have to come out and play our best ball."

The Packers are in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2008, when they had a five-game losing skid late in the season and finished 6-10. It was quarterback Aaron Rodgers' first year as starting quarterback.

The 0-4-1 slide has a lot to do with Rodgers being sidelined by a fractured left collarbone. The franchise quarterback is back at practice on a limited basis, and coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers made a little more progress Thursday.

But Rodgers hasn't been cleared to play, and if that stands, Matt Flynn would get the start against Atlanta.

Just as alarming for the Packers has been the collapse of the defense at a time when it was needed most with Rodgers out.

Green Bay has given up about 29 points per game during its five-game slide, about a touchdown more than during the 5-2 start. A season-long problem with missed tackles has been one of the biggest issues.

A run defense that was once in the top five in the league has allowed an average of 185 yards over the past five games.

"The game is won or lost at the line. So we have accountable guys in our room and that just goes to show you we're looking at it as, we have to take control of the ship here," defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. "We have to make sure we do our job the best and everybody else will follow."

Just in time for Green Bay, Falcons running back Steven Jackson is regaining form after missing much of the first half of the season with a hamstring injury.

Jackson ran for two touchdowns and set season highs with 23 carries for 84 yards in last week's win over Buffalo that snapped a five-game losing streak.

Some players have grown weary with the questions. But they also know they have to produce results, especially after the humbling Thanksgiving Day loss.

"You're not a fighter until you get up off that mat, as they tell boxers, so see how guys respond," Daniels said. "It's not whether you get up, it is how you get up."

Maybe the few extra days off will do them some good. A defense maligned by injuries has slowly been getting players back.

Pass-rushing specialist Clay Matthews has three sacks in his four games since returning from a thumb injury. Nick Perry (foot) has been limited in practice this week by a recurring foot injury, though he did register seven tackles and a sack last week against Detroit.

The work ethic remains high, McCarthy said.

"The break was well needed. It's definitely rejuvenated us physically and I would hope so mentally. The energy has been excellent," he said.

When asked, Williams said no one was pointing fingers in trying to assign blame. The future of defensive coordinator Dom Capers has been a popular topic of late on Wisconsin sports talk radio.

Williams has put the debacle in Detroit behind him. No sense dwelling on it. Now it's time to get back on the field after a few days off.

"Kind of hit the reset button a little bit and come back with a different focus, a stronger focus," Williams said. "Just try to get back to work and make things happen like we've been doing around here in Packer country."


Find Genaro Armas on Twitter at twitter.com/GArmasAP.

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