GREEN BAY – Every Saturday, Joe Whitt shows his guys two video compilations. One is a mash-up of every explosive pass play given up in the NFL the previous week. The other, every interception.
Until this week, the Green Bay Packers’ cornerbacks weren’t showing up on either reel. This week, after giving up touchdowns of 55, 45 and 32 yards in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and after another week of not intercepting a pass, his guys will appear on one of the videos – the wrong one.
Maybe next week, after they face the NFL’s leader in interceptions thrown – New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning – on Sunday, they’ll appear on the other one.
“We do it every Saturday. We’ve been doing it since I’ve been here. You just watch all the interceptions that were thrown,” veteran cornerback Tramon Williams explained. “And you’re like, ‘Man, why did he throw that?’ It’s that blatant to where it’s, ‘Thank you.’ And we don’t get those. I don’t know why we haven’t gotten them this year.
“Sometimes you have to be a little bit more patient than you usually are.”
The reason the Packers’ three – three! – interceptions on the season are so alarming is their track record. When Dom Capers arrived as defensive coordinator in 2009, the Packers’ pick parade began. From 2008 through 2012, the Packers intercepted 103 passes, far and away the most in the league over that four-year span.
This year, they have the fewest in the NFL. WIth only five fumble recoveries, they have only eight total takeaways and are minus-4 in turnover differential, ranking them 23rd in the league.
“I’m hearing a lot about it, and justly so, because we’ve been so good at it,” Whitt, the Packers cornerbacks coach, said of the interception drop-off. “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.”
Last week against the Eagles, Williams had two would-be interceptions and missed them both. The first, on a deep ball to DeSean Jackson, caromed off Williams as he collided with safety Morgan Burnett and into Jackson’s arms for a 55-yard TD. The second went through a diving Williams’ hands across the middle for a 23-yard gain to Jason Avant.
That’s happened entirely too often this season, although Whitt won’t say just how many interceptions the Packers should have entering the 10th game of the season.
“What I will say is we’ve missed more opportunities this year at the halfway point as we did all of last year. I will say that,” Whitt said. “That’s something we have to get corrected. We just have to catch the ball.
“You’re never going to be 100 percent. But if we’re 50 percent on them, we’re not having this discussion right now.”
Perhaps Manning can help them with that. He enters Sunday’s game with a league-high 16 interceptions in nine games, and he’s thrown 160 in his 10-year NFL career. During the Giants’ three-game winning streak, he’s thrown just one pick in 100 attempts; during their 0-6 start, he had three three-interception games and one four-interception game.
“You can't look at it like that,” safety Morgan Burnett said when asked if facing Manning might get the Packers off the schneid. “He's a great quarterback, two-time Super Bowl champion. He leads that offense. A strong arm, and he can make all the throws, so when he gets hot, he's hot. So that's why against that offense it's going to take a collective group effort and you have to play together.”
Whitt said the absence of Casey Hayward, who reinjured his troublesome hamstring last week against the Eagles and has only played in three games all season, isn’t a factor in the Packers’ INT numbers being down – even though Hayward had a team-leading six interceptions last season.
“He can get the ball. Casey’s instinctive. But I’m not going to say that we’re not getting the ball because he’s not playing,” Whitt said. “He ain’t the reason we aren’t getting it.
“We need more from everybody. And we have to produce. I’ve got to give more as a coach and each individual player has to give more to get the job done, and the number one job is winning. No matter the interceptions or whatever, we’ve got to win football games. And … Interceptions. Help. Us. Win. Football. Games. That’s why they’re important.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.