Last Sunday's Packers-Lions game was basically the reciprocal of the Packers-Bears game. This time the Packers were the team statistically destroyed by their opponent, but in the end a ridiculous amount of penalties doomed the Lions. It was a disconcerting win, but a win nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the defense was brutalized in the process, and they will be sporting a very different look come Sunday against Washington.
Rookie safety Morgan Burnett is officially out for the year, and Nick Collins strained his knee and is not optimistic about his chances of playing this Sunday. This doesn't bode well for the Packers, who will be facing Donovan McNabb this Sunday and possibly fielding Derrick Martin and Charlie Peprah at strong and free safety. I don't know about you, but when I think McNabb I think 4th and 26 and I die a little bit inside (oh how I hate Freddie Mitchell). Missing both starting safeties will be a tough one to manage. But we don't have to worry: Capers can hide weakness in the secondary with his mad-blitzing linebacking crew, right?
Reports are that inside linebackers Brandon Chillar (shoulder) and Nick Barnett (wrist) are both injured, with Barnett's season likely at an end. And of these four, that's the injury which will prove most difficult to endure.
For one, there is help on the way at safety. I never thought I'd look forward to the return of Atari Bigby, but if he can hit the ground running when he comes off the PUP list October 18th, he could provide a serious boost against the Vikings the following weekend, even if he's only available part-time. And after the Vikings recent acquisition, the secondary could use all the help they can get. In the meantime, Charles Woodson will have to continue to try to do everything himself.
But the linebacking crew is too thin to hide, and Dom Capers has leaned heavily on them since his arrival last year. We can pretty much say goodbye to the psycho package. Nick Barnett is without question the most rounded LB of the bunch, able to cover, blitz and play the run effectively. Without him, Capers will find himself a bit limited in his options. But forget about gameplanning--that's not where the defense will miss Barnett most. Though Woodson is clearly their leader, Barnett is their heart. He's the one the emotional players rally around. When the defense is on the field, it's Nick Barnett calling the shots. And have you noticed his mouth guard this season? A guy with that kind of character that will be missed.
So the question is: how will Green Bay fill the void?
Going forward, AJ Hawk will likely be moving into Barnett's role, and the bright side is he's shown improvement of late. Winston Moss made comments earlier in the season that Hawk had been tentative in games, but on a number of occasions against the Lions he tore after the QB, looking a bit like his younger counterpart, Clay Matthews, in the process. (Speaking of Matthews, if you need to ask who will fill the emotional void, you haven't been watching.) If Hawk wants to prove he can be a star, this is his chance, and he seems to be up to the challenge.
But the real question lies with Desmond Bishop. Dubbed by some as "Mr. August," he is best known for his ferocious hits in the preseason, which he follows with standing around on the sidelines until January. There's a reason for that: Bishop is an aggressive player, and that tendency can get him into trouble. For a case in point, look back two years. In 2008 Bishop replaced an injured Barnett in a game against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings tested him, and though he did provide a key stop on 4th and 1, forcing a fumble, he was also burned repeatedly by Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor en rout to a 28-27 loss.
But that was pre-Capers. This defense is more catered to Bishop's style of play than Bob Sanders' was. Sunday against the Redskins will be his first opportunity to play every down in the 3-4, and though the game will likely be just as nerve-wracking as the past two, I'm looking forward to learning whether Desmond Bishop can play as well in October as he does in August.