Three touchdowns blemish the overall body of work, but the Green Bay Packers must otherwise feel satisfied with the way the club's starting defense played this preseason.
The first unit may not play any more than a series in the exhibition finale against the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday night, so the majority of the preseason work has already been completed.
McCarthy was pleased after Green Bay's 31-21 win over the Oakland Raiders last Friday night.
"I feel good about where our starters are coming out of this game," Mike McCarthy said.
Over three games, the Packers starting defense allowed 189 yards on 48 plays, or roughly 3.9 yards per play. Eleven opponent drives netted 20 points but also eight punts, including five three-and-outs.
Four penalties gave offenses 49 free yards, but only once did an opponent score on a drive featuring a defensive penalty.
The first-team defense was especially strong against the run, allowing just 85 yards over 23 attempts. Tennessee and St. Louis rushed 14 times for just 31 yards. Take away Maurice Jones-Drew's 40-yard run last Friday night, and the Packers allowed only one run over five yards (Dexter McCluser's 7-yard run on 3rd-and-13).
Tennessee's Jake Locker completed 1-of-2 passes for 5 yards. Matt Schaub went 5-of-11 for 17 yards and one sack versus the first-team defense last Friday. Sam Bradford got the better of Green Bay's first unit, completing 9-of-12 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
Overall, the three quarterbacks combined to complete 15-of-25 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown against the Packers starters. The trio averaged less than five yards per attempt.
Pass rush has made a difference. Mike Daniels, Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews and Mike Neal have combined for 14 quarterback disruptions. Daniels has been unblockable and Peppers has been more active each week.
The touchdowns were a result of mistakes the Packers likely consider fixable.
On Shonn Greene's 13-yard run in Tennessee, Peppers and Daniels lost gap contain, and Brad Jones was slow to react to the cutback. Otherwise, Peppers, Daniels and the rest of the Packers defense have generally fit the run well this preseason.
Bradford's touchdown pass finished off a long drive that also featured a 41-yard completion. The actual score was the result of a pin-point throw that beat Micah Hyde by an inch or two. The two completions represent the only mentionable mistakes from the Packers starting secondary during August.
Finally, Jones-Drew broke through the Packers defense on 3rd-and-2 after Morgan Burnett crashed down and missed his tackle, Hyde overplayed to the outside and missed his tackle and A.J. Hawk got lost in a mess of bodies and then his missed his last-ditch tackle. Those three missed tackles represented half of the starting defense's six so far this preseason.
"The 40-yard run was not acceptable," Hawk said. "We settled down and found a way to get off the field. We can hopefully draw back on that later this season when we're in some adversity-type situations."
Circumstances provide context. Tennessee's touchdown came after a muffed punt gave the Titans the football at the Green Bay 13-yard line. The Raiders followed their touchdown with five straight three-and-out drives that netted zero yards.
"I think our No. 1 defense … I thought we dominated the line of scrimmage," McCarthy said Friday. "Three-and-outs speak for themselves. I was very pleased with the first unit."
The Packers clearly weren't perfect in the preseason. Preventing big plays and limiting damage on the scoreboard are top priorities for a good defense.
Still, the Green Bay starters did enough good things—against the run, pressuring the quarterback and getting off the field—to consider the preseason a success. Bringing those positives to the regular season is the next step in the process.
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