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Packers looking to improve defense going into Thursday's game against Vikings

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GREEN BAY, Wisconsin — Mike McCarthy hadn't yet watched the film of Sunday's victory over the Chicago Bears.

But the Green Bay Packers coach already knew plenty about how his defense did.

The Packers had given up 496 yards, including 235 yards rushing, dropping them to 26th in the 32-team league in defense (390.0 yards per game) and last in rushing defense (176.0 yards per game) entering Monday night's New England-Kansas City game.

"I'm aware what the numbers are," McCarthy said Monday, one day after a 38-17 victory at Soldier Field put the Packers at 2-2 entering Thursday night's game against another NFC North rival, the Minnesota Vikings (2-2).

"Nobody likes it."

But it's up to McCarthy, defensive coordinator Dom Capers and the coaching staff to fix it on a short week.

Although the Vikings will be without six-time Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson, they got plenty of production in the run game during Sunday's 41-28 victory over Atlanta.

Rookie Jerick McKinnon carried 18 times for 135 yards and Matt Asiata ran 20 times for 78 yards and three touchdowns.

McCarthy, who didn't watch his team's film because he "started on Minnesota" during the flight back from Chicago, said he talked over the team's problems against the run with his assistant coaches Monday.

Their assessment?

"(The Bears) hit us on some things schematically that we really haven't seen," McCarthy said. "Then, fundamentals (were poor)."

As a result, Bears running back Matt Forte, who came in averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, ran 23 times for 122 yards, a 5.3-yard average.

As a team, the Bears ran the ball 41 times, averaging 5.7 yards per attempt.

"Giving up that much yardage, there's no excuse for that," McCarthy said. "We understand that."

The large yardage number was the latest in a series of big games opponents have had against the Packers defense since giving up 579 yards in a 2012 NFC division playoff loss to San Francisco.

PHOTO: Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) drops back to pass in the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) drops back to pass in the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Last season, the 49ers put up 494 yards in the regular-season opener, and the Detroit Lions gained 561 yards in a Thanksgiving Day blowout last November.

The Packers allowed 400 or more yards in seven of 16 regular-season games last year.

Still, McCarthy expressed optimism that the mistakes were "correctable" ones.

"Your job as a coach is to put the player in the best situation to be successful. We're very critical of ourselves and our players are very accountable," McCarthy said. "One thing about what happened yesterday, they're all things that are all correctable.

"Give Chicago credit. Offensively, they did some really good things. They played well. They're a good offense. But giving up that much yardage, there's no excuse for that. We understand that. But there are things we can definitely work on and improve on."

During the offseason, the Packers remade their defensive line, allowing former run-stuffing defensive linemen Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly, both of whom weighed roughly 340 pounds, to leave as free agents.

After losing nose tackle B.J. Raji (6-2, 337) to a season-ending torn biceps, the line consists of Mike Daniels (6-2, 300), Datone Jones (6-4, 285), Letroy Guion (6-4, 315), Josh Boyd (6-3, 305) and undrafted rookie free agent Mike Pennel (6-4, 332).

"We've got good players. We just have to play better sound football," Daniels said Monday. "There's really nothing else I can say about it."

Asked if giving up 704 yards rushing in four games makes him second-guess the approach the team took on the defensive line, McCarthy said no.

"I don't think anybody disagrees with our approach," he said. "We're utilizing our players, we're playing to our players' strengths. Everything we've adjusted is in the best interest of our players."

Despite the huge chunks of yardage the unit allowed and the fact that the Bears, like the Packers, never punted in the game, the defense did force two turnovers.

Cornerback Sam Shields and linebacker Clay Matthews each intercepted Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, and each takeaway led to a Packers touchdown.

"You look at the points first and foremost, but we can't allow ourselves to be in that position and have our offense win games for us," Matthews said.

"It's something we need to address. "We've just got to buckle down and get off the field. That's kind of been our how we've operated — bend, don't break. But that's no excuse. We'll make the corrections and hopefully it starts with this short week against Minnesota."


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