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The question is asked of Herb Waters without fail every time the Packers’ first-year cornerback returns home to Florida.

“People back home are like, ‘Are you still playing receiver?’” said Waters, smiling. “I’m always like, ‘Nah, I’m at corner now.’ It’s slowly setting in.” Before Waters made an in-season switch during his rookie season in Green Bay a year ago, the native of Homestead, Fla., was known as an offensive playmaker during his four years at the University of Miami (Fla.). Waters caught 99 passes for 1,534 yards and nine touchdowns in 47 games with 20 starts for the Hurricanes, with a bulk of that production coming his senior year when he set career highs in both receptions (41) and receiving yards (624). After going undrafted, Waters signed to play receiver with the Packers as a college free agent, but he went without a catch in four preseason games. One of two dozen players released on cut-down day, Waters was offered a spot on the practice squad under one condition. The Packers and position coach Joe Whitt wanted Waters to give cornerback a shot. “Coming out of high school, Charlie Strong wanted me to come to Louisville to play corner,” Waters said. “I played in high school but I said no because I wanted to play receiver. I talked to the guys in the (cornerbacks) room and they’re like, ‘See, you should’ve played corner.’” Whitt, who previously shepherded the conversion of Sam Shields from a Miami (Fla.) receiver to Pro Bowl cornerback, liked Waters’ makeup. At 6-foot, 188 pounds, Waters’ size, speed, quickness and arm length made him an ideal candidate to make a position switch. Waters showed enough progress during his rookie year to not only warrant staying on the Packers’ practice squad in 2016, but also earn a call-up to the 53-man roster during the team’s playoff run. He hoped to carry the momentum into 2017 before suffering a shoulder injury early in training camp, which led to Waters being placed on season-ending injured reserve. The news was devastating. “I was hurt (emotionally); I was let down,” Waters said. “Unfortunately, things happen and God has other plans. I was terrified. I was kind of sad for a couple weeks until I got back up here after surgery and got back around the team, and the guys.” Players who are placed on IR are allowed to rehab away from team facilities if they choose. However, Waters wanted to stick around Green Bay this season and continue learning the finer points of the position. While unable to do any on-field activities, Waters continued to participate in the meeting room and followed all the happenings on the field. He took notes on how Davon House, Damarious Randall and even fellow undrafted free agents such as Josh Hawkins and Lenzy Pipkins went about handling their week-to-week assignments. “Just picking up techniques from the other guys and seeing what they do in certain situations,” Waters said. “I’m a good learner. It just upped my game. Since I’m not playing, that’s all I can really do is learn from other guys and see how to handle situations.” As players cleared out their lockers earlier this month, Waters acknowledged he still has “a couple more months” of rehab ahead of him before he’s fully cleared to return from the shoulder injury. However, he’s hoping to be “100 percent” for organized team activities this spring. Since his injury occurred so early in training camp, Waters didn’t get a chance to play in a preseason game last August. Wanting to show how far he’s come as a cornerback, the idea of stepping on the field at his new position is what continues to push Waters during his training. Whenever he steps back on the field, Waters believes having a chance to sit back and learn the position at a more controlled pace this past year will serve him well in the long run. “I’m kind of glad I did stick around,” Waters said. “I just want to be the best cornerback I can be. Putting all my tools to the test and see where it goes. I haven’t really played in a game at corner, so I don’t know my ups and downs. But I’m just trying to keep a high pace and fly around.”

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The Green Bay Packers are only halfway to fixing their problems on defense.

The decision to change coordinators was the first step. Packers coach Mike McCarthy fired Dom Capers after Sunday’s season-ending loss at Detroit.

Whether it was Capers, the revered Fritz Shurmur or the inventive Buddy Ryan, it might not have mattered who devised defensive game plans and called plays for the Packers. The resources weren’t there.

Like most things in the NFL, it comes down to playmakers.

And that’s where general manager Ted Thompson failed Capers. Yes, Thompson devoted draft pick after draft pick to the defensive side of the ball, yet a dearth of impact players still exists.

Despite what coaches will say, the NFL isn’t about depth. Teams can lose players in bunches, but as long as they have one or two more difference-makers than everyone else, it doesn’t matter.

Quickly scan the Packers’ defensive depth chart — and consider the players on injured reserve, too — and it explains why Capers’ unit ranked 22nd in the NFL this season and hasn’t been in the top 10 since the Super Bowl season of 2010.

That Super Bowl defense had impact players at every level. There was B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett on the front line, and Clay Matthews and Desmond Bishop at linebacker. The secondary was loaded with talent — Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, Tramon Williams and a young Sam Shields.

Like this season, that Super Bowl team faced injuries in mass quantities, but the injured-reserve list isn’t about numbers but rather names. There were so many playmakers on the 53-man roster that it didn’t matter who was on 15-man IR list.

That defense, also coordinated by Capers, ranked No. 5 overall and came up with key takeaways in every postseason game, including Collins’ interception return for a touchdown early and the Matthews/Pickett forced fumble late in the Super Bowl.

What did Capers have to work with this season?

The veterans among his group were an aged Matthews, who still plays with high energy but hasn’t been as effective; an oft-injured Nick Perry, who was a risk to re-sign last year in free agency; an inconsistent Mike Daniels up front and Morgan Burnett, who for all his versatility in the secondary is a jack of all trades but master of none.

The secondary was supposed to be built around Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who made his first Pro Bowl in 2016. But he inexplicably regressed. Veteran cornerback Davon House provided the steady play the Packers expected when they signed him to a one-year deal in free agency, and he battled gallantly through injuries, but the young defensive backs were either too inconsistent (Damarious Randall and Josh Jones) or too injured (Kevin King and Quinten Rollins).

The best prospect Thompson acquired on defense is Kenny Clark, the 2016 first-round pick who finished the season strong with 4.5 sacks in the final five games.

It’s not like Thompson ignored that side of the ball and tried to load up with weapons for Aaron Rodgers, although perhaps that would have been a better roster-building strategy.

In his 13th draft as GM last year, Thompson used his first four picks on defensive players: King and Jones in the second round, defensive tackle Montravius Adams in the third and linebacker Vince Biegel in the fourth. King didn’t have an interception before he went on injured reserve in need of shoulder surgery, and Jones had just one. Adams and Biegel were non-factors after both suffered offseason foot injuries.

Assuming Clinton-Dix bounces back next season, it’s not a stretch to say he and Clark are the only two defensive picks in the past five drafts that could be considered young defensive playmakers.

As much as coaching has been to blame for the Packers’ defensive struggles, the shortcomings in personnel remain as big an issue — if not bigger — for a defense that’s now in transition.

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It’s a good thing this was a meaningless game for the Green Bay Packers, given their inactive and injury lists.

Or maybe the Packers shut down so many key players before things started Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings because it was meaningless.

Either way, what looked like a marquee Week 16 game in prime time when the NFL released its 2017 schedule in April turned into a glorified exhibition game, with players looking to make an impression for next season and coaches perhaps trying to justify their employment.

Yet very few did.

Other than Kenny Clark, the second-year defensive tackle who had a couple of sacks — giving him 4.5 for the season, all of which have come in the month of December — and first-year outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert, who was promoted this week from the practice squad and hit Vikings quarterback Case Keenum more than once, there wasn’t much anyone could claim as progress in the Packers’ 16-0 loss at Lambeau Field.

The Packers were shut out at home for a second time this season. Before this year, no team had been shut out at home twice in a season since 2006, when both the Packers and Raiders were.

“I never felt more defeated, more embarrassed by a performance,” said Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who had four catches for 22 yards. “Yeah, we had opportunities, and we didn’t connect when we did.”

Quarterback Brett Hundley, making his eighth start of the season, did nothing to change the narrative that he isn’t capable of taking over a game. He threw two interceptions, which means his home season ended with zero touchdowns and seven interceptions at Lambeau.

Dropping to 3-5 as a starter, Hundley failed to throw a touchdown pass at Lambeau Field once again. He set the record for pass attempts at home without a touchdown (162) in a single season, according to Elias. Along the way, he threw his third red zone interception this season, tied with Dak Prescott for the second-most in the NFL. Only (six) has thrown more red zone picks, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In Hundley’s defense, the Packers dropped six of his passes, their most since Week 15 of 2014 at Buffalo, another game in which they dropped six, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

When it comes to the roster, general manager Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy likely wanted to use this game — and the regular-season finale next Sunday at Detroit — to evaluate who stays and who goes in the offseason.

But after missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2009, McCarthy might have already made up his mind about changes to his coaching staff, even though Dom Capers’ defense looked respectable for a change. Still, the most likely change this offseason would be at defensive coordinator, unless, of course, team president Mark Murphy decides it’s time for Thompson to go.

Yes, the game was surprisingly still in play into the fourth quarter, as ugly as it was for the Packers’ offense, with five starters on the inactive list: receiver Davante Adams (concussion), linebackers Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) and Clay Matthews (hamstring), cornerback Damarious Randall (knee) and guard Jahri Evans (knee). That did not include Aaron Rodgers, who went on injured reserve earlier in the week after the Packers decided to shut him down the week after he returned from his broken collarbone.

Who knows how many, if any, of those players could have played if the Packers were still in the playoff race? Then it didn’t get any better when receiver Jordy Nelson (shoulder), tight end Richard Rodgers (shoulder), running back Aaron Jones (knee) and right tackle Jason Spriggs (knee) were lost during the game.

“I mean, it’s really hard,” Hundley said. “When you’ve got two big studs [Adams and Nelson] out there and then you lose them. Your right tackle goes down on the first play, then your running back goes out. I mean, it becomes really hard, but at the same time, a lot of people got reps and experience, and you’ve got find a way to win. That’s the name of the game.

“Defense played their butts off. Offense, we didn’t capitalize on the plays we needed to, and that starts with me. I’ve got to be able to lead this team no matter who’s on the field and get us in better opportunities to put some points on the board.”

As bad as Saturday night’s game looked with all those players out, the finale in Detroit might be even tougher to watch.

“We’ve got to play better,” Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “We have to find ways to win ballgames. We won’t take credit for anything. We’ve just got to continue to stay together, man, find ways to win ballgames, I guess. There’s a lot of things going on down here in this locker room, a lot of guys banged up, a lot of guys not playing, a lot of guys not putting their best foot forward. We’ve just got to hold guys accountable. The ones that step on the field with us, let’s go to work. The ones that don’t want to play, just turn your pads in and wait for next year.”

 

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Kevin King might as well have played his rookie season with one arm tied behind his back, according to Joe Whitt.

And while the Green Bay Packers’ top draft pick has been praised this week for his toughness while playing through a painful left shoulder injury, his position coach thinks King never really got the chance to show his potential.

“You haven’t really seen the real Kevin King yet,” said Whitt, the Packers’ long-time cornerbacks coach.

King’s shoulder injury, which goes back to his college days at Washington, became an issue right away in training camp this summer. The 33rd overall pick in the draft missed two of the past three games because of it before the Packers shut him down this week. He was placed on injured reserve and was scheduled for surgery — the second on his left shoulder since his freshman year of college. King said he will have the surgery on Tuesday with Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Alabama.

“He’s a tough young man, no doubt about it,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s been dealing with it for quite some time. Just playing with the harness and trying to gut it out, I think it speaks volumes. It just obviously got to a point there where it was time to do more scans and things like that, and the decision has been made for surgery.”

King said the surgery will be to repair his labrum, the same surgery he had in college. He estimated that his shoulder popped out of place “nine or 10 times” this season.

“It was something that was happening more frequently than not,” King said. “It came out, especially these last few games, it probably came out probably each game. So, yeah, it came to a point where they kind of just shut me down. It was hard because especially with something that I was trying to fight through, but in the end it got to the point where it was probably better to get it done.”

The Packers drafted King because of his size (6-foot-3), speed (4.43 in the 40) and arm length (32). They saw how the first two attributes could help him but never really got the chance to see how his long arms would help him jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, something Whitt loves in his corners when they’re playing press-man coverage.

“I know what he can be, but with him not being able to throw that arm — he has a chance to be a really, really good player,” Whitt said. “Once he’ll be able to throw and control people at the line of scrimmage the way that his length and his ability to be able to bend and move and do those types of things, once he gets that taken care of, you’re going to see a player that you’ll be really excited about. But you haven’t seen it yet.”

King did not record an interception in nine games this season.

“I think I had a pretty productive year even with the circumstances and everything,” King said. “Now I’m just trying to get healthy. I know I belong in this league. I proved that to myself and to the viewers. I know I can play at this level and at a high level. Now I’ve just got to get healthy and get the confidence back.”

King’s injury leaves the Packers short-handed in the secondary. They’re likely to be without fellow starting cornerback Davon House for Sunday’s game at Cleveland. House has a shoulder injury, too. Demetri Goodson, who was activated off PUP after his year-long recovery from a knee injury was completed and replaced King on the roster, has a hamstring injury.

It might force defensive coordinator Dom Capers to use safety Morgan Burnett as a slot cornerback for the second straight week because behind Damarious Randall and Josh Hawkins, the only other corners on the roster are undrafted rookies Lenzy Pipkins (who has played just 47 snaps all season) and Donatello Brown (zero snaps).

“[It's] kind of what we’ve been doing all year,” Capers said when asked about the cornerback position.

The same could be said for the past two years. In 2016, they lost No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields to a Week 1 concussion, and he never played again. They also dealt with injuries to Randall and Quinten Rollins (who is on injured reserve this season).

It’s why the Packers drafted King in the first place.

“That seems like that’s been the story the last two years,” Whitt said. “So it is what it is.”

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There has been plenty wrong with the Packers’ defense this season. Just getting enough players on the field has been a problem at times. (See New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram’s 22-yard touchdown run in last week’s loss, when only 10 defenders were on the field.)But in a shocking turn of events, cornerback Damarious Randall hasn’t been the misfit he was just a few weeks ago.

Since Randall’s benching — and getting kicked off the bench — in Week 4 against the Bears, he has been one of the Packers’ most productive players, with three interceptions. From Weeks 5 to 7, only one other NFL player — Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard — had as many interceptions as Randall did, and no one had more.

“You have to say he’s responded very well,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.

It didn’t seem that way at first.

The week after the incident against the Bears, Randall returned an interception for what turned out to be a key touchdown in the win at Dallas, but he was penalized for flicking the football toward Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

If that wasn’t problematic enough, Randall’s response to it — claiming that he didn’t toss the ball toward Prescott and that he wasn’t penalized — was puzzling, especially since the NFL fined him $9,115 for it.

Randall came back the next week with an interception at the Minnesota Vikings that allowed backup quarterback Brett Hundley to lead a drive that resulted in a field goal. And his interception against the Saints came on an athletic play in the end zone.

“He had a huge play in the Dallas game; that was a big-time play [against the Saints] too,” McCarthy said. “You take points off the board.”

Who knows how close the Packers came to cutting the former first-round pick after the incident against the Bears, but since then, Randall has been one of the few bright spots for an otherwise struggling defense. The Packers rank 23rd in overall defense, 27th against the run and 16th against the pass. The defense will need more big plays from Randall — and others — if the Packers have any hope of keeping the season alive after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone at Minnesota in Week 6.

Randall had been in and out of the lineup throughout the season, based both on injuries and production, but it appears he has taken a significant step toward solidifying his role on defense. If Kevin King and Davon House both are healthy, the Packers would prefer to play them on the outside and use Randall as the slot defensive back in the nickel package.

“He’s kind of kept his nose down and has gone about his work,” McCarthy said. “I’ve been impressed.”

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The same unit that held back the Green Bay Packers when it mattered most last season remains so problematic that even Aaron Rodgers’ presence may not have been enough to get them back to the brink of the Super Bowl this season.

Without Rodgers to cover up for the missteps on defense, coordinator Dom Capers’ unit was exposed for what it is: a subpar unit that may have fixed some of the problems that ended their season in the NFC title game last year but ultimately has too many other issues.

From a pure rankings standpoint, the Packers are once again below average at best on that side of the ball. They finished 22nd in total defense last season and rank in the same spot after seven games this year. They stand better against the pass (16th this year compared with 31st last season) and worse against the run (27th now, eighth last season).

Things looked even worse in last Sunday’s 26-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field. Two early takeaways — interceptions by a resurgent Damarious Randall and Davon House — only delayed the inevitable collapse against quarterback Drew Brees, who hardly ever tested the Packers deep. Instead, a variety of screens and short passes confounded the 11 on defense — when they bothered to field 11, that is. They had only 10 defenders on the field for Mark Ingram’s 12-yard touchdown run on a third-and-2 play in the second quarter.

“That was kind of a gift touchdown off having 10 people on the field,” Capers said.

This defense isn’t good enough to give anything away.

“We’ve got to be better there,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We talked about the communication; it was clearly not good enough. We’ve got to be way better than we were. We knew they were going to roll the personnel group in; they rolled in nine personnel groups [during the game]. They stretched you at the end of the 40-second clock. We weren’t even close to where we needed to be.”

The same could be said for the collective performance through seven games. Sure, injuries have ravaged the secondary, but at least on Sunday against the Saints they had all of their preferred players except for starting strong safety Morgan Burnett.

The issues that have plagued the defense have been many, missed tackles and the lack of a pass rush chief among them. The Packers rank 27th in sack percentage overall but 32nd (last) in the past three games, when they have recorded just two sacks (both by Nick Perry).

When the pass rush should be most effective on obvious third-down pass plays, it hasn’t been. Brees got the ball out quickly on a hitch to Ted Ginn, who converted a third-and-17. Earlier, tight end Coby Fleener was wide open for a 17-yard gain on third-and-3. On a third-and-9 play in the third quarter, Mike Daniels got to Brees a second too late to prevent a throw downfield to Michael Thomas for a 21-yard gain. On that play, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, a Pro Bowler with five interceptions last year, sat back behind Thomas and did not make a play on the ball.

Although Clinton-Dix insisted he isn’t hurt, his play this season would suggest otherwise. He hasn’t been around the ball as much as he was last season, and when he has been he hasn’t made many plays. Without Burnett, who has missed the past two games because of a hamstring injury, Capers has relied more on Clinton-Dix to get players lined up.

“He’s had a lot more on his plate, so who knows how much that affects people,” Capers said of Clinton-Dix. “When you get used to playing, he’s been playing with Morgan out there. Morgan takes on a different role and Ha can focus in on certain things, and now Ha’s had to pick up that role and it gives him a lot more responsibility.”

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One total was 181. Another was seven. The first was fantastic, the second not nearly enough.

The numbers represent the Packers’ rushing yards in Sunday’s loss to the Saints, and how many times Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Martellus Bennett got their hands on the football.

When it came to reviewing the offensive performance, that discrepancy was something Head Coach Mike McCarthy was focused on. The big first number should have led to a much bigger second number, but it didn’t, and the Packers must capitalize on that moving forward with new quarterback

Brett Hundley.

“When you call a football game, you have to get the ball to your playmakers, and we didn’t get that done yesterday,” McCarthy said on Monday just after dismissing his team for the bye week. “Jordy Nelson, Davante, Marty, Randall Cobb. Those guys have to touch the ball.

“How many times have we run for 180-plus yards? Not very often. You’re supposed to win those games. We have a lot to build off of.”

The building will continue with Hundley, who McCarthy remains confident will play better, particularly if rookie running back Aaron Jones can repeat his 17-carry, 131-yard rushing performance.

McCarthy laid out numerous factors behind Hundley’s struggles in going 12-of-25 for just 83 yards through the air.

Two failed third-and-ones in the first half, both coming on the heels of the defense’s two interceptions, contributed to Hundley only getting 50 snaps by game’s end. His “time clock and timing” were not sharp in the drop-back passing game. It was better off play-action, but McCarthy said there were a couple of protection breakdowns on those plays. Finding out on Friday that right tackle Bryan Bulaga would play but left guard Lane Taylor would not, the exact opposite of what the coaches planned for early in the week, led to some last-minute adjustments as well.

Those are the issues McCarthy is focused on, not the swirling suggestions or criticisms that the game plan was supposedly too conservative and didn’t allow Hundley the opportunity to make enough plays.

That said, there will be a process to Hundley’s in-game development.

“Was the game plan as big as it was the week before (with Aaron Rodgers)? Absolutely not,” McCarthy said. “And frankly, it’s going to get smaller. We need to be more creative.

“I feel the same way today as I did going into the week. I know this young man. I believe in him. That’s the direction we’re going.”

There’s plenty to clean up elsewhere, too. Four of the Packers’ eight accepted penalties occurred on special teams.

Also, because of players going in and out of the lineup during the game due to injuries, the Packers continue to have substitution problems on defense.

Once it cost them an early timeout, and another time only 10 defenders were on the field for Mark Ingram’s way-too-easy 12-yard TD run on third-and-1.

“It’s been excessive,” McCarthy said of the changing sub patterns and communication miscues. “Clearly not good enough.”

The loss of all-everything safety Morgan Burnett due to a hamstring injury the last two games hasn’t helped. If the defense has a glue guy from a communication and leadership standpoint, it’s Burnett, and defensive coordinator Dom Capers suggested his absence could be hindering the playmaking abilities of 2016 Pro Bowl safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the back end as well.

At the same time, the play of tackling leader Blake Martinez and interception leader Damarious Randall, with three interceptions in the last three games, has been elevated. Rookie punter Justin Vogel had another field-flipping 60-yard boot.

The inconsistency in all phases can be maddening, but the most disheartening thing to McCarthy is seeing his team sharpen up some poor practice habits without getting the results in the game.

“We haven’t been very good the last two weeks. I told them before the Minnesota game they’re not practicing the right way, and this thing is going to bite us and we have to get on top of it,” McCarthy said. “We had a very good week of practice. We actually had our best week of practice. It happens. The Saints played a very good second half. We didn’t. So we’re not going to overreact to it, but we’re going to get better from it.

“We have to improve. You have to win your home games. To have opportunities and not take advantage of them, that second half of football, we have to be much, much better than that.”

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It’s no secret what the defense needs to do to become the unit the Packers feels it’s capable of being. The blueprint was laid out since the summer. It’s going to take big plays, turnovers, sure tackling and an ability to get off the field consistently on third downs.

While the Packers have had their moments in all four of those areas this season, they weren’t able to do enough to keep pace with New Orleans’ high-octane offense down the stretch during Sunday’s 26-17 loss at Lambeau Field.

The Saints, who entered as the NFL’s fourth-ranked scoring offense, produced 485 total yards against Green Bay, converting on 8-of-15 third downs and winning the battle for time of possession (36:56-23:04).

“We have to play better,” safety

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix  said. “We have to find a way to get off the field on third down. That hurt us a lot today. We’ll look at the film (Monday) and figure out what we can work on to get better and go from there.”

For all the things that didn’t go Green Bay’s way in the second half, the defense couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start against the Saints.Cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Davon House  each picked off New Orleans’ 10-time Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees to end the Saints’ opening two series. Heading into Sunday, Brees had only thrown two picks in his first 183 passes this season.

Randall, who has an interception in each of the Packers’ last three games, halted New Orleans’ opening drive with a pick in Green Bay’s end zone for a touchback before House then pulled in a ball down the sideline intended for Michael Thomas.

House has missed three games this year due to a lingering quad injury, but said he came through fine in his first extended action since the opener against Seattle.

“I played maybe 80 percent, 85 percent, so it was good to know how good I did and was able to play at a high level,” House said. “To know I did that at 85 percent, I’m excited to see what I can bring to the table when I’m 100.”

Green Bay’s defense conceded 225 total yards in the first half, but only gave up seven points on the scoreboard in forcing the Saints to punt twice in the second quarter.

The second half was another story. The Saints scored on the opening series off a 22-yard pass from Brees to receiver Brandon Coleman, and then capped their next two series with Wil Lutz field goals to take a 19-17 lead with 10:21 left in the game.

The Packers, down to one inside linebacker (Blake Martinez , were forced to stay in their sub-packages on a critical series with 8:25 left, which ended with Brees sneaking in a 1-yard touchdown to pull ahead by two scores.

The one-two backfield punch of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara produced 217 total yards, with receiver Ted Ginn Jr. leading the Saints with seven catches for 141 yards.

“The first half I thought we got after them pretty well,” said linebacker Clay Matthews, who had three tackles (one for a loss). “But unfortunately in the second half, it was night and day. We obviously didn’t hold up our end of the bargain and gave up way too many big plays.

“It was just simple mistakes that they took advantage of when you have guys like their quarterback and running back. It was just too much, too much.”

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Receiver Jordy Nelson had an injury that kept him off the field for the Green Bay Packers’ game-winning drive on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, but neither Nelson nor coach Mike McCarthy would say what it was.

McCarthy would only say that it wasn’t a hamstring injury, as had been previously reported. And the fact that Nelson spoke to reporters after the game meant it wasn’t a concussion, because players who are diagnosed with one are prohibited from talking with reporters. A source confirmed on Monday that Nelson is not in the concussion protocol.

“Jordy, he was being evaluated,” McCarthy said Monday. “I don’t know where we would have been if it went into overtime. But at that point we just stayed with the group we had out there.”

Nelson was on the sideline with his helmet on standing next to the coaches and other players during the final drive. Geronimo Allison replaced Nelson and played alongside Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. It was Adams who caught the game-winning, 12-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining in the 35-31 victory.

Nelson’s last play was a failed two-point conversion after Damarious Randall’s interception return for a touchdown with 9:56 left. Nelson was the intended target on the play and appeared to land awkwardly. It was unclear what injury he sustained on the play.

“We’ll have that for you Wednesday,” McCarthy said, referring to when the Packers have to issue their first injury report in advance of Sunday’s game at Minnesota.

After the game, receivers coach Luke Getsy spent several minutes talking with Nelson at his locker. Nelson, on his way to the team bus, told ESPN, “I’m good.”

“We got a little banged up,” he added, “but we’ll be good.”

The Packers also lost starting cornerback Kevin King to a first-half concussion, and safety Morgan Burnett left late in the game with a hamstring injury.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Kevin King didn’t think his NFL debut would consist of only six snaps on defense. Even after his snap count increased by 40 in Week 2, he’s still not sure what will happen next.

The Green Bay Packers’ top draft pick should expect his role in Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals — and beyond — to resemble the latter rather than the former.

The second-round cornerback put together a strong showing in Sunday’s 34-23 loss at the Atlanta Falcons. It was one of a couple of positive takeaways from an otherwise dispiriting loss for a defense that still hasn’t figured out how to slow down Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

King didn’t start against the Falcons, but it would be a shock if he didn’t have that job going forward.

“If anything, he’s earned the right to potentially play more,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Smooth, confident athlete. He’s getting healthy and he looks comfortable out there. I like the progression that Kevin’s making.”

The 6-foot-3, long-armed, speedy cover man did exactly what the Packers hoped he would when they picked him at No. 33 overall in the draft. He ran with Jones, he broke up a pass and he tackled.

“I thought I was going to play a lot last week,” King said. “And next week I could play six snaps again, who knows? I didn’t come here to sit, so …”

The Packers turned to King before the first quarter was over. He replaced Damarious Randall at right cornerback. Randall returned late in the game after left cornerback Davon House sustained a quad injury. Randall and Quinten Rollins, the slot cornerback, both struggled. King, meanwhile, allowed just one completion — a 12-yard slant to Taylor Gabriel with 5:40 left in the game. He was targeted four other times, according to Pro Football Focus, and did not allow another completion.

“I thought Kevin did a good job,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “I think he continues to grow, you know? We’re encouraged with his progress. He competes well. You saw him break up a couple balls on crossing routes. He’s not afraid to get up and challenge receivers, and I like his style of play.”

Injuries could determine some of what happens at cornerback. House said he does not believe his quad injury will be problematic; he likened it to a muscle cramp after the game. If that’s the case, then the Packers’ starting cornerback pairing likely will be House and King. McCarthy and Capers then will have to decide who to play in the slot between the struggling Randall and Rollins, or perhaps give rookie Lenzy Pipkins a shot. Pipkins, an undrafted free agent, has been inactive for the first two games.

Another second-round pick, safety Josh Jones, also saw his first extended action on defense after Kentrell Brice left Sunday’s game because of a groin injury.

“As we go along, you see these young guys [and] their reps increase based off of [them getting] more comfortable,” Capers said. “You want to be able to put them out there and have them have success. So I think Kevin, each step I think you’ll see him get more reps as we go along here. Josh Jones last night, I thought he went in and did a nice job. He played more snaps than what he’s played. Both of those guys, I think you’re going to see their reps increase.”

Said King: “I plan for a big role every week. I feel like I’m a starter whenever I step on the field.”