The pass rush for the Green Bay Packers has gone from prolific to quiet in two games.
It is no coincidence that they have lost both those games, though the lack of pressure certainly isn't the only reason during a tough midseason stretch for the NFC North favorites.
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The Packers are determined to turn up the heat again when the Detroit Lions visit Lambeau Field on Sunday.
"Well statistically we haven't sacked the quarterback and we're not hitting the quarterback enough the last two weeks," coach Mike McCarthy said. "That hasn't been where it was the first six weeks compared to the last two weeks."
Earlier this season, the Packers set a franchise record with 42 straight games with a sack. The stretch of pass-rushing success started in 2012 and lasted through the sixth game of this season, when they had three sacks during a 27-20 win over San Diego.
Through six weeks, the Packers led the NFC with 23 sacks.
They had a bye in Week 7, though the sacks didn't return when the team came back for a tough two-game road trip.
Against Denver two weeks ago, the Packers had no sacks and just three quarterback hits on veteran Peyton Manning. Against Carolina last week, they also didn't get a sack, and had just two hits on mobile Cam Newton.
Manning had the Packers reeling with his mix of handoffs and play-action passes, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. The Panthers often kept more blockers in to protect Newton, who could scramble out of trouble when needed.
"We're not doing a good enough job of getting after the quarterback despite the excuses of max protect or whatever you'd like to say," linebacker Clay Matthews said.
It's all about making the next adjustment, teammate Julius Peppers added. He has a team-high 5 1/2 sacks, one more than Matthews.
"You have spells where once you have so many sacks or pressures in a short amount of time, people take notice and they prepare and they try to take certain things away," Peppers said. "It's a game of adjustments. It's our turn to adjust and start getting pressure."
Facing the Lions could help.
At 1-7, Detroit is in disarray after replacing its offensive coordinator and letting go of two offensive line coaches earlier this month.
It didn't have the desired results up front. The Lions allowed seven sacks to Minnesota before the change, and six sacks to Kansas City.
"It's not just one issue," Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said this week about pass protection.
The Packers' pass rush also could get a boost from their secondary, where top cornerback Sam Shields looks as if he is poised to return after missing all or most of the past two games with a shoulder injury.
Cornerback Casey Hayward (concussion) was limited for Thursday's long practice after missing Wednesday, while Quinten Rollins (neck) was a full participant for a second straight day.
Having all three cornerbacks available would help the Packers cover Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson.
"But I think it goes hand-in-hand with the pass rush and pass coverage. You just have to do a better job on both ends of the stick there," Matthews said.
"We've got to get back on track and it starts this week, so it should be a good one especially with ... Detroit and their propensity to throw the ball at times. Hopefully that's the case this week."