Practice report: Defense turns it up

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The Packers and Texans share the same record at 5-7. Both teams have quarterbacks growing into their roles as starters and defenses playing with a new brand of aggression.

Packers' pass defense a little scary: The Packers' secondary is stacked with All-Pro talent that has been making big-time plays this season. Cornerback Charles Woodson, a four-time Pro Bowler, has intercepted five passes this season, returning two for touchdowns. Free safety Nick Collins has intercepted five passes and returned three for touchdowns.

The Packers have returned six interceptions for touchdowns and the pass defense ranks fifth in the NFL, allowing 187.6 yards per game.

Does that scare coach Gary Kubiak?

"Damn right that scares me," Kubiak said. "We have to protect the ball. We threw a couple today in practice. We can't throw them. They're excellent.

"You make a mistake with the ball, and they make you pay. That's what good corners do, and they've got them. Their safeties have done a hell of a job, too."

{QUOTE}Green Bay is a man-coverage team with a secondary fast enough to lock down opposing receivers, and Collins has the ability to fly around the field.

"They are a big man-under team," Kubiak said. "He (Collins) is involved whether he's in the middle of the field cheating towards routes or playing quarters and jumping on underneath routes and those types of things. They're a very aggressive defensive football team and when they touch the ball, they're very capable of taking it right back the distance."

The Texans don't plan on shying away from their passing game, but quarterback Matt Schaub will have to be extra careful with the ball in his first start since tearing his MCL on Nov. 2 at Minnesota.

New brand of Texans' defense: The Texans' defense is making of statement of its own, forcing eight turnovers in the last two weeks against Cleveland and Jacksonville.

The players have said they are playing a new brand of defense that calls for more man coverage and zone blitzing.

"Pressure up front and just being aggressive," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "Those are the things we've done the past two weeks, and it's kind of what we have to do this week. We have to be able to go get the quarterback."

With the Texans getting heat on the quarterback, they have been able to pick off more passes. Last Monday against Jacksonville, defensive end Mario Williams had three sacks and cornerback Jacques Reeves had an interception.

So far this season, Williams has recorded 11 sacks and he is second among defensive lineman with four forced fumbles.

However, Kubiak said the biggest difference on defense has been the return of Robinson at right corner. With Robinson's big-hitting ability in the secondary, the team feels confident running more blitzes upfront.

"The most drastic change is the fact that Dunta's come back," Kubiak said. "I think that guys have a little more confidence with each other right now in where they're at and what's going on and what we're doing just from getting repetitions together and doing it together. It makes you play a little better."

QB growing pains for both teams: The Texans are familiar with working through growing pains at the quarterback position. Schaub, who ranks sixth in the league in passing with 251.7 yards per game, has struggled with injuries in his first two years as a starter.

The Packers have been going through their fair share of growing pains this season with first-year starter Aaron Rodgers, who replaced future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre. This season, Rodgers has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 2,897 yards and 20 touchdowns against 10 interceptions.

With 1:19 left in Green Bay's 35-31 loss to Carolina last Sunday, Rodgers threw a costly interception. It has been a maturing process for him as he tries to fill the big shoes left by Favre.

"I think it was very hard for him because Brett is a legend here," Packers receiver Donald Driver said. "He's a Hall of Famer, soon-to-be, and trying to replace those shoes, that would never happen. Aaron Rodgers has to be Aaron Rodgers. He can't try to be Brett. He has to be himself.

"He knows that he has an opportunity now to be the leader of this team, not just the offense, but the leader of this team. He's coming week in and week out and he's proving that. And that's why I take my hat off to him because with some guys, it would be hard to step in other guys' shoes. But he stepped in his shoes and took care of business the way he's supposed to take care of business."

The Texans have been impressed with the way Rodgers has handled himself in the pocket, especially when he is getting pressure. In fact, some players even compared Rodgers to Favre when the pocket is collapsing.

"He's shown that he can stay alive and that he can throw the ball a long ways," Robinson said. "You see him in a lot of situations where a lot of other quarterbacks will be sacked and he ends up coming out of it, and his receivers always run downfield. He plays a lot like Brett Favre. He'll just throw the ball up and trust his receivers to go up and make plays. We just have to make sure that doesn't happen."

Injury notes: Defensive end Anthony Weaver (knee) and safety Nick Ferguson (knee) did not practice for the second consecutive day.

For the official injury report, click here.

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