Defense needs a vocal leader

Packers running out of time to fix problems
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The Green Bay Packers are in a crisis.

Their two-game losing streak has darkened once bright postseason prospects, and it’s likely the team will face a must-win game on the road at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.

Finding a way to win the next three weeks will be critical for the Packers (5-4) to get to the postseason, which may take at least a 10-6 record, if not an outright NFC North Division championship.

Surprisingly, the team’s biggest problem hasn’t been the offense, which is missing quarterback Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) and is starting former practice squad player Scott Tolzien at the game’s most important position.

The problem undermining the Packers right now is their defense. The unit has allowed 27 points in each of its last two games, allowing fourth-quarter drives of 8 and 9 minutes, killing any chance of a comeback.

In the locker room, there weren’t many answers for what the defense needs to do.

“We need to be more resilient,” defensive lineman Mike Daniels said. “We have to roll with the punches, we have to fight harder.”

“You’ve just got to put it behind you and move on,” safety Morgan Burnett said. “We’ve got to step up to the challenge and try to seize the moment and find a way to get a win.”

The string of vague platitudes wasn’t encouraging.

There was no Charles Woodson there to say they under-performed and it was unacceptable.

The defense has lacked leaders like Woodson, Nick Collins and Cullen Jenkins since the 2010 season, the last time the Packers’ defense has really been formidable.

Facing a similar situation in 2010 — the Packers lost Rodgers for a game to a concussion and the team went on a two-game losing streak — and the team needed its defense to pick up the slack.

The Packers’ run from there gave them the team its 13th championship, winning the final two games of the season and taking three road playoff games to get to, and win, Super Bowl XLV.

It wasn’t an accident that the run coincided with Woodson’s ascension as a vocal leader in the locker room.

“I think the guys have a lot of respect for me and my career — the way I play the game,” Woodson said at the time. “You lead by example but at times you’re needed to speak.”

Woodson’s “One” locker room speech following the NFC Championship game and his locker room speeches throughout that season helped the team get pumped up and left no doubt about what they were trying to accomplish.

The Packers played better on the field, especially Woodson’s fellow defensive players.

Younger players have replaced Woodson, who was released this offseason and returned to the Oakland Raiders, on the field, but his impact in the locker room has not been replaced.

It isn’t an easy thing to do. Even Woodson was reluctant to try to rally his teammates at first.

This year’s defense has its star in Clay Matthews. Then there are loud tough guys like Mike Daniels and quiet tough guys like Johnny Jolly.

Jolly, along with A.J. Hawk, Ryan Pickett, Tramon Williams and special teamer Jarrett Bush all came into the league in 2006 and can claim the veteran status on the ever-youthful Packers.

None, however, have embraced the role of the locker room leader.

For an under-performing defense looking for changes, it’s time for one of them to speak.