Alarming Trends Continue To Plague Packers
The Packers were defeated by the Vikings for the first time in the Matt Lafleur era. Going into the their bye week at 1-5, many NFL pundits thought the Vikings had shifted gears and planned to rebuild. Instead, the Vikings came out of the bye and knocked the Packers out. The Packers had the ball last with an opportunity to win the game, but a miraculous comeback never came to fruition — nor was a comeback deserved. The Packers have had ample success in the W/L column under Lafleur but some alarming trends continue to hinder their overall play.
Watching the Packers attempt to tackle Dalvin Cook is more like watching a junior varsity team trying to tackle an NFL running back. Green Bay’s defense seemed to avoid any head on collisions with Cook as possible. The Packers took terrible angles that lead to poor, arm-flailing tackle attempts. Dalvin Cook is a top-3 RB when healthy, but the Packers have no excuses if they aspire to be Super Bowl contenders. This wasn’t just a one-time thing either, the Packers showed the same type of effort against Alvin Kamara in their Sunday Night Football matchup with the Saints. Green Bay’s run defense will continue to be tested, and they will have to respond if they want to have success in the playoffs.
Lack of Turnovers
Turnovers can turn a porous defense into an above average defense in a blink of an eye. The Packers only have one turnover in their last four games and have failed to even create any turnover worthy plays. Going into the NFC Championship game against the 49ers everyone said if the Packers could force Jimmy Garoppolo to throw the ball downfield, they would have a good chance of creating turnovers. However, Kyle Shannan countered with, well if you can’t stop the run why would we ever pass — and the rest is history. Until the Packers learn how to stop the run, their stellar pass defense will continue to be overshadowed. Stopping the run would lead to long third-down attempts where the Packers pass rush could really pin their ears back and force the QB into bad decisions. However, the Packers pass rush has been equally as atrocious as their run defense. The real question comes down to whether these defensive mishaps are personnel related or coaching related. DC Mike Pettine has been gifted with plenty of resources allocated to his defense — Adrian Amos, Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency and first round picks Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary and Darnell Savage. On one hand I am sick of 3-man pass rushes on third and long, but on the other hand I am sick of watching guys bounce off ball carriers like they have a golden star in Mario Kart.
Stop me if you have heard this before: (Insert Packers WR not named Davante Adams) dropped two huge passes on consecutive third and fourth downs to force a turnover-on-downs on the Packers first possession of the 2nd half. Equanimeous St. Brown has battled back from numerous lower body injuries that have kept him sidelined for the past two years. However, his first opportunity to lament himself as a reliable pass catcher for Aaron Rodgers failed. Neither play was a walk in the park, but both passes were put right onto the money and EQ failed to haul either of them in. In week eight, it was EQ, but the history of drops the past two seasons cannot go ignored. Whether it is MVS, EQ, Geronimo Allison, Jimmy Graham or Jace Sternberger, Green Bay pass catchers seem prone to letting Aaron Rodgers down. Allen Lazard’s return from an oblique injury that landed him on IR could remedy the drop issue.
Okay so penalties have NOT been an alarming issue for the Packers under Lafleur. The Packers had the 8th fewest penalties (6.1) and 3rd fewest penalty yards (47.2) per game in 2019. However, the Packers committed nine penalties for 85 yards on Sunday, skyrocketing them up to 19th most penalty yards per game. This appears to be an outlier, but if this trend continues the Packers will have a difficult time pulling out a W against quality teams. The penalties on Sunday could not have come at a worse time for the Packers. After a relatively clean first half, the Packers were flagged twice for pass interference on the Vikings opening drive of the 2nd half. On the ensuing offensive drive, the Packers were cited for three holding calls. I don’t care who ya got on offense, overcoming a first and thirty is a damn near impossible feat against any NFL defense.
The Good News
The Packers only have to wait five days to get back onto the field and wash away their abysmal performance against the Vikings (pending further covid testing comes back negative)
The Bad News
The Packers opponent is the dreaded Kyle Shannan-led 49ers who defeated the Packers twice in 2019. The 49ers are 4-4 and banged up, but as we learned with the Vikings last week: any given sunday, anything can happen.