Bob Sanders Has A Big Problem

The problem facing Bob Sanders, and to a larger degree head coach Mike McCarthy as well, is the defensive backfield, coupled with the scheme the Packers run on that side of the ball. The scheme itself is sound. It's won Super Bowls. However, the man calling it on gameday has not. And last week against the Cowboys was a sneak peak of what could be an ugly development for the rest of the season.

Unable to generate any pressure with his front four, Sanders stood by idly until well into the second half before he started blitzing, and even then the Packers couldn't get home. The whole game, Cowboys first year offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was one step ahead of the Packers and their defense. The problem is, the Packers scheme basically says - here we are, come and beat us. Usually, when the Packers line up against another team, they can win their fair share of any one-on-one matchups. However, when presented with a team that has some superior personnel, a defensive coordinator must be able to scheme for the deficiencies he knows he has. Think back to Jim Bates one year as defensive coordinator and the absolutely brilliant gameplan he drew up to contain Michael Vick down in Atlanta. The week prior, Vick had enjoyed his finest week as a pro, and all anyone could talk about was how he was finally arriving as a quarterback. Enter Bates and the Packer defense. Bates altered the scheme when presented with a unique challenge. Sanders has not shown anywhere near the same kind of imagination.

And it will only get worse once the playoffs arrive.

Every Packer fan I know wants to put us in Dallas for the NFC Championship game. But no one seems to want to talk about the game the Packers would need to play to get there, not to mention the four remaining games on their regular season schedule. Tell me how confident you feel about facing Tampa Bay and Jon Gruden right about now? Or Seattle and Holmgren? Sanders has shown zero creativity when his players are over matched, and let me tell you right now - Sanders against Gruden or Holmgren is a scary thought. If you think Garrett drew up an excellent passing game to take advantage of Sanders' schemes, just wait until you see what Gruden or Holmgren do.

Which brings us back to the defensive backfield. Yes, Woodson was out against the Cowboys. Yes, he makes a huge difference. But if Sanders' entire defense is a house of cards built on Woodson, we may as well call it a day. He needs to be able to put players like Bush, Williams and Walker in a position to compete. Of course, he is hampered a bit by their limitations as athlete's, and no doubt Ted Thompson will add a player or two in the draft to bolster the secondary.

But the Packers can ill afford to waste the opportunity presented to them this year. As the New Orleans Saints have shown, just because you make it to the NFC Championship one year, it doesn't bequeath a team a playoff spot the next. Sanders needs to win with the talent he currently has. As the games get tougher and tougher, here's hoping Sanders can step up to the plate.

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j4a1's picture

December 05, 2007 at 03:05 pm

I think you understate the importance of the injuries last Thursday. It wasn't just Woodson. It was Collins, who hadn't played in three weeks, instead of Rouse. So now you have Collins, Bigby and Bush instead of Woodson and Rouse. I think the Jolly and KGB factors were also huge. There was no pressure from the front 4. Sure you can blitz, but that leaves Bush or Harris in single coverage against TO. And a blitz also might leave Witten running down the field all by himself.

I can't blame Sanders for this one. I might also point out, Bates is in hot water in Denver for exactly the same reasons.

In the end, you can scheme all you want, but it's the players that need to execute.

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PackerAaron's picture

December 05, 2007 at 03:36 pm

Agreed, to a point. You simply can't use injuries as an excuse.

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