Diagnosing the Packers’ Run Defense Issues in Chicago

Robert Olson analyzes the dysfunction with the run defense in Chicago.

Winning on the road against a divisional opponent (and rival) is a great accomplishment. However, as with any victory, there are usually still aspects of a team’s performance that can be corrected. In the Packers’ case, it is obvious that there were issues with the run defense. For the most part, the Packers’ defensive line and outside linebackers were not the problem. B.J. Raji and Julius Peppers, for example, played well up front. The inside linebacker and defensive back groups, on the other hand, made many mistakes.

The first play that we will analyze is Matt Forte’s 22-yard run on the second play of the game. The Packers used their base 3-4 defense with three safeties on the field (Ha Ha Clinton Dix, Micah Hyde, and Sean Richardson) against the Bears’ “13 personnel” (1 RB, 3 TE, 1 WR). The Bears ran a “One-Back Power” play. No. 28 Sean Richardson (circled in red) was the third safety, and his responsibility was to “fill” on any run his way. Even though this run was designed to go away from him, he still needed to be disciplined if a cutback occurred. He wasn’t disciplined, however, and his aggressiveness took him out of the play. If he would have been under control and been more disciplined while approaching the line of scrimmage, he would have been in perfect position to fill and make the tackle in the hole.

The second play to look at is an 8-yard run by Forte. The Packers employed their Nickel “Bear” front versus the Bears’ “11 personnel” (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). Chicago ran “One-Back Power” again. On this play, focus on Sam Shields, who was the outside cornerback at the very bottom. When the wide receiver Shields was covering went to perform a “crack” block on Casey Hayward, Shields did not react quickly enough. As soon as Shields realizes that his WR is going to “crack” a defender, he needs to immediately and aggressively “replace” and come up to tackle Forte. This is a classic “crack-replace” scenario for a CB. Shields did end up making the tackle, but he hesitated a little and let Forte come to him. A little hesitation in this situation was the difference between a 3-yard gain and an 8-yard gain.

The third play that we will break down is a 23-yard run by Forte. The Bears had “11 personnel” on the field, so the Packers countered with their normal 2-4-5 nickel. On this play, the Bears ran “Outside Zone” to the weak side of a Trips (3x1) formation. This is not an easy play to defend, and the Bears blocked well, but ILB Nate Palmer (No. 51) hesitated. Once Palmer sees the zone blocking and the left guard working up to block him, he needs to attack the left guard immediately. However, that did not happen. As a result, the left guard was able to take Palmer out of the play, and Forte had plenty of room to maneuver. ILBs cannot wait for guards to come to them on zone running plays. Then, to make matters worse, Sam Shields missed the tackle, which allowed Forte to gain about 14 more yards.

(The Cowboys ran the exact same play in the 2014 Divisional Round game at Green Bay, but Clay Matthews attacked downhill, did not let the left guard block him, and disrupted the play.)

The fourth play in this article will focus on ILB Nate Palmer again. On this 20-yard run by Forte, the Bears had “11 personnel” on the field again, and the Packers used their 2-4-5 nickel. Chicago essentially ran a Sweep with the center and right guard pulling. Here, Palmer was the weak side ILB (circled in red), and his hesitation was the main reason why this big run occurred. As the weak side LB, when a running play like this or an Outside Zone run goes away from you, you cannot allow the offensive tackle (left tackle in this case) to cut you off. Palmer’s hesitation allowed the left tackle to cut him off, and it took him out of the play. If Palmer would have reacted quicker to the action going away from him, he probably would have made the tackle for a minimal gain.

The fifth and final play that we will examine is another 8-yard run by Forte. Here, the Bears ran an Outside Zone run to the strong side of a Trips formation out of “11 personnel”. Again, the Packers played their 2-4-5 nickel, and it looked like Dom Capers called “Cover 3 Buzz”. The player to keep your eye on is slot CB Casey Hayward (circled in red). At the snap, Hayward did a good job of recognizing that the slot WR was going inside to try to perform a “crack” block. So, Hayward knew that he needed to 1) “replace,” 2) force the play to go inside, and 3) make the tackle. He accomplished the first two tasks, but he missed the tackle.

So, most of the problems with the Packers’ run defense in Chicago can be blamed on lack of discipline, hesitation, and simple missed tackles by the linebacker and defensive back units. These errors are correctable. As long as the defensive line plays well, if Capers and the position coaches can point these things out on film and correct these mistakes, the run defense should be better in the future.

Thanks for reading, Packers fans. Follow me on Twitter at @RobertOlson92 for daily analysis on the Packers.

NFL Categories: 
0 points

Comments (17)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Jay Carlson's picture

September 17, 2015 at 01:47 pm

How much do you think consistently playing nickel packages with 2 down lineman contributes to this poor run defense?

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Duke Divine's picture

September 17, 2015 at 02:00 pm

Great question. If the d-backs attacked and didn't miss tackles it wouldn't matter Nickle or Base on these particular plays. But The Packers d-backs outside of Burnett can't do that in run support. Maybe Randall and Rollins can do that down the road but it's clear, Shields, Hayward and Ha Ha are laughable when it comes to attacking, angles, and tackling. Let's hope they "clean it up."

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 17, 2015 at 06:10 pm

This is why Hyde started at slot CB instead of Hayward despite Hayward's glowing pass coverage rating from PFF.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Duke Divine's picture

September 17, 2015 at 02:01 pm

This is gross. Palmer will get more aggressive with more snaps and confidence...we can only hope! Burnett would have made the play in play 1, I'm confident of that. Im also confident that Randall, Rollins and Gunter would have made the tackle in the plays in which Shields and Hayward did not in the run game and thats why they have been selected to the 53 man roster. Hey #29 and #37, this may be where the "soft' label comes from. Attack and breakdown! These were hard to watch. These kind of fundamental break downs in run defense on top of Bulaga going down in practice today with a knee has my confidence shaking as far as Sunday is concerned.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Spud Rapids's picture

September 17, 2015 at 02:14 pm

I think McCarthy has to tell these guys to play more naturally and attack. A Dom Caper defense is designed to attack and disrupt the offense not let it come to them. I'd rather see missed tackles from being over aggressive not the opposite. Maybe this comes with time as they guys learn to gel as a unit?

Bulaga...not good, hopefully a tweak and precaution

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
J0hn Denver's Gavel's picture

September 17, 2015 at 06:15 pm

"I'd rather see missed tackles from being over aggressive not the opposite."

Unfortunately, they're (most of the D) pretty good at missing tackles due to being over aggressive as well. It looked as though Palmer was tentative at play diagnosis, at least initially. Most of the other misses were due to over aggressiveness. At least that's the view I had during the game. I didn't do any extensive film study or anything though, so I could be wrong.

After a half decade of this s*#t, its gotta get better, right?

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 17, 2015 at 06:58 pm

Dear Robert, I love these articles. This is great.

Play 1: Is it fair to suggest (as has been done) that Pennel's penetration constitutes lack of gap control?

Play 3: I noted this play, as it is the one where last season where CM3 beats the pulling lineman to the spot and fills aggressively at or near the LOS. Beautiful last year; not so beautiful here with Palmer.

Play 4: Does CM3 also over-pursue or is he too aggressive? He does have a pulling center coming at him (who dives at his knees), but it looks like the Center's angle is bad if CM3 holds up a bit. Also, as you point out, the LT runs hard diagonally and reaches the area between the hash marks, then cuts Palmer off from flowing left, actually blocking on Palmers left or inside shoulder. LTs should not beat ILBs to the spot like that. Slow recognition.

2 questions: Do you have any thoughts on Pennel's performance? Only 13 snaps while Boyd played 23 and Raji sucked up 48 snaps (that extrapolates to 768 snaps - Guion only played 504 snaps last year). That's a lot of snaps.

2nd question: Looks like Raji (and Daniels) are the D -linemen of choice in the nickel. Is that correct?

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
MarkinMadison's picture

September 17, 2015 at 08:10 pm

Robert, please keep it coming. I missed not having as many of these as Nagler got busy making money (not that there is anything wrong with that).

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
MarkinMadison's picture

September 17, 2015 at 08:10 pm

Robert, please keep it coming. I missed not having as many of these as Nagler got busy making money (not that there is anything wrong with that).

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Bohj's picture

September 17, 2015 at 09:30 pm

Sweet breakdown. Love the GIFs. Palmer will get better. He hasn't had a ton of NFL snaps. It will take time. Agreed on Burnett filling some of that run support role. Ha-ha was a rookie last year. People are ripping on him like he's supposed to be this stud veteran already. He's still a work in progress. We got more out of him as a rookie than any other safety we've had as a rookie. I remember years ago when people weren't sure Nick Collins was ever gonna "get it". Well he did.....and heavily contributed to a ring. I'm confident that Ha-ha will get it cleaned up.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
ben's picture

September 18, 2015 at 12:49 am

Nick Collins was a supreme athlete. For a couple years there he may have been among the fastest, top-end speed guys in the NFL. I was driving the Nick Collins bandwagon when most of you wouldn't get on. Early on he may not have been the most assignment-sure player, but he flashed since stepping on the field as a rookie. He made plays that not many other safeties are able to make. A lot of those plays early on happen to have been closing in on ball carriers in the open field and making the play.

Dix on the other hand is not a supreme athlete. Not even close athletically to Nick Collins. Not even as athletic as current safeties Chris Banjo, Morgan Burnett,, or Sean Richardson. And where Collins shined and flashed early on making plays in the open-field, Dix is terrible. And taking good angles and making plays in space aren't things that can necessarily be "coached-up".

Your confident that Ha-ha will get it cleaned up? .......Well Dix may have pretty good instincts, is alright in man to man coverage, and can blitz. But his below average speed, costly pursuit angles, late coverage over the top, and choke jobs EVERY time he gets in open space with a ball-carrier isn't something that can be just "cleaned up."

Unless of course you were drafted by Ted Thompson. In this case we'll be perfectly content to spend year after year"cleaning it up."

Soft defensive middle? Poor ILB play? issues at safety? TE you say? Well that's nothing that another 6 years of "cleaning it up" can't fix. right?

I mean, who cares? We have the best player to ever play the game. We could auto draft, not sign any free agents, and not address any team weaknesses and still win a few more division titles. right? right. Go Packers!!! in ted we trust!!! Yaye!!!!

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
PaulRosik's picture

September 18, 2015 at 11:54 pm

Such a tired, poor, bad, argument. Several years ago the Packers were declining. They had no running backs of NFL caliber, their offensive line was in freefall, only Matthews had a chance to rush and actually get home, their safeties were the absolute worst in football, and their return game was pitiful.

No w they have a top running back, the offensive line is a strength, Matthews plays inside because they trust the outside edge players, and they have an all pro safety and young players with him on the rise, and they have several quality returners to choose from.

If you think this team has not progressed and improved you are not paying attention.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
porupack's picture

September 18, 2015 at 12:02 am

Thanks Robert. Great diagnostics, and so we can hope for better preparation this week.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
baldski's picture

September 18, 2015 at 02:48 am

If these mistakes are not corrected, look for Lynch to gain 200+ yards sunday and Wilson to throw for 300 more.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
croatpackfan's picture

September 18, 2015 at 03:50 am

I'll say, give to Seahawk 800 yards, but not allow them TDs. We win! That is the recipe how Cheatriots won their 4 SB titles - band but not brake!

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
egbertsouse's picture

September 18, 2015 at 09:26 am

In your opinion do many different players consistently being out of position, hesitating rather than attacking, missing tackles, etc. for the past 3 seasons constitute poor coaching or have the Packers just been unfortunate in acquiring many players with deficient skill sets?

I ran a department for 20 years and if my employees would have consistently underperformed over this period of time I would have out on my ass, but Capers seems to get a free pass every year. Why is sports different from any other business in this regard? Shouldn't he be held accountable at some point?

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
egbertsouse's picture

September 18, 2015 at 09:50 am

Adding to my previous post there is the example of the Atlanta Falcons. Last year Seattle was a great tackling team, their DC was Dan Quinn, and the Falcons couldn't tackle their Grandma if you took away her walker. Last Mon. night the Falcons tackled like fiends, their HC is the very same Dan Quinn.

Maybe coaching does have something to do with quality of play?

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.