Green Bay Packers Defense is Peaking at the Right Time

With the playoffs set to begin, the Green Bay Packers' defense is peaking at just the right time.

In Year 2 of the Matt LaFleur system, the Green Bay Packers' offense had taken a huge step forward. They lead the NFL in points per game, scoring over 30 points in 12 games, and the Packers also have the top-rated offense by DVOA. However, while the offense was pretty much dominant from Week 1 through Week 17, the defense appeared to have taken a step back from last season.
 
After being top five in pressure rate in 2019, the unit spent much of 2020 ranked in the 25 to 30 range. The red zone defense was giving up touchdowns much more frequently, and for much of the season, the Packers ranked near the bottom of the NFL in turnovers. 
 
As a result, Mike Pettine became the ire of fans with his dime defenses, soft coverages, 3-man rushes, and unwillingness at times to send pressure. But it wasn't all Pettine's fault either. Many of the players simply weren't playing as well. It was a rough start to the year for Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, The Smiths weren't nearly as productive, and the linebacker and interior defensive line play was suspect. 
 
Because of this, many have questioned whether or not the Green Bay Packers have what it takes to win a Super Bowl, despite having the most productive offense in the NFL. However, as we've seen in the past, a playoff run can be sparked by a team getting hot at the right time, and this Packers' defense is doing just that. 
 
This unit has been trending upward since the Bears game in Week 12, but they really kicked it up a notch a few weeks ago against Carolina. The Panthers currently have the 11th ranked offense in the NFL by DVOA -- ninth at the time -- and while the Green Bay offense uncharacteristically struggled in the second half, the defense did not. 
 
The Packer defense held Carolina to just 4/12 on third downs, and the real key to the game was the red zone defense allowing only one touchdown on five trips. They also generated 21 pressures -- the second most of the season at that time -- while holding Miike Davis in check and forcing a turnover. 
 
At the time, I said this was their best all-around performance of the season. Well, that was until the following week against Tennessee.
 
Heading into Week 16, the Titans' offense led the NFL in points per game and ranked third overall by DVOA. And, of course, Derrick Henry -- the NFL's leading rusher -- was made out to be the boogeyman by many.
 
But the Packers' defense rose to the challenge, swarming to Henry and tackling incredibly well. Henry finished the day with 98 yards on only 4.2 yards per carry with a long of 10. 
 
In addition to slowing Henry, the dynamic receiving duo of AJ Brown and Corey Davis entered that game with 15 combined touchdowns and over 1,800 receiving yards. Yet, they finished the game with a combined four receptions for 43 yards. 
 
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed less than 50 percent of his passes, was pressured 22 times, and the Tennessee offense finished with only 14 points, 260 total yards, and a measly 4.7 yards per play. 
 
On back-to-back weeks, the Green Bay Packers' defense had shut down two of the NFL's better offenses, including a Titans' offense that many thought they would crumble against. So naturally, they found success in Week 17 against Chicago. 
 
Although the defensive performance may not have looked aesthetically pleasing throughout the Bears game because they simply couldn't get off the field at times, the numbers show that the defense once again performed well. 
 
From a time of possession standpoint, Chicago really did control the game, holding the ball over 11 minutes longer than the Packers and running 30 more plays than them, but the Bears' offense was largely ineffective. Green Bay held them to just 16 points and allowed only 4.8 yards per play. Chicago was just one of five in the red zone, the red-hot David Montgomery was held to 3.1 yards per carry, and the defense forced two turnovers.
 
We've all been frustrated with the Green Bay Packers' defense at times this year, and chances are we are going to be again. And while it's not always the prettiest, when it's all said and done, this unit has been getting the job done, which is really all they need to do.
 
The Packers have the most productive offense in football, while of course, it would be nice to have the best defense in football too, they don't need them to play at that level to win a Super Bowl. To win a Super Bowl, teams need just one really good unit, and if the other is average, then that's just fine. And this is what the Packers have. By DVOA, they have the NFL's best offense and the 15th ranked defense
 
After some bumps in the road early on, this group has figured it out over the last five to six weeks and especially in the last three. They are peaking at just the right time to help propel this Green Bay Packers team on a deep playoff push. 
 
As Mike Pettine told the team after the Titans' game, that level of performance needs to become the new norm (via Packers.com):
 
"But as we told our guys afterwards, when we put that on tape, that's the norm, that's the expectation. That's something we've been chasing this year. Every game needs to have that same type of effort, energy, focus that went into it."
 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (38)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Ryan3468's picture

January 04, 2021 at 12:35 pm

For how sad some Packers fans sound about this team. That had to have been demoralizing to be a Bears fan and to see the scoreboard reminding them all day what happens for thirty years. The Bears haven’t had a quarterback throw for over 29 touchdowns. Trubisky statistically is the best quarterback that they have ever had. If Jordon Love turns out to be a HOF quarterback our division should be forced to wear his jersey. It’s good to be Packers fan. Let’s keep winning! Trophies and rings! This gold zone sounded silly since it’s based on a dumb film. What ever works! Green and Gold never gets old.

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gkarl's picture

January 04, 2021 at 12:51 pm

Yes the defence is better than it was early and looks to be rounding into form for the playoffs. Need to maintain the improved tackling and swarming to the ball. Pettine needs to get a little more aggressive and unpredictable with his calls/scheme also. We'll be playing the best teams from here on out, can't expect the offense to be great every game. Let the boys play.

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CoachDino's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:17 pm

The first time the offense isn't great in the playoffs the packers will lose. The strongest part of your team needs to play the best to win. NO/Tampa both put up 30pts per game. Seattle and LA can as well. Defense isn't going to win games though it could lose them if it falls apart.

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Lphill's picture

January 04, 2021 at 12:57 pm

My only concern about the defense yesterday was the 2 D lineman when you knew the run was coming it seemed that the Bears were 3 rd and 1 all game .

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 04, 2021 at 03:32 pm

Snacks will play more. With snacks and clark you can play 2 down lineman

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Since'61's picture

January 04, 2021 at 01:03 pm

Good tackling makes a big difference. That and consistently getting pressure on the QB. Our safeties have stepped up big time.

Don’t worry about rankings. Just be concerned with points allowed. We have been very good at home in that department. That’s why the #1 seed is crucial for this team.

Maybe the Packers will allow a few more fans in the stadium for the playoffs to make some noise. 20% capacity would be about 15K fans. That should be enough and still be safe. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Guam's picture

January 04, 2021 at 01:15 pm

I would second your comment about the safeties. Amos and Savage have significantly stepped up their games, both in coverage and in run support. Gary has come on strong at OLB and Barnes has been a godsend at ILB.

I know PFF does not like Barnes, probably for his coverage shortcomings. But the Packers have a very good secondary for pass defense and they need their ILB to be solid against the run and Barnes is. Barnes development has also allowed Kirksey to play a more natural position for his skill set (Will ILB).

Altogether, the Packers have a D that is good enough to assist the #1 offense to a SB.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:48 pm

38 in a loss in Tampa Bay. 14 courtesy of the offense via turnover.
34 in a win, on opening day, in Minnesota. 24 came in 4th quarter garbage time.
34 in overtime, in Indianapolis, on a day when we had 4 turnovers.
30 in a win in New Orleans.

All on the road.

At home, we gave up 28 to Minnesota in a loss, courtesy of Dalvin Cook. It was , IMO, our worst defensive showing.

Of the other seven home games, we held four to 16 or less and two to 21 or less ... Chicago got a garbage TD to reach 25. I think the defense has played pretty damn well in Lambeau. 156 points in 8 games is a season average of 19.5

If the offense continues to score 35, this defense is plenty good enough to win two playoff games at home. I'm predicting it'll be Tampa and then Seattle.

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scullyitsme's picture

January 04, 2021 at 01:56 pm

I was one calling for pettine to be canned, still think it’s iffy. The reality is the players had to go to him and make him change his play calling. Since then things have been better. Slightly more aggressive. Something needed to change and something did. Who’s responsible for it can wait till after the season at this point. Just happy something actually happened and changes where made.

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TarynsEyes's picture

January 04, 2021 at 02:18 pm

My concern is still the defense and the Bears game, as good as the defense seemed to be, it allowed the Bears offense to dominate TOP and nearly double the number (14 short) of offensive plays of GB.

The defense made plays against a weak and often laughed at offense, and it still worries me going against the much, much better in the playoffs. We will be playing teams with legitimate QB's, less Washington if they upset Tampa, which is as likely as the Giants beating Brees in NO. All the other teams, Sea, Rams have teams that can score more, if given a 74-44 offensive play advantage.

GB got what they and so many here wanted, home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Don't cry if it doesn't work in their favor, just accept that it will likely be the defense that plays to a lower level than has been affixed upon them, as they have often even in the victories.

With that said, Super Bowl or Bust!!!

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PewAuKeeFan's picture

January 04, 2021 at 03:51 pm

Still a bit of doom and gloom here. However, waaaay below your normal standards.

There is still hope for you Taryn. Not much, but still a tiny little bit.

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TarynsEyes's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:06 pm

I don't read any doom and gloom in my comment, but I do see common sense thinking about what could be coming and recognize that it might not.

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CoachDino's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:33 pm

It's more a choice you make to so often state the obvious. Who can argue that if the Packers defense sucks and the offense doesn't score 30 they will lose?

Yesterday's TOP, was an outlier. If the Packers can hold a team like NO/Tampa to a 2.5 to 3.5 ypp I'm sure we will all be happy with it. The Bears just had zero mid/deep threat and just kept struggling to gain yards while they did rack up TOP. Why, because they, after all that time, still didn't get in the endzone.

Now if another Team can win TOP AND SCORE points in the red zone and avg more the 3 ypp yes the Packers will be in trouble. Cherry picking stats w/o supplying context in order to present a worst case scenario kinda defeats the message and get you the doom and gloom patch..

Common sense would rely on past performance to predict future results. That's not what you point out. You point out how past performance may not be duplicated so maybe results will not be in line with common sense.

That's why I said the comment was such a statement of the obvious. Of course if things go wrong and weaknesses are exploited more than projected and offense doesn't play well there's an increases probability of losing. OK, who can argue that. Its obvious.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:36 pm

As Jack Reacher says, “hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:28 pm

One thing i will say is as perfect as aaron Rodgers has been, he sometimes scares me when he tries to get too much. He had aaron jones wide open on 2nd n 1 for the first down early in the 2nd half, he instead forced it downfield and almost had a pick. He looked right at jones, and instead tryed to make something happen. Then 3rd n 1, he tries the easy play to jones on the swing pass, but mingo the lb reads it n makes the play. I understand him trying to make shit happen, but the offense stalled out on the drive before because of the mvs drop and then the sack. So if you stall out the drive before, why not take the easy first on 2nd and 1? It didnt cost us because the d held up. Yes. Aaron is the deserved mvp, but he has to take that easy first down there. My point being, the offense is not perfect neither.

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Bure9620's picture

January 05, 2021 at 03:08 am

The Bears certainly had a gameplan and actually executed that gameplan quite well. Sustain long methodical drives by running the ball, and getting Trubisky on the move with boots and action with short easy completions. The rely on the defense to get a few timely stops and keep Rodgers off the field. The problem being they didn't score and you simply have to score when looking to play a shortened low possession game. The Bears knew they couldn't score with the Packers so this was their only chance. Its a double edged sword, long drives with field goals simply keeps any team in the game. I don't find this strategy works often against good offensive teams, you have to score.

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egbertsouse's picture

January 04, 2021 at 02:20 pm

Pettine isn’t getting canned. No one will. They got a playoff game and that is what matters. Murphy can use the extra revenue to build a roller coaster or something.

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dobber's picture

January 04, 2021 at 02:31 pm

If it's "extra" revenue, then why the hell not?

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:31 pm

Roller coasters are cool! It would be neat to have one adjacent to Lambeau. Why not have as many attractions for visitors, and the locals, as possible?

Mark Murphy is smart enough that he can multi-task. Unlike you egbert, he can work on more than one thing at a time.

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PeteK's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:57 pm

Now now Drifter , double trouble is what they call you. LOL

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HighPlainsDrifter's picture

January 05, 2021 at 06:13 am

Sorry, but the idiocy in thinking that Mr. Murphy is more interested in land development than winning football games is amazingly annoying. Some people do not seem to understand that it is wise to create diverse revenue streams, especially for a team lacking a billion dollar owner.

The current NFL revenue sharing model will not last forever. Also, the lucrative television contracts will eventually go away. At some point teams will have to fend for themselves. At that point it will become even more vital for the Packers to be self-sustaining.

The egbert's of the world either do not understand this, or they prefer that the area around Lambeau remain occupied by substandard housing. Perhaps they think that is quaint. Regardless, the egbert's lack the intelligence and vision to see the big picture.

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Houndog's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:53 pm

Egbert,
Is all that "Extra Revenue" you speak of coming from the ticket sales of all those empty seats? Probably Not!
So, where do you think they'll be getting it from, one or two home play-off games with about 12K people for each game? Or maybe all that NFL profit sharing money from the other teams with empty stadiums?
Hmmmm, I've never been good with math, but I don't see it making up for the lost revenue from 70,000+ fans missing 8 home games.

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Fabio's picture

January 04, 2021 at 02:23 pm

I hope the defense rests and can put pressure on Brady. Tampa has a lot of talent. I hope our pocket can protect Rodgers better than the first leg because despite everything we don't have the same talent. How beautiful this sport is. How great is the Packers community. Unique in the world. Go Pack Go

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PatrickGB's picture

January 04, 2021 at 02:32 pm

Is our defense good enough? Possibly. They sure do look better and that’s a good thing. Yet In my opinion if our offense skips a beat and a great defense can slow or shut down our offense, I doubt that our defense could shut down a championship caliber team. Let’s hope it never gets to that. But facing the defenses from NO or TB is kinda scary.

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murf7777's picture

January 04, 2021 at 04:08 pm

Scary at Lambeau, I think not. Brees will struggle in the cold and for Tampa, we owe them one, and I think we are a much better team then when we first played them. Our D is much better now giving up a measly 17.2 PPG over the past 5 games. Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't they just hold the Titans, arguably one of the best offenses in the NFL to 14 points? That's a serious trend. I don't see any team, especially on the NFC in Lambeau stopping Rodgers and Company.

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CoachDino's picture

January 04, 2021 at 05:58 pm

My man MUrf, I love the optimism and I just shot a bit on Tark for pessimism. But NO and Tampa have QB's that can give the packers fits. These guys are right there with ARod as far as making the rights calls at the line and exploiting the weak point. The offense is going to have to out score the opponent. Be it 30-24 or 42-36 etc. Sure due to the weather it may impact Dome/FLa teams, I think it may but I wouldn't count on it. Maybe I'm being too pessimistic myself as I know you have good points, just need the O to play to its high standards and the D to play decent. I've said it from Day 1 - - AS ARod goes the Packers Go.

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:44 pm

Drew brees aint ready for the cold. But tom brady and them boys are. The d will not shut them down. But they have the pass rushers and clark and the safetys and jaire to make enough plays to turn the game. Amos forced 2 fumbles yesterday alone. One on a penalty, another on mooney on the sideline. On top of that he had the pick to seal it. This defense CAN make plays. And i think they will. I think you are being a little pessimistic. This defense is clearly playing better. Their biggest weak spot lately is kevin king. And even he is a decent to average player depending on the game. The bears couldnt run so they just dumped it off and made king tackle. He missed a few but finished with 10 tackles. Alot for short gains. Jaire is the best corner in the game, clark is looking like the guy we paid, z is z, rashan gary and barnes are becoming players. Savage and amos are the best safety tandom going into the playoffs. And even guys like kirksey, lowry, and now snacks are playing better. This d in september and oct was playing below their abilitys. In january, i see a different group.

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PearlyBakerBest's picture

January 04, 2021 at 09:27 pm

Brady won’t be ready for the cold Hell be shivering for three hours just like Brees.

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splitpea1's picture

January 04, 2021 at 04:08 pm

"To win a Super Bowl...." Okay, but we'll need to get by Tampa Bay (likely) first, and for that to happen, both units are going to have to play a heck of a lot better than last time. I don't think "average" is going to get it done, because it's likely to be tough sledding again on offense. The defense needs to pull their weight by being vigilant against the run, putting heat on Brady (no sacks last time), getting their hands up in throwing lanes, and tackling properly.

That being said, I don't think the train will be going off the tracks this time. Dillon should be used to deliver punishment and soften up the defense. Let's not see so much of the lateral running behind the LOS. We need another good performance for the O-line, and receivers not named Adams need to get open and catch the ball. Get the ball to Jones in space. I'm looking forward to MLF and Hackett coming up with a game plan that includes contingencies this time.

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Swisch's picture

January 04, 2021 at 04:01 pm

In these comments, I'm detecting a fair measure of optimistic that is quite cautiously.
I'm excited about the defense, but still wary -- and the greatest question seems to be defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
I wish the best for him all around, and am hoping he leads the way with creative scheming -- but am concerned that he gets stuck in ruts.
It's up to the coaches to bring out the best in our guys, and it seems our defensive guys play better when Pettine gives them some more opportunities for aggressiveness.
It did not seem as though Pettine made adjustments against the Bears, and I think I even saw the dreaded three-man rush.
As always, one of the keys to coaching is mixing things up and keeping the other side guessing.
Any criticism is meant to be constructive. When it's time for kickoff, we're rooting for all of the players and coaches of the Packers as our guys.

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porupack's picture

January 05, 2021 at 06:39 am

Excellent, Swisch; you're on a role with two back to back excellent posts that nail my sentiments; cautiously optimistic. There is enough talent. This element going forward is very much on the coaches to get the best preparation, discipline and scheme and adjustments.
Definitely signs of improvements, and Tennessee game was very impressive 'exhibit A' in defense of the defense (Pettine) which is the defense of GBP. The bears game, well, it was not quite a stellar offense they were defending....but ok; 'exhibit B' is out there.

I'll be biting my nails facing any playoff team however...and I'll bet no one is highly confident that GB can stop TB, NO, LAR, KC, Pitt, Balt, at full strength.

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Swisch's picture

January 05, 2021 at 07:42 am

Thanks, porupack.
It's good drama for us going into the playoffs because the Packers can win it all, but at the same time it'll be a challenge to beat each team.
There's a lot to be concerned about, but even more to be excited about.
It's a good place to be, with many reasons to hope for a ride that may be bumpy at times but could be a lot of fun en route to a championship.

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meatstyk's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:10 pm

Peaking??????

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crayzpackfan's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:24 pm

Lots of good arguments in here for or against how well or poorly our defense is playing. My take is I’ve seen a fair amount of improvement from last year. This year’s defense is definitely capable. However, they have seemed to regress at pressuring the QB, they’re very spotty at creating turnovers, and they do tend to play soft on 3rd downs. More creativity and aggression would be a welcome sight. It’s a much improved defense fore sure, but their bar was set pretty low. I guess what I’m saying is, are they good enough to overcome penalties and turnovers or protecting a lead when/if our offense sputters for a quarter while playing against more talented teams? I’m hoping the answer is absolutely yes!!

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Thegravedigger's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:51 pm

They are going to have to be agressive against tampa. Tom will pick them apart if they are not. They definitely have the talent. Amos created 3 turnovers himself yesterday. One was an offsides penalty and another a massive hit on mooney on the sideline that rolled out of bounds. Its time for pettine to go big in 2 weeks because they have the talent to do so.

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PeteK's picture

January 04, 2021 at 06:59 pm

Your ID pic is hilariously sick! Hahahaha

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crayzpackfan's picture

January 04, 2021 at 07:14 pm

That’s what we did to the Bears yesterday. Lol

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BigCheezeFan1972's picture

February 04, 2021 at 09:00 am

The defense is peaking at the right time for sure. At least we never have to worry about our offense with Aaron Rodgers!! Go Pack Go!!!

https://portstlucietreetrimming.com/tree-service/

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