Packers Must Pressure Brady this Time Around

Perhaps the biggest key to victory for the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game is that they need to pressure Tom Brady this time around. 

We all remember how things went back in Week 6. But like many others have said this week, I'm here to tell you that that game has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the NFC Championship. 
 
The Green Bay Packers proved over the course of the season that their implosion down in Tampa Bay was the outlier. Not the other way around. However, that doesn't mean that there aren't things that can be learned or improved upon from that game. 
 
And one of, if not the most important change that needs to take place on Sunday is that this Packers' defense must put pressure on Tom Brady. 
 
The Green Bay defense, unfortunately, was unable to do this the first time around. According to Pro Football Focus, of Brady's 27 dropbacks, he was under pressure on only five of them, and he wasn't sacked once. But when Brady has been under duress this season, he hasn't only struggled as many quarterbacks do, but he's been well below average. 
 
Out of 42 eligible quarterbacks, Brady's completion rate under pressure ranks 33rd. His passer rating ranks 28th, and his five interceptions -- which account for nearly half of his 2020 total -- were the fourth most this season. 
 
Once more, as Football Outsider's Aaron Schatz pointed out on Twitter, by DVOA, Brady ranked 30th when under pressure and averaged a mere 2.3 yards per play. 
 
"This is a guy if you don't get pressure on him, he can pick you apart. We can't make stuff easy on him. We've got to change up looks, and we've got to get after him, Adrian Amos told reporters."
 
The formula for success against this Bucs' offense is there--and that's to pressure Brady. But, of course, that's easier said than done. 
 
Brady, with his experience, is excellent at diagnosing the defense pre-snap, as well as when the play develops. And he's certainly not afraid to take the easy completions all day long if they are available. This means that the ball oftentimes isn't in his hands very long. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Brady held the ball on average for 2.57 seconds this season, the ninth shortest time out of 41 eligible quarterbacks. 
 
With Brady getting the ball out quickly and him rarely leaving or even doing much moving within the pocket, that makes the lives of his offensive linemen much easier as well. The Tampa offensive line has allowed the fourth-fewest sacks this season, but they rank 12th in pressures allowed and 17th in ESPN's pass-block win rate metric. So there is success to be had by this Green Bay defensive front. 
 
As you can see by their rankings, there is a bit of contrast between sacks given up by this offensive line and pressures allowed. While sacks are certainly great, and no one is arguing that they aren't, as Packers' OLB Coach Mike Smith passionately talks about, consistent pressure can affect the game just as much: 
 
“I care about pressure, affecting the quarterback, that’s the No. 1 thing. I’ll take a guy that does his job play after play after play after play, being consistent and have zero sacks, but does his job and affects the quarterback,” Smith said via Packers Wire.
 
At least one big difference between this week and the last time these two teams met is the level at which this Packers' defense is playing. It was a slow start to the year for this unit, to say the least. Two key areas that they thrived in during the 2019 season, generating pressure and red zone defense, they struggled with early on this year. 
 
After Green Bay's Week 6 matchup with the Bucs, they ranked near the bottom of the NFL in each of these categories--like I mean almost dead last. But their red zone defense performed really well over the final month of the season, and the Packers ended up finishing eighth overall in that category, allowing a touchdown only 57.6 percent of the time. 
 
In terms of pressure on the quarterback, over Green Bay's last six games, including the Divisional Round, the Packers have generated at least 20 pressures in four of them, along with a season-high 28 against Philadelphia. 
 
Two reasons behind their recent success is that the players are simply just playing better. But it's also not a coincidence either that Mike Pettine has dialed up more blitzes as well. After the previous Tampa game, Green Bay's blitz rate was at 16 percent and ranked 28th in the NFL. They're currently blitzing nearly 25 percent of the time, a steep increase from where they once were. 
 
“Our coaches have done a much better job as the season’s progressed, getting better with our rush patterns or whatever it is we’re trying to get accomplished upfront,” head coach Matt LaFleur said via The Athletic. “But also, those guys just screaming off the ball. A lot of pass rush, obviously there’s a lot of technique involved with that, but a lot of it too is just playing with that energy and the effort that you need.”
 
Pettine told reporters on Thursday that "we're going to throw our fastball."  Meaning, the Green Bay defense may not be able to fool Brady and the Tampa offense, but they can execute better than them. 
 
And with as many resources as the Packers have spent on the defensive front, they have several players who can wreck this game for Brady. Za'Darius Smith always seems to come up with a few big plays a game. Rashan Gary is playing at an extremely high-level, totaling seven pressures on only 22 pass-rush snaps last week. Preston Smith is playing with more consistency, and Mr. December, Kenny Clark, has been on a tear the last month. 
 
Pettine can provide this group some help by sending blitzers and taking away the easy completions from Brady, forcing him to hold the ball even a split second longer. But ultimately, it comes down to execution, and the defensive front just simply needs to make plays--which as Kenny Clark told reporters, they are well aware of this: 
 
"That's the biggest thing with Brady. The teams that beat him this season or even just in his career period in big games got pressure on him. That's a huge thing that we've got to do, is get pressure on Tom Brady."

---------------------

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. 
 

NFL Categories: 
9 points

Comments (41)

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

January 22, 2021 at 11:18 am

Green Bay has to remain patient and wait for the Gold Rush!

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
murf7777's picture

January 23, 2021 at 07:54 am

Their weakness on a very good OL seems to be LT and Center. Good chance to make things happen with Clark, Z and Gary.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
frankthefork's picture

January 22, 2021 at 11:20 am

Agreed Paul. The Packers can't let Brady ever be warm and comfortable. Under pressure TB12 plays worse than most starters and AR12 statistically. Brady also has limited mobility put of the pocket, and usually is just a straight line sneaker.
We know the Buc's are blitzing, therefore GB must blitz more than ever before. This would be out of the norm and that's what it takes to win in the playoffs is changing it up. If the Packers can stuff the lanes and get an outside Blitzer in on TB12 early, I would expect INT's. The LOS is going to determine every aspect of this nail biter. GPG GB 28 TB 24

+ REPLY
6 points
7
1
jannes bjornson's picture

January 22, 2021 at 05:59 pm

Pettine is the wild card.

+ REPLY
0 points
2
2
murf7777's picture

January 23, 2021 at 07:55 am

JJ, players make plays. It’s up to them now.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
4thand10's picture

January 23, 2021 at 09:14 am

Play Snacks next to Clark all game long. IMO playing additional DL is needed for this game.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 22, 2021 at 11:23 am

I would like to see Rashan Gary get more snaps. I get it they want him fresh, but the guys is a beast and needs to be breathing down Brady's throat. I want to see him get about 30 pass rush snaps and be on the field at least half the time.

+ REPLY
10 points
10
0
PatrickGB's picture

January 22, 2021 at 12:03 pm

Pressure, yes, Blitz? No! He would love that and dink and dunk down the field keeping our offense on the sideline. Clark and maybe Kike and Z up the middle with our DB’s covering well will frustrate Brady. It’s time for Pettine’s defense to shine and I think it’s possible.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
splitpea1's picture

January 22, 2021 at 02:27 pm

This sums it up nicely. The secondary and LBs have to play tight coverage and tackle well--all game long. The rushers have to try their best to use their moves to get inside not get pushed outside beyond Brady (but it's always possible that they could loop back around a get a strip sack if he still has the ball).

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
jannes bjornson's picture

January 22, 2021 at 06:00 pm

Blitz him with Savage or Jaire, speed to his spot

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
PhantomII's picture

January 22, 2021 at 09:16 pm

keke is out again, concussion.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
croatpackfan's picture

January 23, 2021 at 07:43 am

I hope Gary will not that much opportunity. I hope TB will have less offensive plays than 30, let say 24. This should be goal to achieve.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
4thand10's picture

January 23, 2021 at 09:18 am

I never want to see Z Smith in the middle. Statistically that rarely works and would work even less against TB. We have good players, just keep them at what they do best. Playing that 3rd And possibly even a 4th DL rather than that 2 DL front would go a long ways towards stopping the run and generating pressure.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Coldworld's picture

January 22, 2021 at 12:12 pm

Yes, and ideally up the middle against Brady. Making him move is key.

+ REPLY
5 points
5
0
jannes bjornson's picture

January 22, 2021 at 06:27 pm

There's no law against putting your ILBs in the A gap and giving him something to think about a' la Billichick. Get to the QB fast or drop into zone, keep it fluid. You don't want your people standing around like statuary.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
mnbadger's picture

January 22, 2021 at 12:21 pm

Front seven need a pregame meal of garlic bread, pizza, pasta and super garlicky marinara sauce. bobby brady will have so much heavy, stinky breath in his face that his shield will be permanently fogged. We also have to do it with quick, interior pressure and tight coverage so he can't just dump it off. Hit him early, hard and often. No disrespect, just dominate him till he cries, and bit _ _ _ s at his offensive line and receivers. They'll get tired of it and let the rush through. Pack 23-19. Dominate, GPG.

+ REPLY
4 points
4
0
jannes bjornson's picture

January 22, 2021 at 06:02 pm

So, Kenny Clark is your call for the sacks prop.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
mnbadger's picture

January 22, 2021 at 12:24 pm

Looking again at the article photo, I don't remember a holding penalty (none actually) being called on this play that Preston S is getting his head pulled off. Let's pray for impartial referees, let em play, but nothing egregious and nothing tilting the field. GPG

+ REPLY
8 points
8
0
Lphill's picture

January 22, 2021 at 01:10 pm

The head ref named for the game has the highest penalty ratio in the leauge and Bucs fans are complaining because they know the Bucs are dirty.

+ REPLY
6 points
6
0
flackcatcher's picture

January 22, 2021 at 02:46 pm

After last week the league wants to make sure Sunday is a 'clean game'.

+ REPLY
5 points
5
0
blacke00's picture

January 23, 2021 at 08:08 am

That's not going to happen, the ref's are going to let them play which mean the Packers will be penalized. Hey, Tom Brady's in the game

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
jannes bjornson's picture

January 23, 2021 at 09:10 am

Rodgers is now the Star and they are playing in Lambeau. If the refs play the Vegas game as they did in Tampa the fans will rush the field.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
cheesehead1's picture

January 22, 2021 at 12:46 pm

Getting pressure is easier said than done. The Saints didn’t get much pressure, and we had virtually none in our previous meeting with the Bucs. Pettine must come up with some wrinkles to get in his face.

+ REPLY
5 points
6
1
4thand10's picture

January 23, 2021 at 09:22 am

The saints had a bad plan. The first half rushing 4 was not working, and then in the second half they continued to rush only 4 with occasional blitzes. Reminded me of a Capers strategy. That does not work against power teams.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Bearmeat's picture

January 22, 2021 at 01:04 pm

I agree with CH1. I don't think we will get much pressure at all. The Bucs OL is good, Brady gets rid of the ball quickly, and our pass rush, while good, is not dominant. The success of our defense will depend much more on stopping the run and getting Brady into 3rd and long and getting off the field by not blowing coverages. Brady isn't going to throw his WRs open often, he's just very good at finding the open man and weakness in your coverage scheme.

+ REPLY
6 points
6
0
Cubbygold's picture

January 22, 2021 at 01:18 pm

I never root for injuries, but losing Antonio Brown for this game is big for this reason. One less weapon to guard, and makes it more difficult to convert those long 3rd down plays, pressure or no pressure.

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
Bearmeat's picture

January 22, 2021 at 05:18 pm

Nah. I don't think the Bucs will feel AB's loss too much. They are ridiculously deep and talented at WR. Scotty Miller would definitely play a lot of snaps on our offense, and he's their 4th WR. 6th passing option behind the TEs.

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
TarynsEyes's picture

January 22, 2021 at 02:26 pm

All the statistics have been reviewed.
Matchups have been discussed.
Earlier games have been dissected.
The Packers defense has reached hoped for play.
The Packers are rated the best team in the league.
There is nothing left to say, discuss or argue about.
There can be no excuses, if Rodgers and the Packers don't win it all.
Success for this team can only be acknowledged by an SB victory and nothing less.
No ifs, but's, should haves, could haves, would haves, as only a win can deter what comes and talked about with a loss.
Give us what we all have been waiting for since 2011.

GOPACKGO!!!

+ REPLY
8 points
12
4
Packers0808's picture

January 22, 2021 at 03:16 pm

Clark and Harrison side by side in middle, guys hold the edge and stop their run! Occasional blitz from outside to keep Bucs honest and we should be able to stymie much of that they want to do! Packers 3 sacks and win by 14 or more~

+ REPLY
6 points
6
0
Guam's picture

January 22, 2021 at 04:55 pm

I wish Harrison had shown more in his three snaps against the Rams. Very small sample, but he was not impressive. I will be very happy to have Keke back in the lineup.

+ REPLY
1 points
2
1
packer132's picture

January 22, 2021 at 08:06 pm

Keke is out for the game

+ REPLY
1 points
2
1
Packers0808's picture

January 22, 2021 at 08:30 pm

Keke still out with concussion I think I read for Sunday!

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
jannes bjornson's picture

January 22, 2021 at 06:33 pm

4-3/4-2 looks work best. If Pettine blows this game, he should be held accountable.

+ REPLY
1 points
3
2
4thand10's picture

January 23, 2021 at 09:23 am

Yes. Agreed.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
13TimeChamps's picture

January 22, 2021 at 03:53 pm

While I agree putting pressure on TB12 is paramount to winning this game, I think winning the turnover battle is just as important.
I have a hard time seeing the Packers losing if they have no turnovers.

Also keeping drive killing penalties to a minimum will go a long way to ensuring a win. Last game in week 6: Packers 6 penalties for 76 yards, Bucs 0 for 0. That can't happen again.

Off topic...but RIP #44 Hammerin' Hank. Losing Hornung, Thompson and Aaron is such a short time...damn.

+ REPLY
7 points
7
0
mnbadger's picture

January 22, 2021 at 09:01 pm

I got to see one of hammerin' Hanks last home runs at county stadium. It was cool at the time, now it's a coveted memory. He rounded the bases like my dad. RIP GPG

+ REPLY
3 points
3
0
jannes bjornson's picture

January 23, 2021 at 09:18 am

Saw him as a six year old and then again with the Crew as a 21 year old--wow. We would sit in the bleachers , center-left,hoping to snag one of his deep shots

+ REPLY
2 points
2
0
Since'61's picture

January 22, 2021 at 10:27 pm

Packers OL is the key. Stop Brady by keeping him off the field. Sustained drives with scores are the best way to beat Brady and the Bucs.

When Brady is on the field keep him in 3rd and long and get pressure up the middle. Prevent YAC when he dumps off.
Need to win the LOS on both sides of the ball. Another strong game by the OL is the key to this game. Go Pack Go!
Thanks, Since ‘61

+ REPLY
6 points
6
0
jannes bjornson's picture

January 23, 2021 at 09:21 am

Good game plan '61. Long drives with TDs in the red zone. Ariens will preach the same theory. I do think the defense will have something to prove after last years beat down by Santa Clara.

+ REPLY
1 points
1
0
sharonmike's picture

January 23, 2021 at 06:24 am

I Got My Ex Husband Back....with the help.......Robinsonbuckler11 {{ gmail }} com……….

+ REPLY
-2 points
0
2
tonys247's picture

January 23, 2021 at 10:30 am

Watch Packers vs. Buccaneers Game Live Online :2021 NFL Conference Championship

LIVE NOW:> https://tinyurl.com/y4dsfcee

LIVE NOW:> https://tinyurl.com/y4dsfcee

The opponent? Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, who won six Super Bowls with New England and has a chance to win a seventh for his new team.

One day after the Packers mostly dominated the Los Angeles Rams in a 32-18 victory, the Buccaneers punished the New Orleans Saints 30-20 at the Superdome. The same swarming defense that made life miserable for Rodgers and Co. in October produced four takeaways and made Drew Brees look like an old man.

That set up a made-for-TV showdown between two living legends. Rodgers and Brady will meet for only the fourth time in their illustrious careers. It will be by far the most important, with Green Bays infamous loss at Seattle in the 2014 NFC Championship Game robbing the world of a Rodgers vs. Brady matchup in the Super Bowl. Rodgers desperately wants to win a second Super Bowl. Brady desperately wants to win a Super Bowl without Bill Belichick.

We ve got to go beat a great football team. Aarons playing incredible. Were going to have to play great to beat them,” Brady told Foxs Erin Andrews after the game.

The early forecast for Sunday is a high of 23 with a chance of snow.

While they never would have admitted it, the Packers probably would have preferred a matchup against Brees and the Saints. Never mind that Green Bay won at New Orleans 37-30 in Week 3 but lost at Tampa Bay 38-10 in Week 6. Brees, who has spent all 20 seasons playing in the warmth of San Diego or the dome in New Orleans, played in only one game with a kickoff temperature of 25 or colder. Brady, meanwhile, is a resounding 15-3.

Almost exactly three months ago, the Packers were outclassed by the Bucs. Coming off its bye, Green Bay raced to a 10-0 lead but Rodgers threw a pick-six and an interception on back-to-back possessions. The Packers never crossed midfield over the final three quarters. They had nine first downs on their first two possessions and four in their final 10.

Might need to add an extra finger to the scotch, but I do feel good about the team,” Rodgers said after a miserable afternoon. Ive played for so long, youre going to have a couple stinkers. I think about the game at New York many years ago [2012] where I hit Jordy (Nelson) on an out-and-up to start the game, and we lost 38-10. Tonight kind of felt like that, unfortunately, where you kind of got off to a nice start and then just nothing. So, I feel really good about our squad. Weve had four really, really good weeks, being efficient, winning, offensively being very explosive, defensively coming up with timely stops.

This is, I believe, an anomaly, not the beginning of a trend. And weve got a chance to prove me right next week.”

Rodgers was proven right again and again. The Packers will enter Sundays championship game with seven consecutive wins.

In a heavyweight showdown on Saturday, Green Bays top-ranked scoring offense overwhelmed the Rams top-ranked scoring defense. It will be a similar challenge on Sunday.

Brees was 19-of-34 passing for just 134 yards. Premier receiver Michael Thomas was shut out on four targets.

Rodgers, of course, is a far better player than Brees at this point in his career. Hes the likely MVP after throwing 48 touchdown passes in the regular season and two more in the playoffs. He led the NFL in passer rating, touchdown passes, completion percentage, touchdown percentage and interception percentage.

Tampa Bays defense is legit. The Bucs finished eighth in points allowed and first against the run with 80.6 yards per game and 3.60 yards per carry. Linebacker Devin White, who had 11 tackles and one interception against the Saints, had 10 tackles, one sack and three tackles for losses against Green Bay. The Bucs had five sacks in the first meeting.

While the reality is it will be Rodgers facing that dominant defense and Green Bays defense contending with the legendary Brady and his deep list of weapons, the hype will be centered on Rodgers vs. Brady – arguably the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

When it comes to big picture and you guys writing your stories and telling that whole story, which I know is a part of it, its two older guys,” Rodgers said before the Week 6 game. Hes a little bit older than I am – hes got me by about six-and-a-half or seven years – but we havent played a lot because hes been in the AFC the majority of his career and Ive been over here.

Hes obviously done it at the highest of levels for so long. Hes been an icon at the position. Hes been somebody that weve all looked up to for so many years as the standard of excellence. I think theres a ton of admiration and respect for the way that hes played the game from so many of us, especially us guys whove been in the same era for so many years with him and gotten to compete with him every now and then being an NFC guy. I think its good that we just enjoy it for what it is, have respect and admiration for the way that we have played over this time, and enjoy where were at in our careers now.”

+ REPLY
-1 points
0
1

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.