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Packers Struggle Against Top Quarterbacks, Must Neutralize Matt Stafford

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Packers Struggle Against Top Quarterbacks, Must Neutralize Matt Stafford

The Packers roll into the final regular season contest against the Detroit Lions on a blazing five-game winning streak in which their offense seems to become more explosive each time it walks onto the field. Mike McCarthy’s pride and joy has consistently improved throughout the year and hit on all cylinders as the Packers power towards the stretch run and hopefully advance into the playoffs with a final division-clinching victory.

The defense has struggled much of the season, however, and has shown to be even more susceptible to defeat against top-level quarterback play. With Matthew Stafford on the opposing sideline, stopping his passing attack should be the major focus for the Packers. The secondary has been shredded by the likes of Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota, and Kurt Cousins this season and Stafford should be considered just as dangerous.

Ryan led Atlanta on a painfully easy game-winning touchdown drive to propel the Falcons to a 33-32 win against Green Bay in which he threw for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns. Even more deflating was that Ryan achieved this with Mohammed Sanu as his primary target hauling in 9 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones was on the sideline nursing an injury most of the afternoon, so it wasn’t due to his presence.

Luck came into Lambeau Field and did the unthinkable, beat the Packers at home with a mediocre opposing team. Before two fourth quarter Packers touchdowns to cut the lead to five points, Luck and the Colts commanded a 31-13 advantage. Despite two early interceptions, Luck helped lead the Colts to three touchdown drives by throwing 281 yards.

The secondary’s struggles spilled into the next week when the Packers were thrashed by Mariota and the Tennessee Titans. The twenty-two point beat down was led by Mariota’s 295 yards and 4 touchdowns. Delanie Walker was open early and often reeling in 9 catches for 124 yards as he and Mariota blatantly exploited the middle of the field all game against the Packers’ pass defense.

Things only got worse against Cousins and the team from Washington as he throttled them for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cousins scorched the Packers secondary with large chunks of yards as he had completions of 26, 28, 44, 53, and 70. Things were so bad that Washington running back “Fat” Rob Kelley was jealous of the action and ripped off a 66-yard run of his own in the fourth quarter to cap the final touchdown in a 42-24 loss for the Packers.

While this four-game stretch of football was clearly the worst the Packers had to offer in the 2016 campaign, it should come as no surprise that it was against good quarterbacks. It is imperative that they get a pass rush this Sunday night and put pressure on Stafford or he could carve them up in similar fashion.

Look no further than the first meeting between the Packers and Lions in which Stafford threw for 385 yards and 3 touchdowns. Facing a 31-10 halftime deficit, Stafford pushed the Lions back into the game against Dom Capers’ defense until the Packers finally prevailed 34-27. Stafford also showed his big-play ability in their first meeting, a nemesis for the 2016 Packers defense, as he threw a 73-yard bomb to Marvin Jones right before halftime and a 35-yard touchdown strike to Jones as well. In addition to the two touchdown passes, Stafford also hit strikes of 19, 20, 21, 23, and 38 yards. The Packers are 9th worst in the NFL giving up pass plays of 25 yards or more.

The Packers are ranked 29th in the NFL in passing yards given up per game, and there is no question that it is the Achilles heel of the entire team. Overall the five-game winning streak was a result of producing more turnovers and increased quarterback pressure. The result was the opposing team’s quarterback play to decline. To be fair, Green Bay only faced one top-level quarterback, Seattle’s Russell Wilson who had the worst game of his career.

It is critical that Capers puts his defensive unit in position to apply constant pressure on Stafford and force turnovers to change the complexion of the game. Expect the Packers secondary to struggle at times as they have most weeks, but a few big plays can tilt the game in their favor. Fully expecting a shootout between the two teams, it would be surprising to see anything different. Fortunately for Green Bay, they have an elite quarterback on their team as well.


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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

The Packers might need to score a lot of points to win this game.

Mike please do not take your foot off of the gas.

egbertsouse's picture

What is even more distressing is that the defense was not only shredded by good QBs but was shredded by some really crap ones.

They better generate some pass rush against Detroit or it's game over. Since the secondary couldn't cover Betty White, Capers better send everyone including the ball boys after Stafford.

The TKstinator's picture

I think they could cover Betty White.

Norm's picture

Jam her coming off the line and she'll never get into her route. Poor upper-body strength, even for an octogenarian. Is she split out or playing the slot?

chugwater's picture

Too funny.

Samson's picture

Sweet Betty was good in her day but she's always had problems running correct routes. But, I hear she still has deceptive speed.

The TKstinator's picture

I also hear that her OC refuses to scheme to get her open.

dschwalm's picture

It is something we have to accept. The reality is THEY HAVE NO PASS DEFENCE and consequently, are not a championship team.

Bearmeat's picture

There are two parts to this: First is Shields injury. NO TEAM - NOT ONE - will deal well with their top CB on IR for the year.

Second is that Randall and Rollins have also both been injured. Who knows how close to 100% they are or have been. BUT, they also have not taken the 2nd year jump that TT expected them to. That comes down to coaching.

Because Joe Whitt has an excellent track record, I'm inclined to think it's more injury and perhaps just a CB bust (or gulp, 2). Golden Tate all but said yesterday that both Randall and Rollins have starter level talent. They're just hurt and inconsistent. That gives me some hope. IF they figure it out, this is a team that can do damage in the playoffs.

The other part of this is the pass rush. It has disappeared over the past 6 weeks until Minniesoda. CM3, Perry, Pep and Daniels HAVE to get home 5-6 times a game for the defense to work.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Can't say it better! ^^ Remember, the Pack was without Shields, Burnett, Guion, and CM3 the previous game. Additionally, they lost Randall, and I believe, Rollins at one point. Our front 7 provided a ton of pressure early, but got worn down and the O had difficulty maintaining a drive in the second half.

The general game plan should be the same as it was last time with hopefully a better 2nd half - be agressive offensively and put pressure on Stafford. If the Pack can put pressure on Stafford, he is bound to throw a couple up for grabs. Somebody help me out here, but I believe Daniels, Perry, and Thomas had big games for the D. We had difficulty covering players over the middle. Gunter, Ryan, and Martinez were stout, and we shut down their running game early.

Bearmeat's picture

Agreed completely. Unless Stafford executes flawlessly and wins a 41-38 game, this is GBs game to win. They have a better offense. A better defense. Even with CBs in consideration.

Let's just get this done, and move on to the playoffs.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I think they are hurt too. But also becuase they are hurt they are playing more zone. And they clearly have not spent as much time on zone than man.

dschwalm's picture

IF "ifs and nuts................" It ain't gonna happen. If those two pilons haven't figured it out by now, they won't be effective next Sunday night either.

Bearmeat's picture

You are probably right. But there is more than a small chance that they do figure it out. And if they do - look out. Just look at the Colts in 06. Giants in 07. Steelers in 08. Packers in 10. Giants in 11. Ravens in 12. All those teams had massive issues in one phase of the game that they figured out at the right time. The same could happen to GB this year. The rest of their team is certainly good enough.

chugwater's picture

I don't know if I'll ever understand how an optimistic post earns a 'dislike' on this website.

Tough crowd.

Since '61's picture

The Packers secondary does struggle against good QBs but most teams do. Look at what Rodgers has recently done to Seattle and Minnesota, two of the best defenses in the league. Rodgers shredded both of those secondaries. The questions for this game against the Lions is how much is Stafford's injured hand affecting his play and are either Randall or Rollins recovered from their injuries. We're going to need to apply pressure on Stafford and at least make him uncomfortable in the pocket even when we can't get a sack. Our OL will need to establish a ground game so that we can chew up the clock and keep Stafford off the field assuming that we have a lead. Once again our best defense will be our offense. Build a lead, win the turnover battle and keep Stafford off the field is our best chance. The Lions have only won one game against a team with a winning record and their secondary is only marginally better, if at all, than ours. Rodgers should have a huge day. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

zoellner25's picture

on Mon night, Dallas played base D vs Stafford and they couldn't stop Detroit at all in the first half. Then they went to a 3 DL/2 LB/6 DB nickel/dime mostly in the 2nd half (as Gruden pointed out) and they shut them down, pressure Stafford alot and forced bad throws. Packers D has their hands full in this one. 41-36 Packers

Couch Cleats's picture

I think Randall and Rollins have both shown great talent at times (especially Randall). They have not been consistent and I think that's partly do to inexperience and injury. I also think having Shields on the field with them would have helped them develop faster.

To me, it looks like Rollins just plays too far off the receiver and is afraid of giving up the big play touchdown. I would like to see the coaches tell him to play aggressive and try to make plays. Forget about the officials or what might happen if you get burned. Trust your abilities and your instincts and go get the ball.

Sit them both in front of Woodson's tapes for an afternoon. He didn't make game changing plays by sitting back in fear of getting burned. Every good corner gets burned sometimes. The great ones know that they can't be great if they don't take some chances.

Point Packer's picture

At this point, GB offense just needs to be better than the opposing teams, meaning:

- Better in the Red Zone
- Fewer TO's
- Ball control

And then hope our D can get a couple TO's.

croatpackfan's picture

By your article it look like we are doomed...
I think Packers will win. And Lions is not bad team. They have same record as Packers, didn't they?

tbohms's picture

Nope, don't feel that way. I think Packers will win, but fully expect them to give up a lot of points.

croatpackfan's picture

Upvote for answering. That is nice, thank you!

Nick Perry's picture

First of all to all my fellow Packers Fans and the Cheesehead TV gang....Have a safe and Happy New Years!

The Packers have to run the ball and should have success against the Lions. I think McCarthy will try to run the ball more than he did in Minnesota last week for sure. With McCarthy it's more about the number of attempts. Obviously he wants yards but we've watched him run the ball 25 times without a ton of success. Personally I think Montgomery has a big game both running and receiving.

If Slay is out it might be to much for McCarthy to pass up and not go Air Rodgers all night but it would be awesome for a running game. As exciting as the 75 yard drives in 4 plays are, I enjoy the 75 yard 14 play drives just as much. The more the defense is off the field the better, as long as we gets points each drive.

chugwater's picture

Happy New Year to you too, Nick!

Nick Perry's picture

Thanks chugwater...... Question, do you work for Union Pacific?

chugwater's picture

I work for BNSF Railway in Ft Worth, TX.

My great grandfather was an engineer for the Chicago and Northwestern in Green Bay.

4thand1's picture

This a playoff game. Like 2010 the pressure is on, unless the skins lose. The Packers have the experience and the lolions have choked before. CMIII will be the difference maker here. A rested Peppers should play his ass off too.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I think the article is wrong. GB struggles against all QBs, good or bad. The only difference is whether the QB is poor enough to just miss some throws so that his receivers can't catch them or tosses some INTs. Stafford has been pretty efficient this season and his INT % is good (possibly because he is not forcing the ball the Megatron this season).

Over/Under on net Det passing yds: 350 OVER
Over/Under on Det INTs thrown: 1 PUSH
Over/Under on Det rushing yds: 85 UNDER

Samson's picture

AR can't have a so-so or average game or the Pack will be in trouble. -- GB can't lose the TO battle or they're in trouble. -- If the Pack come in cocky, they're in trouble. --- The Lions aren't really that good but the game is in Detroit. -- If this game were at Lambeau, there would be no reason for the Lions to even show. The game wouldn't be close.

Regardless, AR (as usual) will pull this one out at the end.

Lphill's picture

No need to blitz a safety or DB , they don't get there anyway , they need to drop back and help cover. The more the merrier. Let the linebackers bring pressure.

snowdog's picture

Peppers will bring it as if it was his last game , last set of downs .
BRING it Pep .

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